Roundtable of Death: Life Comes At You Fast Edition

"Boy, if you thought the Sens had a bad weekend, you should get a load of these guys! Reminded me of watching the Phillips-Karlsson pairing."

“Boy, if you thought the Sens had a bad weekend, you should get a load of these guys! Reminded me of watching the Phillips-Karlsson pairing.”

In which Luke, Varada, James, Chet, and Steph discuss the ways in which losing is not preferable to winning.

Luke says:

“For when the One Great Twitter comes
To mark against your name,
They write – not that you won or lost
But how you made your lineup decisions.”
Grantland Rice (Mostly)

Friends, do you remember last week? It seems so long ago and yet I remember it as if it were only last week. Following six full weeks of sustained and improbable excellence, Ottawa had finally climbed the mountain to find themselves in a playoff spot for the first time since November, and Sens fans had a belief in the supernatural power of beef rarely seen in Western culture. It was heady times. I wouldn’t expect you to understand. I guess you had to be there.

Since that time a number (again, that number is “zero”) of Tuesdays ago, the Sens lost their talismanic journeyman goaltender to an ankle injury, allowed 4 goals in under 20 minutes to the Toronto Maple Leafs (who are terrible and should be celebrated only for their unwavering ability to consistently ice a team of 20 players who are either, by definition, professional hockey players or Zack Sill), and had their hearts ripped out by a 40+ year old legend who surprisingly wasn’t Daniel Alfredsson this time. Also, the Bruins, with whom the Sens are fighting for the last playoff spot in the East/14th overall draft pick, took 5 of an available 6 points, and now the Sens are 3 points out with a game in hand. Again.

Basically this is the sort of thing that could just as easily happen in the middle of November as at the end of March, but if I may put on my “Amateur Psychologist” novelty t-shirt for a minute, I’ll make an educated guess that what happened didn’t gall most Sens fans so much as how it happened. Turns out experiencing a lifetime of torment at the hands of the Leafs isn’t one of those things you eventually get used to and learn to accept. However, while I’m not going to argue that the Sens have played well in their last three games, I am going to make like MC Escher and provide some weird perspective. To wit:

1. After going a quarter of a season without playing a true stinker, the Senators coming out flatter than a plate of piss against the Rangers had a certain air of inevitability to it.

2. The frustration of Ottawa blowing a two goal lead to a Tyler Bozak hat trick belies the fact that it was such a Black Swan Event as to be literally unprecedented.

3a. If Dave Cameron’s answer is “Colin Greening on the second line”, I have serious reservations about the phrasing of the question.

3b. On the other hand, putting in two fresh guys on the second half of a back-to-back isn’t entirely illogical.

3c. On a third hand which has suddenly sprouted from my chest, Dave Cameron doesn’t actually play so there are only so many ways he can affect the game.

3d. Speaking of players who played, Jared Cowen #actually played pretty ok.

3e. For all the hand-wringing regarding Mike Hoffman’s place in the lineup, he still had more ice time on Sunday than any forward except Mark Stone and Erik Condra. Sure 6:30 of that was time spent on the powerplay, but at least Mike Hoffman is now getting hella time on the powerplay.

3f. I don’t begrudge Dave Cameron making lineup decisions based on nebulous psychological reasons like “trying to give the team a spark” or needing to “change things up a bit”. As no less than Ian Mendes pointed out, it’s tough not to argue that something had to give after the preceding two gong shows. I see this idea on Twitter a lot that coaching should really as simple as sending out your best players and that any other coaching adjustments are a sign of overthinking things and that psychology is overrated. I’d be willing to accept this idea a lot more if it weren’t for the fact that a number of the most successful coaches in sports are especially noted as much for their motivational ability as for their skills as tacticians and teachers. If you want to tell people that coaching the Bulls was as easy as sending out Michael Jordan at the same time as Scottie Pippin, be my guest, but also be prepared to accept my serene dismissal of that opinion. Dave Cameron’s been hitting every note correctly for six weeks straight while trying to drag this team into the playoffs. He missed one yesterday, but the task he’s been set is analogous to playing Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto as the guest soloist filling in for Yefim Bronfman. Even the pros think that ossia cadenza is a real tricky bastard to get right every time. Selah.

The Wisdom
The reality here is that despite the negativity in our souls, very little has changed. Ottawa still needs to win games. Boston losing games still helps a lot. The Sens need to go 4-2-1 in their remaining 7 games to make 95 points. 94 points has never been insufficient to make the Eastern Conference playoffs. If the Senators reach 95 points and still miss the playoffs (because reasons), I’ll be bitter only at the inherent injustice of it all, not at a team who will have done enough by any reasonable definition except the one that counts. I’m gonna focus on the process (winning), not the results (playoffs).

Varada Says:

There’s something to be said about the fact that it took an agonizingly long period of time – about three weeks – and an unprecedented winning streak for Ottawa to claw its way into a playoff spot, and then it took all of three days to fall basically out of contention. With every win it seemed like our playoff probability increased by, what, 3%? Then, two losses later, it’s plunged from the lofty 70%+s that sent us, Viking-like, to the tops of our coffee tables, roaring in the faces of loved ones and sending the ottoman tumbling chaotically from its feet to its side, to the 20-whatever% that has me standing in the driveway and looking up at the moon and saying softly, so softly, “Beyond those mountains lie madness.”

I said this on Twitter, and now I say it again on this actual, legitimate website: It’s weird when you have hobbies that don’t make you feel good. And with this win streak followed by this losing streak, the Senators have become a hobby on par with all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. It was so, so good for a while. Then you could see through time for a while. Then the depression and angriness set in.

