Round Table of Death: Good Times? Great Times Edition.

Photo of the Sens taken in the third period

Photo of the Sens taken in the third period

James:
Hi Varada, how’s goi– let’s cut to the chase here:I love the Ottawa Senators, you love the Ottawa Senators…something seems kinda wrong with the Senators! Let’s make Coach and General Manager masks using these popsicle sticks, this construction paper, paste and left handed scissors. Try not to cut yourself with the scissors! It’s still only November!  Follow along at home!
Question: Do you think we should see see Cody Cheechee? 
JAMES SAYS: 
There continues to be a lot of talk about the need for / possibility of Murray making a trade. I don’t know about you Eddy, but I’m not confident that Murray can make some kind of miracle swap in mid-ish November. Who knows maybe he can pull off another Foligno for Methot home run but prices will be high right now and if it means sacrificing more prospects I think that’s a bit short sighted for a team that despite being pretty bad most nights is still on the bubble of 8th in the East.
With Ottawa’s transition game in a shit state, Wiercioch and Corvo battling for the high score for Plants vs. Zombies 2 instead of a roster spot and J. Cowen….frankly starting to look like our own Luke Schenn, maybe the right move is to call up Ceci even for a cup of coffee.
Given the way Luke Richardson has been talking about him and his mouth watering (sorry, disgusting) 13 points in 15 games, I wonder if given a brief call up with sheltered minutes if Ceci can’t provide a bit of a spark. Clearly Wiercioch and Corvo are leaving all the transition and PP work to Karlsson maybe easy minutes could provide a bit of spark and remind Wiercioch in particular that there are other guys hunting to take his place. What do you think?

VARADA SAYS:

I’m not necessarily against giving Ceci a few games for the sake of his development, but I don’t think he’s going to be a solution for Ottawa. Weak, puck moving defensemen we have a few of.
You know, after the way the team lost last night — that Heatley goal…*throws up in bag of Wonderbread* — and then the way they just let Koivu walk in through four defenders, I really expected MacLean to light the team up in his post-game presser. But he had positive things to say, and I don’t think he’s wrong. Weird things happen over the course of a season. Sometimes you get massively outshot and your goaltender steals the game. Sometimes, as in last night, you outshoot and outchance the opponent but you don’t bury your chances. If you look at the aggregate, Ottawa is getting better in some places, and worse in others. The places where they’re getting worse — the penalty kill, Anderson’s goaltending — are not going to be fixed by Ceci.
Having said that, I completely agree that there is no magic trade waiting to happen. You need to 1) find a team who is also looking to trade, 2) has something useful to give you, 3) is asking a reasonable price, and 4) doesn’t want you to take on money. Looking at Capgeek I see….hmmm….nobody. Somebody the Florida Panthers have scratched five games in a row? Sign me up!
I am losing patience though. Concacher, Spezza and Michalek are not producing at all, the entire bottom six is friggin’ invisible most nights (remember Colin Greening? RIP) and Anderson didn’t regress to league average. He regressed to the league bottom.
Mostly I just don’t understand the mental state of this team. They fight back to tie the game last night, have the puck in the attacking zone, and then make a soft play, give the puck away, and stand aside to be scored on with a couple of minutes left. Where’s the urgency? I hate to say it, but it seems to be a coaching issue more than anything.

Next Question: What’s the long game here?

VARADA SAYS:
I think we need to be the most concerned about next season. Yes, this team has some young debt. It can build around Karlsson, Turris, Zibanejad, Lehner, I guess you have to say Cowen even though he’s terrible, ditto Concacher, ditto Wiercioch, and maybe you’ve got Ceci and Puempel coming up pretty soon. But with potential to lose Michalek, Spezza, Ryan, Methot, Anderson, Phillips, and MacArthur all in the next two seasons…welp, Ottawa doesn’t have that kind of depth.

When players are asked what they look for in a potential destination, they overwhelming say they want to go somewhere where they can win. And for that the team needs to be a little bit more aggressive, and usually that means with its money. Looking out beyond 2014, where do you see this team heading? Are you concerned about a mass exodus? Do you think this team can establish itself as a competitive presence in the next two years?
JAMES SAYS: 
I think you might be being a bit grim on the “potential to lose Michalek, Spezza, Ryan, Methot, Anderson, Phillips, and MacArthur” thing. I, for starters I would be completely fine with losing almost half those guys without even thinking about it. Good luck in future whatevers: Michalek, Anderson and Phillips. Now Spezza I’m actually on the fence about right now because: Emotions. If he at age 32 had been playing like he’s been playing so far this season over those two years and demanded more than his current $7MM? That would actually be a hard signing for any organization to justify I think. Too early to call how that one’s going to play out. 


Anderson I wouldn’t necessarily welcome losing but push came to shove I’m totally willing to hang onto Lehner if the organization had to choose. Like you said, you gotta build around him not Anderson. 

Phillips I am worried the organization wont have the guts to let go of but I don’t even want to see what that guy’s play will look like in a year or two. C’mon bro I was at Big Rig on the weekend and it was PAAAAAACKED, please become a restaurateur or consultant or something for the good of the team. 

Michalek is a good player but at this point he makes me feel like A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE GOOD PLAYERS and we could have what he brings for much cheaper. I mean let’s face it the guy has been getting 3rd line time this season. That is not a 6MM dollar player. Its a no brainer to let him go. That doesn’t solve the hole in the top 6 but neither does Milo. Happy trails. 

Marc Methot WHO MAKES LESS THAN JARED COWEN BY THE FUCKING WAY, is due for a raise but from a source who’s close to him … I’m actually not joking about that, he apparently has no plans of leaving Ottawa and wants to stay for the long haul. So, whatever that’s worth, maybe he will take somewhat of a cap friendly deal? 

Hopefully the organization is smart and actually hangs on to MacArthur unlike pretty much every other team he’s played for. His contract is so hilariously reasonable that I just wish they’d have given him more term in the first place. 

The biggest thing for me is keeping Ryan in the fold. I know we’ve only had him for a sprinkle over a quarter season but damn. He’s a keeper. Plus we don’t have a forward close to his caliber being developed. You have to buy these tyoe of players most of the time. Lord have mercy with this constant Philadelphia  Flyers connection stuff. He’s still ours for another year goddamn it! I’m holding out hope that the Flyers are too much of a cap nightmare to obtain him. Someone needs to convince Melnyk to put Bobby Ryan on his credit card or something because I think what he’ll do for the team is worth the money. 
Losing Michalek, Anderson, Corvo and Praise Be To Jah, Lion of Judah, for He makes all things Possible, Chris Philliips, that’s what, 12 Million dollars in savings right there?Hopefully playing on such an amazing line with Turris and MacAurthur, with Erik Karlsson, who despite criticism is still clipping along at a point per game, moving the puck to him and (please) improved overall team play will be enough to keep Ryan around.
 As for Spezza sucking up the budget, again, that one is a toss up. Maybe he might have to make that right of passage as an Ottawa Senators captain must: and make a team-friendly deal lest ye be banished to a better team 😉
Terrifying potential Curveball: Kyle Turris, who incidentally has become the team’s no.1 centre and may very well continue to be, realizes he’s become the lowest paid top line pivot in the league and wants to renegotiate his contract. RUH ROWWWWW. This is why I only like to be pretend GM!

DAT VARADA THO: 
I mean, the scary thing is that all of these contracts are interconnected. If one of these bigger pending free agents decides to bolt (and don’t even act like it won’t be to A) the Rangers, or B) Philly, because hockey players just can’t fucking help themselves. They all want to be rich 20-somethings in a big American city), and the team doesn’t indicate that it will replace, perhaps even BUILD with that cap space, well then they might also decide to go. I don’t think any of these players are particularly easy to replace, especially on the free market. We’ve been pretty lucky to have internal options of late. I don’t know what happens when we don’t anymore.