So I guess Ottawa could go on another ridiculous run, but with games against Tampa and Detroit and shit, it’s hard to see it happening. Their special sauce has turned. There are so many positives to take from this magical, nigh-Matrix-like run. But we tasted the nectar of the gods and had that gourd pulled away from our luscious lips at the last moment BY THE FUCKING TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS seriously we all knew that was going to happen.

As for line combos, I feel like it’s a matter of not really having any other interface with which to criticize a team. It’s no coincidence that line combos are basically the only thing coaches ever get criticized for. But I have to admit, Greening is on some NEXT LEVEL cursed existence thing here. If you had told me that with only a few games left in the season Colin Greening would have one empty net goal…and that’s it…I’d tell you that you were being an hysterical mouthbreather.

Sent from a mobile phone

James Says:

I’m not here to be a complete apologist for any and all weird coaching decisions but for me, if the team is really struggling for a couple of games I’ve just come to expect some line up shuffling. Like Luke said, in-game, there’s really only so much a coach can do to provide a spark outside player assignment. There’s an argument to be made (and a good one) that players need consistency to break out of a funk. Troo, troo. Also, on the other side, if a player you count on is not performing or looking lethargic, the concept of giving them a temporary demotion in favour of someone who doesn’t get much of a shot or who might have more legs and could potentially give you the level of play that you’re looking for, isn’t exactly mind blowing either.

The other thing, when shit drastically hits the skids like now, I have such a hard time assuming that because guys are in the line up consistently that they are all 100% healthy. I mean, we are 75 games deep in the season. Also, Andrew Hammond seen limping out of arena, has to start game two days later and heyyyyyy cant move side to side very well…I think more than a few of us were shocked. He can’t start the next game, magically Craig Anderson who hasn’t even been backing him up much is good to start. Probably not. The team’s also been without Milan Michalek who, like him or not, was absolutely flying during the run. I’m saying, I personally think these injuries have hurt things more than some line shuffling.

As to what happens next, well, in a post-sweeping the Kings, Sharks and Ducks on the road paradigm, I’m officially on “I have no fucking idea” status for the rest of the season (thx 4 reading). That’s also the reason why even the height of the Sens crazy streak I was looking at it long-game, as such a positive for next season. Doesn’t mean I’ve given up or don’t “believe” or whatever. The Sens do the impossible? Guess how long Ima cherish that: Guess. The rest of my sad, li’l lyfe. If not, I’ve seen it before. In all my years on the force, workin’ the beat, I’ve seen a lot of odds defying, Cinderella teams and I’ve seen a lot of 4 line, relentless killbot factories and guess which of those two I’ve seen more of succeed. Guess. K.

Consistency through the season gets you into a position where you don’t have to do things like run the table for like 2 months to squeak into a wild card spot. You just, you know, qualify. You know like we did back in Covered Wagon Tymes.

A healthy, signed Marc Methot, a couple 20 goal rookies who look like the belong in the top 6, Zibanejad surpassing expectations, a coach who despite a couple of clunkers looks like he’s shifted the teams playing style to the more uptempo brand they looked like they were built for…oh and living proof the team is better off without Phillips and Neil. Sorry, but if this streak proved one thing it’s that a changing of the guard is looking more than clear. Those are the things that make me believe the Sens can be in the playoff conversation for more than a few weeks but maybe a whole season going forward.

Chet Says:

Like with baking a cake, putting on your socks and shoes, or plotting the perfect murder, the order in which you do things matters. If the Senators’ last three losses had happened in early February, when we were all closing down the bar with one more karaoke version of “Tanke Schoen”, and NOW they were on a 17-2-2 run? We’d all be high as gin-soaked kites. And yet where would we be? Three points out, with a game in hand.

Or say the Senators took that 17-2-2 run and spread it out over the course of the year, rather than the last month and a half. For just one more win a week, *Sarah MacLachlan music starts, sad-looking dogs shuffle in* YOU can help have a consistent hockey squad that people are still vaguely unsatisfied with, using terms like “bubble team,” and “tweeners”, and “disappointment, just like when my son flunked out of clown school.” Clown school is harder than you think, though. And where would we still be? Three points out, with a game in hand.

Yes, it’s nice to be consistent sometimes. But what makes for a better story – doing the speed limit on the highway all the way to where you’re going, or taking a few crazy-ass detours, outrunning a couple cops, seeing some weird backwoods stuff you can’t unsee, partying with a bear, trying pies you’ve never even HEARD of… and still making it to where you’re going just in time? Because one of those is consistent, and one of those is memorable. And if you’re gonna ultimately finish the year three points out again, which would you prefer?​

We all know the Senators aren’t as good as their last six weeks, but they aren’t as bad as the last three games, either. I have no clue what’s they’re going to do in their last seven games and neither do you. We can’t predict when a team will suddenly go on some inexplicable hot streak or cold streak, only that hockey players try to have memories like goldfish for a reason, so that last night’s game doesn’t affect tomorrow’s. Does it always work? Of course not. But does losing to the Leafs and Panthers mean they’re going to lose to the Red Wings and Lightning? This year, I wouldn’t bet on it. Seven games left, three points out, with a game in hand, let’s see what happens.

*looks at tomorrow night’s lines*

Oh.