Anyway, this team still has the horses to turn it around, and I think they’re only a piece or two away from moving from a bubble team to making some actual noise. I do think the team is trying to trade Anderson – there are a lot of scouts at each of their games, and they’ve been playing Anderson an awful lot even though Lehner is pretty clearly the better goaltender, at least at the moment. Between Anderson and Michalek, they have some intriguing assets to unload, though again, I can’t imagine who has the money and the cap space.
BUT, BUT, BUT JAMES THO: 
Well, speaking of interconnectedness, what I’m afraid of is all these little, bad and hard to trade contracts (Greening, Cowen, Greening, Wiercioch, Greening, Greening, Greening,) adding up to prevent a good big contract (Ryan) from getting done down the road. My admittedly wide eyed hope is that the current budget’s purpose is for saving up for two years from now. Surely Murray has started calculating for this…aaaand surely Melnyk does not remember this conversation if it happened. As for the big city thing, definitely a lot of players want that but the cap has changed whether or not it’s possible to sign whoever to a degree thank god. Remember when you could literally trade players for money? Also, I think in a way we’re fortunate to like a league made up of quiet country boys who kind of don’t give a fuck. This is why the issue of ‘what Bobby Ryan wants’ is a mystery to me. He has those Philly connections but also, literally lives in the middle of a field in Idaho in the off season. Like you said, getting back on track and building a winner is what’s key. People love the beach and Miami’s a really cool spot but i don’t see any quality players running toward Florida right now.

Round()table of Death: Motherfucking KARLSSON edition

bread_jesus_karlsson

Varada

Okay, first thing’s first: we know this is a miraculous feat of healing for Erik Karlsson, and that we should obviously worship him and purchase an(other) Erik Karlsson jersey as soon as possible, but let’s take a solid minute to recognize the brilliant work of Senators team doctor, Dr. Chow, who performed the surgery on Karlsson’s achilles.

I work in health care policy, and so I know how little we celebrate the successes of health care providers; these days we talk more frequently how much they cost and what happens when they fuck up. But Dr. Chow clearly deserves our gratitude and applause here. Go ahead. Stand up from your desk and applaud. I’ll wait.

(*beat*)

Dr. Chow is one of Canada’s top orthopaedic surgeons, and one you might be familiar with from his own harrowing survival story. He’s already one of the most respected practitioners in his field, but that success hasn’t been, y’know, real success until now, as we bestow upon him The Welcome To Your Karlsson Years Prize for Excellence in the Field of Orthopaedic Surgery (Sports and Exercise, Heel Related). 

Congratulations, Dr. Chow! If Ottawa makes it out of the first round thanks to Karlsson’s contributions, I’m going to make sure I refer all of my friends to you, no matter how small or trivial their symptoms!

Now, as for Karlsson: what do we expect from him? Well, considering weexpected him to regress a little from his Norris-winning season and he was leading the league in shots and defensemen in points when he was hurt, and weexpected six freaking months of rehab and he did it in two, I can say you should take your expectations and perhaps…how do I say this diplomatically…shove them as far up your ass as you can?

In the last month or so we’ve gone from “Karlsson is still hanging around the rink, encouraging his teammates – what a guy!” to “Holy shit, Karlsson is skating” to “KARLSSON IS SKATING IN FULL EQUIPMENT” to “Karlsson…is leading stretches…in practice (hyperventilating)…and he’s not wearing a no contact jersey…(throws up all over self).”

Which is to say, I expect that he will single-handedly lead the Senators to the Cup while dabbling in research that leads to a cure for Type 2 diabetes. At the very least he will clearly play his ass off, and even if he’s not 100% at least he’s an upgrade on, you know, Benoit or Gryba or whoever whose name I just forgot because OH MY GOD IMAGINE IF KARLSSON ELIMINATES THE PENGUINS FROM THE POST-SEASON.

James

Varada, ladies and gentlemen. Please picture me as Mr. James Carville at the 1:45 mark

Okay, I must admit I do have SOME response. I believe it was Franklin Delano Zizek who said, “Who shall inherit the blogs? The insufferable.”

🙂

One would think I would be pretty used to ‘injury watch’ what with being a fan of Jason “Two 80+ game seasons in 9 years” Spezza and having sat through Pascal “The Angel of Death” LeClaire for however long that was. Heck, remember when there was all that hoopla (copyright) about Daniel Alfredsson being too soft to be team captain because of his injury problems? LOL, I’m just going to blindly blame the Ottawa Sun for starting that whole thing.