Steph Says:

So how’s everyone’s hangover? I’m assuming you all got blackout drunk to forget the nightmare that was this weekend in Sens hockey. I honestly can’t fault them for the Rangers loss, but the Leafs game should have been a guaranteed 2 points instead of the shaky mess that it was. Tyler Bozak got a career high 4 points. Bozak. Career high. Help. And I mean the rest of the schedule is also not amazing, even if the teams that clinched or are almost guaranteed a playoff spot all rest their top players. I stupidly checked how the Sens have fared against the teams in their remaining schedule and it’s not good (getting less than half the total possible points against those teams kind of ‘not good’). But as much as I loved Hammond, we can’t lay all the praise on him for Sorta Saving the Sens (trademark pending) and all the blame on Anderson for Fucking Up Everything (sad trademark pending). I have to assume this sudden downturn is mostly attributable to end of season fatigue-like they played 15 games in 29 days in March and got 22 of a possible 30 points type of fatigue. That’s pretty incredible but it makes me tired just writing it.

Should some lines have not played nearly as much as they were? YES, FUCK YES, WHY, CAMERON, WHY? And maybe I’ve been having night terrors about Colin Greening, maybe I haven’t. Plus there have been some injuries (Michalek) and some players presumably pretending to not be injured (Hammond) too that people kinda seem to be ignoring in favour putting the blame on easy (read: also deserving) targets like Cameron and Anderson. I’d love for the Sens to get into the playoffs, but if the price to be paid is 4 players recovering from injuries for half the following season, maybe no thank u. Really, a lot of the things responsible for the Sens sudden slowing can be attributed to fatigue, which isn’t very optimistic for the remaining games, but obviously I’mma still be optimistic because why the fuck not, optimism never hurts. Like these other humans said, it’s a lot more of the same-Sens have pretty bad odds of winning these games, but, you know, COULD. Longview: it was two shitty games that happened at a bad time, but playoffs are not out of the picture. The Bruins are not irredeemably ahead. Shit could happen. Good shit, I mean, not like the shit that happened this weekend which we will never speak of again. Anyway, even with all the things I just wrote, I think the Sens will get the same sort of manic sprint-to-the-end energy that every student going into exams knows, and totally NOT get run out of the playoffs in the first round (and that wasn’t even sarcasm). ​

Roundtable of Dead: Trade Deathline Edition

Monty Hall rocking that dope Ottawa 67s tie tho

Art for this post by Banksy

In which Luke, Varada, Chet, and James all reflect on the fact that the Ottawa Senators did nothing at the trade deadline. It’s very zen.

Luke:

Boy, was that ever a trade deadline, eh guys? Teams made trades, and now they can’t. Real circle of life stuff. While Bryan Murray’s usual deadline M.O. (That’s “modus operandi”, by the way. Latin: for when you’re worried you’re not pretentious enough.) is to make a surface level move that’s ultimately ineffectual, looks like this is the year when he realized not making a move can accomplish the same thing. Celebrate the moments of our deadlines/possessing 2nd round picks.

Listening to Bryan Murray, he seems to regard the team’s current playoff push as a deer that will come and eat out of his hand as long as he stands very still and doesn’t look it in the eye. You can practically see the wheels turning in his head as he ponders what exactly it means that the team has gone on its most productive (in terms of points) stretch of the season with Chris Neil, Chris Phillips, Zack Smith, both starting goalies, Jared Cowen, and Clarke MacArthur out with injuries of various severity. (Note: Cowen’s suspension really more of a wallet injury.) While The Bryan said he took calls on Erik Condra, he ultimately decided not to mess with locker room chemistry and deferred the decision on Condra’s future in Ottawa to this summer. As a matter of fact, every decision has now been deferred to the summer, and that’s hardly surprising. The Contractual Dead Weight We Would All Like To See Moved such as Numbers 4, 25, 17, 15, 74, and 62 all have too much term remaining on their contracts, too much money remaining on their contracts, or both. As such, it was always going to be difficult to move any of those players during the season, although I must admit it would have been nice. Erik Condra was Ottawa’s only rental of note, and no one really wanted to see him go. Therefore, as the Ottawa Senators have not been made demonstrably worse, nor their future made any darker than it was the day before yesterday, I’m going to chalk this deadline up as a success. Congratulations, Bryan Murray. You did not screw up, and thus have won my begrudging approval.

Holy hell has this coming summer ever been put sharply in focus, though. I remember last summer being regarded as the most important in Bryan Murray’s tenure, as the Senators had to navigate the treacherous waters of trading their captain and re-signing Bobby Ryan, Clarke MacArthur, Robin Lehner, Craig Anderson, and Milan Michalek. To the team’s credit those things all got done whether we wanted them to or not. Now Ottawa has to sign RFAs Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad, Derek Grant, and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, in addition to figuring out what to do with guys like Zack Smith, David Legwand, and Chris Phillips who may not have a spot on the roster any more. Also, Alex Chiasson exists. Also also, the team still needs another Top 4 defenseman, but they already have too many defensemen. Also also also, another elite forward wouldn’t go astray. This summer is when the crops we plant will really come home to roost, and we find out just how good I am with farming metaphors. The Senators are gonna have to pull some serious Michael Corleone at The End of The Godfather shit just to free up the necessary roster space and cash to improve via internal promotion, let alone improve via trade. As much as I love and admire Bryan Murray, I don’t know if he’s the wartime consigliere we need at this pivotal time. He’s talking nebulously about having to move “a veteran” this summer when I was rather hoping he’d be talking about moving “some veterans”.

Where are you guys at on this? Talk to me about your #feelings.

Varada:

Can I confess something here? Indulge me, please:

If I was an NHL GM in Bryan Murray’s place right now, I…..would not know what to do.

I know, our blog is predicated on unimpeachable credentials and a 110% accuracy rate, so this must be shocking to our readers. But it’s true. Because the team’s current run has all of the trappings of an existential crisis.

See: Team with a lot of weaknesses EXCEPT goaltending loses BOTH excellent goaltenders and puts middling AHL goalie into the game and receives BETTER goaltending and improves. Simultaneously, all teams ahead them, who’ve been underachieving all season, start also winning their games, effectively wiping out the impact of Sens’ win streak on the standings.

If a win happens at the same time as another win, did the win ever even happen in the first place? Do we not define ourselves against the mirror of the Other, who must also remain fundamentally alien? Does anyone every truly win the game of capitalism? It’s all very confusing, like Camus’ The Plague, and if I was Camus I wouldn’t know what to do either. I’d probably leave that town. Everyone has the plague.

So ultimately a team with some underwhelming players, but nobody on a particularly egregious contract, stays the same. Big whoop. I can live with Colin Greening being our ‘bad’ contract. I can live with Phillips and Neil, even though I too wish they hadn’t be re-signed. I can live with the approximately $10MM of contracts that are providing about $6MM worth of value. Because, in related news, Ryan Callahan makes like $6MM or something, right? I can live with Cowen. But then I haven’t been watching the games.

Basically everything outside of the top 15 picks in the draft is a lottery ticket, and nobody we had up for grabs would have gotten us more than maybe a second rounder, tops, so it’s hard to get too worked up.

If I can comment on the MEDIA EXPERIENCE that is Deadline Day…I think it might be time to give up the ghost on squeezing programming, let alone competing programming, let alone a day of it, out of something where literally nothing happens. This isn’t like the time TSN got the rights to the World Juniors and turned it into a legitimate Event everyone loves now. This is taking the part of sports that almost nobody really likes – the part where former players and GMs work themselves into a froth over some minor move – and turns it into the central thing.

I’m imagining a world where one of the competing networks, at the last minute, sort of says: “Ladies and gentleman…and OHL game” and we’re all like “Hey, OHL hockey’s actually a lot more fun than NHL hockey!”

Chet:

The trade deadline is important because it reminds us what drew us to hockey in the first place, as little boys and little girls, and that is our deep-down love of ASSET MANAGEMENT.

Who doesn’t remember watching with child-like wonder as their team stockpiled fifth-round picks? Riding bikes with friends and arguing about who’d make a pro front office first? Daydreaming in church, picturing yourself under the big lights, the seconds ticking down, everything on the line, and suddenly figuring out how to use LTIR space to accommodate another pro-rated signing bonus?

What happened to us? Sure, there’s virtue in being an ant instead of a grasshopper, working constantly to guard against future uncertainties and treating austerity as its own reward. But I look at our reactions to a quiet deadline day for the Senators, at our endless hand-wringing over small opportunities missed, and I wonder if we’re even being ants at this point. We’ve rocketed past metaphor and into a world where we’re all trying to find buyers for expiring grasshoppers, while they’ve still got some value, so we can make room for next year’s ants and maybe scoop up a few more chances to draft a grasshopper in 2017, since it’s projected to be such a deep swarm.

I mean, I understand. When the big picture isn’t rosy, we distract ourselves by focusing on little details in the corner of the frame. But I think Bryan Murray looked at the market today and realized no amount of grinding things out on the margin would materially improve that big picture. Rebuilding a team takes a long time, but it still usually starts by selling off assets that other teams, y’know, VALUE, and the Senators don’t have any of those.

What surprises me, looking at the years-long slog ahead to turn the Senators into something more than a coin flip between 6th and 11th in the east every year, is that Bryan Murray didn’t just say to hell with it and go the other way. Seven points out, 71 years old, eight defencemen, stage four, first star of the week . . . didn’t we basically crunch these same numbers last year? What was stopping him from working out version 2.0 of the Ales Hemsky deal, where we waive Condra and ask Phillips to fake his own death for two months, giving us enough nickels to rub together to pay for six weeks of Curtis Glencross? How is that any less rational than liquidating veterans to scrape together a few more conditional seventh-round picks to use on guys who’ll quit and go into landscaping when they realize they’ll probably make more money? Principal-agent problem? What?

The truth is nothing Bryan Murray could have done today would likely have made the Senators better, now or going forward. Instead, give him credit for realizing that the team would have been equally poorly-served by selling low on Wiercioch or Condra, whether he intends to be here next year or not. Today was not a day to shape the future. That day is coming, probably this summer when the team has to figure out how to keep its group of young, rapidly-appreciating RFA forwards together. And while reality television has tried to convince us that choosing between rich, attractive young bachelors is a fun, sexy problem to have, the truth is it’s generally a difficult process, full of harsh words, hurt feelings, and unromantic negotiations. And THAT’S what Bryan Murray began steeling himself for today.

James:

Hi, I’m very sick today (and not in the way like how Ovi describes anything he’s in favor of) and you’ve all already made great points so prepare from an excellent contribution from yours truly (me),

If I were to write a local news-style headline that explained my feelings about Bryan Murray’s performance or lack there of on deadline day it would be this:

LRT Expansion Faces Key Hurdle To— wait, wrong blog…

k,

it would be this:

Area Man Does What He Said He Would.