Anyway, like Cowen before him, with Karlsson’s progress I find myself “mother dropping her only child off at a paintball themed birthday party” level cautious about my beautiful, beautiful babies. My expectations for Cowen in his return in Carolina, as outlined in my JDP, were: Take a glorified twirl on the ice, make sure everything feels normal and play a Borowieckian 12 minutes without getting hurt. What happens? This MF lays a hit that ends Jeff Skinner’s season, holds it down in 2 fights and plays great in the nearly 20 minutes that he clocks. Okay…so…I don’t know anything about anything (THANKS FOR READING, MOM!)

When it comes to Karlsson…I guess as you outlined above all bets are off. I feel like Ottawa making the post season and stretching the series out to seven games or even making the second round THEN you see Erik Karlsson is borderline unrealistic to me. Maybe it’s the fact that a friend of mine tore his Achilles playing soccer in JANUARY and even with regular rehab his foot flops around like a fish that Jessie Winchester is taking a #sicinstagram of in his boat somewhere in Muskoka. Now, does my friend have some of rehabilitation specialists working with him on a daily basis? Of course not he’s a normal person. Erik Karlsson is clearly a not that so I’m at a loss as to what to expect. If he came back Monday and scored a million frigging goals all over Matt Cooke’s stupid FACE I wouldn’t put it past him. If Ottawa had to run through the playoffs until June to get one game out of him that would be the goodest of problemz. If he’s not 100% and still plays I don’t know if the sky is necessarily falling. Teemu S. said he came back early and he didn’t die. I’m no Dr. Chow in terms of expertise or handsomeness, but something tells me that the fact that his Achilles injury was a laceration from a skate blade and not a 100% tear from a strain it was a bit easier to repair. Well, that and EK’s obviously ridiculous commitment to his rehab exercises.

You had me at “expected to make a complete recovery” …actually I’m only happy if he comes back tomorrow and in his first game back overtakes PK Subban for the scoring lead among defenders and forces the NHL to melt down the Masterton and Norris trophies and mold them into the 5 HOUR ENERGY XXXTREME RECOVERAWESOME DOT COM GO DADDDY AWARD 

Round Table of Death: Why are the Senators the Blue Jackets All of a Sudden Edition

Pete Says:

I think we’re talking about laziness and inattention to detail. Opponents are buzzing the sens net without being accounted for, forwards have defined back checking as poking at the puck with their sticks instead of tying up their marks own lumber. You can tell the defense partners aren’t talking to each other and… well the list goes on.

There seems to be times when the pretty play has been chosen over the safe play, particularly on the PP. I’m confident the coach will sort it out but with the younger kids that message takes a bit of time. If I could offer one bit of arm chair coaching maybe a send down and call up will shake things up?

James Says:

Though the Sens didn’t get totally thumped last night there is not a whole lot that appears to be clicking for them right now. I don’t want to sound like a broken record…actually, I probably do because that sounds fun and easy but…either way, I think aside from everything the Pete just rightly pointed out, the thing that scares me the most is that Daniel Alfredsson (praise be His mighty name) is by far the best player on the team. I don’t like that at all. He is too old to still be the engine that powers this dreamship. It was so much better earlier when his role was beginning to be Captain Clutch. Let the Michaleks and Folignos of the world score the goals and when you need a Stetson Man to hop off the bench and pot that shootout goal or break that tie or whatever…that’s when Papa Alfie makes his move.