I mean, overall it’s not like a deadline day will ever pass where NOTHING happens but that the most shocking or interesting trades (IMO E Kane trade or Toronto somehow getting Clarkson off the books & CBJ trading most of a mannequin in return) happened before deadline day really speaks to what Varada was saying about media attention. It’s a little rich that TSN and Sportnets (?) stop everything they’re doing and devote virtually uninterrupted coverage to it the entire day. Does ESPN even do this with the baseball or two baskets ball deadline? Honest question. I bet if they do it’s boring as h_ck. All that fanfare for most of it ending up being dudes bantering on about “Asking price too high on Phaneuf?” or “OMG you guys, do you think Jordan Eberle would go to the dance with an established top 4 defender or prospects with conditional picks?” As we saw today the actual events that happen are mostly trash like “Rene Bourque to the Kentucky Thoroughblades for Lukasz Futureconsiderinsky”.

A day of know-it-alls bullshitting about what GMs should/should not/might do with no satisfying outcome? We already have Twitter for that (hi!). What was talking about again? Oh yes, my second divorce…no…it was Bryan Murray.

Today didn’t really have much of an effect on me one way or the other because BMurr had pretty consistently said for weeks that he wasn’t likely to do anything of significance. I think Chris Neil breaking his thumb really wrecked the possibility of anything happening. Do teams have interest in Chris Neil? Honestly, I think so. Do they have interest in injured Chris Neil? Probably not. Do they have interest in injured Chris Neil with additional contract term beyond this season? This brings me to my next point. I was doubtful from the get-go that anyone other than maybe Condra would get dealt because virtually no one on the block was a rental. Have all the cokedreams you want about clearing the roster of Neil, Phillips, Legwand, Michalek, probably Wiercioch or Cowen too. Truth is no one knows what’s going to happen with the Cap next year (thanks Putin) and no GM is taking significant salary and term beyond spring for our spare parts. When Zack Smith might be your best candidate for a “Hockey Trade” (a term now punishable by death btw) expect nothing more than some other team’s Sack Zmith who has identical salary/term coming back the other way. Mike Milbury’s gone and Garth Snow’s supposedly smart now. Shit’s quiet.

So if you feel me on those players not getting trade offers likely due to their term, then it follows that a few of them will actually be easier to get rid of next year when they are rental pickups. Yes the idea of heading into 2015 training camp with a lot of those guys on books sucks but as Chris Coldplay from the band Martin rapped “Nobody said it was eazayyy”.

Plus, I think future city councilors Chris Neil and/or Phillips would be way more open to leaving for a few months next season rather than a whole extra year after this one. And Legwand? Legwand will be one year older…and…did I mention he had 51 points last year? Good for him…siiiiiiigh…OUTRAGEOUS.

Anyway, Murray also said the offers he received for Condra, Wiercioch simply weren’t good enough for them. As a fan I’m kind of glad to hear that as Condra and Wiercioh are good, useful players. Don’t give them away just “because.” Plus, if you heard the post deadline presser Murray made it clear the off season is still well open for discussion. Condra stays with his nice trio with Pageau and Lazar and Wiercioch gets a longer audition to ….raise his trade value.

As to Chet’s point, I’m also a little surprised Murray exercised the patience to say to the group, “You’re close to the playoffs…let’s see you all make a go of it without Olli Jokinen riding in on a chariot from the Finnish equivalent of heaven to put us over the top.” I mean he was in an oddly similar situation last year and he made a play for Hemsky who with 17 points in 20 games could not have stepped right in and delivered better and the Sens still ended the season 5 points out. Just four less than they currently do. So if by some miracle the boys do it and get a Wildcard spot hey, that’s why Jah created horse races on the 10th day. If not, this past stretch has been pretty positive development wise. Young players are finding their way, the new coach hates Neil and Phillips and kiiiind of Legwand and is not afraid to scratch or bench them anyway and we have rookie to extend who might end up with 30 goals. If room has to be made to get the right RFA’s signed deals can still potentially get done in the off season. Since Spezza was dealt I must say, Ottawa got all their big deals done. I think they’ll find a way to keep the key RFAs even if means making a move that wasn’t made today.

Tactic Talk, or a talk show in text format that is neither interactive nor anything like a talk show

Funny-Talk-Show-Is-he-cheating

In which James and Varada exchange emails about what changes Paul MacLean needs to make to Ottawa’s tactics to help them to be a successful, which is to say different, team of hockey players. Varada just kind of sets up the question and lets it hang there like a fart, but then James explores the studio space.

Varada:

The point at which analytics guys have to sort of try to imagine what it’s like to play hockey

It’s been quite the summer for analytics. I’m not going to run through all of the events, because it’s August, and every post on every hockey blog is hashing and re-hashing these events and extrapolating on the seismic shifts they imply. Suffice to say that the summer of 2014 marks the pre- and post- point in the hockey timeline, the point at which teams started systematically referring to evidence and trends in data to inform their decision making. (And, as a result, the fan community no longer has access to great sites like MC79 or Extra Skater. The price you pay, I suppose.)

There are a couple of interesting things here for the statistically inclined to consider. First was that while the blogging community got to be a part of something genuinely culture-changing, we are now in the post-implementation phase. How do we define ourselves now? It’s a little like the baby boomers growing up and bringing their anti-authority perspective to the corporate boardroom. Maybe it shook up the way people did business, but it also made dissent a little less meaningful. You can say fuck the system right up until they sell you a fuck the system t-shirt, y’know? We already have our share of people with proprietary metrics, trying to sell NHL teams on their turnkey solution. It doesn’t really feel like us against the world anymore.

It’s also a challenge because we have to think about the next phase of our discussion about analytics. It’s no longer just about looking at outcomes and saying “player x and clearly better than player y, so they should use him more.” I once read with Taylor Hall where he said he understood the concept of possession metrics, but hadn’t encountered a person who could explain how he should play differently to improve on those metrics. I don’t envy Tyler Dellow here. He might be able to identify trends in data that will help management make a decision on one player over another, but it’s a real challenge to understand how to translate trends into tactics. (Let alone explain it to a superstar player who went first overall and makes $6MM a year.) It’ll happen – video technology and zone entries are a step in that direction.

This is important for Sens fans to think about because we have a team that needs to shift tactics to win, and we don’t necessarily have the literacy to say how.

Flash back to two years ago – the lockout shortened season. Ottawa has positive possession metrics, and the second best goals against average, despite allowing more shots on goal than most teams. They enjoyed a series of improbable comebacks that generated the moniker ‘pesky’ (when I guess it could have been ‘lucky’). People start describing them as the second best defensive team in the league. They make the playoffs (as a 7th seed – still a bubble team in my books), beat the Canadiens (who they match up well against) and are summarily executed by the Penguins. Good stuff.

Everyone taps them as a team on the up and up, even a team that will win the Presidents’ Trophy, and we’re all psyched.

The next year the team is essentially the same. They allow even more shots on goal, but manage to stay a positive possession team because they also take a lot of shots. People start to talk about them as an ‘event’ team, one that creates a lot of on-ice events, both for and against. The goaltending regresses to league average, and boom: we’re on the wrong side of the bubble. Now people are writing knowing articles about how the season before Ottawa wasn’t in fact defensively sound, they just rode unsustainably hot goaltending through a small sample size of a shortened season.

So here we are, in 2014-2015, and Ottawa has lost their best offensive player. Their defense remains largely the same. There are many young players peppering the lineup who can trend up or down – they’re unknown factors. As a blogger out in the world, feeling his way around, I wonder if this team can survive playing the same brand of event hockey.

To their credit, they’ve talked about needed to cut down on the shots against, being harder to play against in their own zone, etc. This team simply can’t replace Spezza’s production with what it has, especially when having Spezza’s production last year wasn’t enough to get them into the show.

But here’s where it gets tough, because I don’t play professional hockey: how? What, tactically, can the Senators do to cut down on the shots against, but maintain the shots for? And do they even have the personnel to make the sort of tactical changes they need to make? They’ve spoken at length about needing to ‘try harder’ and be ‘harder to play against,’ but you know every other team in the league is also doing those things.

This, to me, is the first real test of Paul MacLean’s coaching. He needs to either change something fundamental about the system or double-down on what the team has done to date, emphasize hard work (even more), and root for lucky comebacks and great goaltending. I don’t mean that sarcastically – it’s probably easier to do, and doesn’t risk alienating the dressing room. But if at the end of this season Ottawa is bottom five in shots against and on the outside looking in, it’s going to take a draft lottery win for people to overlook the tactical gaps in Ottawa’s approach.

James, what does Ottawa need to do to improve? What possible changes can they make to tactics?

James:

Send Paul MacLean’s Evil Twin (creatively known on this site as Evil Paul MacLean) to a Dungeon in Grostenquin, France.

By reinstating Jack Adams winner Good Paul MacLean, he’d have the benefit of learning lessons from Evil Paul MacLean’s shortcomings such as:

Don’t put Neil and Phillips on the goddamn Power Play like, ever…fucking again. Even if the team is decimated by injury. Plz. & Thx. TTYL (not on the power play).

Look, I suppose to a degree I get what Evil Paul MacLean was trying to do there. It was early in the season, the team was really struggling to put it together and the coach got all, “If you’re not going to stand in front of the net like I asked, I’m going to put a guy out there who will [and I’m taking you all to hell with me].” If there’s one thing I appreciate about Chris Neil it’s that he WILL stand in front of the net. It’s a terrible but important job. Remember when Shea Weber injured two of our players in one shift with those deathclappers of his (one Cody Ceci sent off bleeding from the head despite wearing a helmet and the other Craig Anderson WHO’S A FUCKING GOALIE)? Celebrate the moments of our lives.

Anyway, I get that there might not be a list of volunteers snaking around the block to get in front of Erik Karlsson point bombs – though you could make a hell of a living doing it! But even still, just by merit of being on the ice, by reputation alone Neil is likely to be the first guy to take you OFF that power play than to score on it.

The use of Phillips is even more perplexing. He actually has an okay shot but it’s no secret that Big Rig haaaaates having the puck in his possession and as such has an underrated first pass due to making his exit passes lightning quick so the puck doesn’t have to be on his stick anymore. Hot potato hands is not exactly a fetching quality to have in your point man.

*Looks at post it note* Oh cool, Patrick Wiercioch scored more power play goals in his 53 games than Phillips did in the last two seasons…but that’s just me, boring old fashioned “I like goals on the power play James” (That’s what they call me).

Probably too late to mention this but I’m not even trying to turn this into a throw Phillips and Neil under the bus session. If MacLean’s going to tap them on the shoulder during the power play, it’s their job to hop over the boards and play. My problem is that our entertainment value suffers in order to “punish” the high skill players. In the end I felt our eyes were the ones truly punished.

Heyyyyyy the top line of Turris, Ryan and MacArthur has great chemistry!

Cool, cool…very cool…now if you can just go ahead and give the other players a chance to develop some chemistry by…I don’t know, how about letting them have more than a couple of periods to gel with each other. Yeah, that would be really great.