Right now Alfredsson is looking 10 years younger than he is out there and making some power moves, which is just staggeringly impressive but…when are the Sens going to get away from this “Can’t someone Alfie do it?” model that rears its head year after year. Troublesome. It seemed like since the end of last season, Spezza was beginning to be the guy leaned on hardest and I think that’s great because I think he has the goods to be that but in situations like now where Spezza is likely hurt (or as Jason York speculates that Spezza is sick- not in the Ovechkin describing something positively way) that someone BESIDES ALFREDSSON needs to step in.
I will say some positive things too. I am still very impressed with Kyle Turris. He hasn’t played perfectly or anything but that kid makes things happen for sure. Happy to have him aboard. Chris Phillips also had a pretty outstanding game last night which he needed to have… because he had been looking like a pylon out there since returning from the all star break. I hope Philly can keep it up as scoring drying up is one thing but defense simultaneously being all over the place just makes for an ugly …seven game losing streak.
A lot of people are talking, “Call up Lehner to punch up the netminding” or “Call up Peterson to spark the goal scoring” which, really, aren’t terrible ideas by me though at this point I’m leaning most toward, “call up Borowiecki and add some enthusiasm to the D” or even just to wake up Carkner but I don’t know… whatever I’m no Harvey Globetrotter with this situation…just do whatever it takes to stop being the goddamn Columbus Blue Jackets already. I’ve noticed my visits to hockeysfuture have increased by 700% this month. Help me Varada…you always know what to do….or can complain about stuff more articulately than I.

Varada Says:

Hockey is a surreal and amazing phenomenon, inexplicable and unknowable. How Ottawa could have survived that terrifying January, mostly on the road and mostly unscathed, to find themselves sixth in the conference, only to then return to a strand of home games and a few days rest for the All Star Break, and then – only THEN – embark on the season’s worst losing streak is the stuff of torn hairlines. That they are losing games against the Islanders, or a Blues team that musters less than 20 shots, while on home ice, and giving up game winning goals from center ice, and being unceremoniously and thoroughly screwed by referees is not, in itself, that remarkable. But that it’s happening all at once, right now, is the stuff of maddening anarchy. Basically, late January and early February has been home to the kind of hockey that confirms that there is no god, only random patterns in an uncaring universe.

For the first time in months, the statistical probability thatOttawawill make the playoffs is below 50%, down to 39.9%. How quickly we go from “anything better than dead last is gravy!” to this crushing reality – a surprising playoff experience replaced, most probably, by just missing it. The team has played better than expected up until now and I hope they can turn it around. But with less games remaining than most teams and defintely anyone ahead of them in the standings, they need to become a completely different team overnight and win at least 2/3rds of their games. I don’t know if that can happen.

In my last pessimistic post, I said that I wasn’t quite ready to throwAndersonunder the bus. And I’m still not, though I am nudging him toward the curb. I haven’t done a quantitative analysis, but I’d be willing to bet that he’s outright lost the game for the team – meaning that the game was oneOttawashould have won, except the goaltending mussed it up – as often as he’s outright won one. If it does in fact turn out to be .500, that ain’t bad for a goaltender, but I’m dusting off my trusty “Why make commitments to goaltenders?” argument, which looks especially good at times like this.

Consistency is such a rare trait among a goaltender that Luongo got 187 years and a kerbillion dollars just for being perceived to be a consistently-very-good-if-not-necessarily-elite goaltender, at which point he promptly became one of the few liabilities on that Vancouver team during their Cup run. We don’t need to talk about Bryzgalov. I like Anderson, I have since his days in Florida, but four years and north of three million per is a tougher pill to swallow on some days than on others.

But if I can focus on some very small and seemingly petty detail for a moment: what is with this team’s repeated attempt at the stretch pass? All teams occasionally resort to it, I understand, but it seems to me that this is a tactic to be employed opportunistically, when one sees one’s forwards sneaking in behind the opposition defense. It is not, say, something to be relied on about 75% of the time you find yourself in your own end with the puck. How many times have we seen some player like Condra – meaning, a well meaning and hard working but otherwise relatively unskilled third line player – trying to handle a 60 foot screamer from Filip Kuba or, worse, Matt Carkner? How many times have we skated through the neutral zone with possession only to see someone attempt a hairline pass along the red line in the hopes that the forward will maintain possess, fend off a trap defender, and stick-handle into the zone? I never though I’d say it, but can we get a little dump n’ chase around here?  I think we can assume that overall the technique has worked, as the Senators offense is much better this season, but during these dark days I’ve got think that maybe the system needs a little tweak.