No one bore the brunt of musical chairs more than Jason Spezza did last year. I mean, look no further than the year he played the whole season with Greening and Michalek. Michalek is a good if inconsistent winger and Greening is…a human being.

Result of a season together: Milo a career high 35 goals (I know right? 35. That would be a career high for Bobby Ryan!) and Greening got a stupid contract earning 17 goals. Where was I going with this? Good luck in future endeavours Jason Spezza…I mean oops wait…Call me a crazy but allowing the players a chance to adjust to each other could posit results on the score sheet.

That goes for defensive pairings too. I feel like the only set defensive pairing the team had last season was Phillips-Ceci which, hey, makes perfect sense. Keep the rookie with the 36 year old with 1100 games under his belt. But despite carrying 8 defensemen, it seemed like pairings should have been sorted out by the end of the season but it still felt psychedelic. Of course the shuffling had something to do with players like, and I’m not going to name names here: Jared Cowen playing nowhere near where you’d expect a guy who held out for a new contract despite being offered 8 years (Bullet of committing a near decade status: Dodged).

Methot went from playing pretty much exclusively with Karlsson one year to what I like to imagine is Paul MacLean taking a huge hit from a bong and exhaling through his nose and saying, “You know what would be so trippy? Gryba-Methot…think about it man…it’s sounds like “Grabbin my thoughts” which is like, what the NSA is trying to right now, man. See, check it out, I was reading this article on Prison Planet…” And it goes on like this till the pizza guy gets there. Methot is speedy, left handed and defensively minded. PLZ play him with speedy right handed and offensively minded Karlsson. Crow all you will about EK’s defensive shoddiness, Cowen was the worst defensive player on the team last year…punish him, don’t promote him to the top pairing with a guy who takes a lot of risks. If it was up to me, I’d have swapped Cowen in and out of the lineup with Wiercioch depending on who was playing better. Then again, the goings on of Patrick Wiercioch’s love life are none of my business.

Don’t Have Last Year’s Schedule This Year.

Funny, because as rough as it was to start the season on a road trip and facing a host of powerhouse Western teams, the Sens did come back home with a .500 record. If that same road trip took place in say January, I’d think that a .500 finish was pretty acceptable. For the team, however, that’s got to be a pretty lukewarm way to start the season off morale-wise. What was worse was soon after they were back they had to play a bunch of those powerhouse West Coast teams again…and heyyyy, they lost to all of them. On top of that they blew a Saturday afternoon home game to the Oilers sparking a season long tradition of not showing up to very, VERY winnable HOME games because something something afternoon?

Phun Phakt: Ottawa didn’t win any of their weekend games in October. Period. The result? 4 wins on the month…CAUSED BY BAD BABYSITTING. As a big believer that the points you bank in October push you into May, Ottawa’s slow start may indeed have cost them a Wild Card spot. They ended the season only 5 points back of Columbus and Detroit. Who knows how it would have shaken in out in this alternate universe but had Senators managed 3 W’s in their 5 weekend games in October, things would no doubt have been a hell of a lot more interesting come April.

Analytics Are So Hot Right Now But the Sens Can Also Be Trailblazers By Being One of the First Teams in the NHL to Practice the Shootout.

Maybe it’s just a smoke screen in order to keep Don Cherry from publicly making fun of them for being a “BUNCHA SEXY FANCYBOYS” (his words) but that the Sens and a host of other teams claim to not practice shootouts regularly is a mystery to me and frankly kind of pisses me off as a fan. The shootout is new (not really) and controversial but like it or not it is AN ACTUAL PART OF THE GAME THAT LITERALLY DECIDES WINS AND LOSSES.

No stats available (sorry but it’s summer and I’ve got BBQing to get to. Thanks for reading tho!) but safe to say we got dummied in the shootout last season and lost out on a lot of points as a result. I pray to Jah that at least goaltenders get a pre-game rundown of their opponent’s top players’ shootout tendencies. If not, to me, that would be like a pitcher not studying batters’ swing tendencies pre-game.

On the bright side, Ottawa being one of the youngest teams in the league could bode well for them in this respect going forward. I tend to think that most forwards born in the 1990s or who hail from the Continent of Europe are at least half decent at the shootout (Proof: Jarrko Ruutu was pretty good at shootouts so…). The Sens have a few youngsters, Euros and even Euroyoungsters on hand who have some moves, so I don’t get why the coach wouldn’t devote some time for his shooters to sharpen their skills. Or for their goalies to sharpen up at stopping them (RobinLehnerRobinLehnerRobinLehner).

Summed up: Fancyboys = W’s

Actually Beat the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Yes, yes, yes, this one sounds petty and I can own that but you cannot lose every game of the year to a division rival that is actually worse than you and expect to be successful as a team. Especially when Ottawa already seems to have a tough time beating Boston, Tampa and Detroit. BTW for those of you currently hitting the Comment button (j/k, Spam only), no, I do not count Ottawa beating Toronto 1-0 in the 2nd last game of the season when both teams have been mathematically eliminated from the post-season as a win. I’m a tyrant like that. Beating this very mediocre crew at least half or more than half of the time (Dare 2 Dream) would do wonders for not only the Sens place in the standings but also my ears listening to dickheads in Phil Kessel jerseys* down at the rink who are forever talking a gang of shit like the team they like isn’t a complete embarrassment.

Idea: Have coach force Sens players take the bus from Scotiabank Place all the way back downtown after losing to Leafs to illustrate the shit they are putting their adoring fans through until they can start getting the job done.

*Note to Kessel jersey fellas: Hi, I know we like different teams and all but when we’re out there playing on the same side, try your best to remember that even though his name is proudly displayed across my shoulders, I’m not actually Erik Karlsson and it’s okay to pass to me when I get open in the slot instead of passing back to the constantly out of breath dude at the point because he is wearing a Van Reimsdyk jersey. You do it every time and it’s getting very weird. Have a great summer and see you in hell, James.

How about you, dear reader? What tactics can Ottawa employ? Feel free to hit the comments with, you know, actual hockey stuff about zone entries and player tendencies and such.

Roundtable of Death: Good Times? GREAT Times Edition.

TOD

VARADA SAYS: 

We’ve been submarine silent these past few weeks, what with suffering severe dehydration and collapsing in the middle of Bank St. The city workers came along and pushed us to the side of the road with brooms and we’ve collected ourselves. Upon checking the internet for new developments, the following crazy things happened:

  • Spezza was finally dealt, though not to St. Louis as had been speculated, but to Dallas for a couple of un-sexy prospects, a winger who might be a third liner, and a pick, all of which seems totally fair for what might be a one-year rental of an oft-injured player.
  • General Managers committed half a billion dollars to free agents, despite everything we heard about this being a weak free agent class.
  • The draft happened. Some players were drafted. Checking NHL.com, I see that Ottawa did officially attend.

First thing’s first: Spezz. Let me just say, right off, that I don’t quite understand how trading a couple of mid-tier prospects would have been more of a risk for St. Louis than signing Paul Stastny for $7MM per year. Good player and all, and I guess if it doesn’t work out they’ll be able to find a taker for him on the trade market. But I’m surprised they passed on the low-risk one year remaining on Spezza’s deal.

But enough about thinking of other teams. At the time of this writing, Ottawa has officially become the Bad News Bears of the NHL. Lots of exciting young talent, all uppity and not knowing they’re supposed to be bad. (They….might be pretty bad.) I don’t want to be a terrible person here, but they’re starting to look a bit like to Islanders to me. Lots of great prospects, nothing but promise. That’s putting it diplomatically. I’d like to live in Brooklyn, too.

James, you and I were chatting about this: Twitter became just a cesspool of cynicism following the deal. Do you think fans are becoming hyperbolic babies? Or do you think the notion of a Chiasson – Zibanejad – Michalek / Stone / Hoffman (?) second line is legitimately scary bad? Where are we gonna put all of these third line players?

JAMES SAYS: 

*Snorts a 3 inch thick line of whatever drug it is that I do to help me look at the positive side of things like yesterday off a huge hunting knife* AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH TIGHT TIGHT TIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT.

Me IRL

Me IRL

On Spezza:
It’s a really good point you make about the low risk nature of the Spezza deal not being more attractive to suitors. It was confusing to me that Spezza seemed to be made out as the class C pony of the centre market. Did St. Louis learn nothing from that Ryan Miller experience? If you’re going to try to get a guy to put your already very good club over the top, might be smart to take the guy where if he shits the bus you can walk away. Spezza’s a one year risk, things go great, extend him; he flames out let him sign with the stupid Canucks (see what I did there?).

Maybe it’s because I’ve watched him play his whole career but I thought Spezza was really being undervalued whenever his name was brought up. The vibe was like, “Oh if Kesler and Stastny go, there’s still Spezza kicking around, I guess.”
Jeez, guess you don’t put up 687 points in 686 games over 11 seasons without making a few enemies?
– Doze injuries tho!
How you gonna tell me injuries aren’t a concern with Ryan Kesler of all people?
Dat Kesler playoff performance tho!
Kesler can be a beast for sure but it’s not like Spezza doesn’t have playoff experience. In one game fewer, Spezz has 14 more playoff points than Kesler. Different players for sure but I can’t believe how across the board Kesler was seen as the better catch of the two. I thought it was pretty even. Kesler better two way, Spezza more offense.

Thoughts on the Spezza deal:
Ehhhh…Murray, why the make or break obsession with the 1st round pick? This from a guy who once gave up a first round pick for motherfuckin’ Chris Campoli. This time around we didn’t have a 1st rounder in an apparently weak draft because we dealt for Bobby Ryan. I’ve BEEN comfortable about that. Ryan’s an awesome player.
I’m not sure if it was due to a lack of options thanks to Spezza’s no trade clause (those things are gr8 btw!!) or what but I don’t know why Murray wasn’t bullish on going 1 for 1. I heard a Spezza for Keith Yandle straight up rumour that I’m still bummed out didn’t happen. Imagine? Whatever. That was then (read: never) this is now, this is Stouffers.
If I were to describe my reaction to this deal it would be “Spezza for Mika Zibanejad & two scratch for cash tickets.” I’m not going to pretend to know the ceiling of a sophomore who played for Dallas, a team I actually forget exists, but from the looks of it Alex Chiasson is The Stars’ Zibanejad. Obviously a good, young player who’s just now dipping his other foot in the NHL. How good is he? Well, like Ziba we shall soon find that out.
I guess I’m just glad it’s over and that it didn’t get too nasty.

In the end, as a person who wants to see the team start a new chapter of the franchise pronto, I’m okay with the Sens skewing younger. Spezza is going to be looking for what could be the last contract of his career in a year from now. The Sens have to sign a ton of players over the next couple seasons. Given the budget thing (u herd ov dis budjet mess?), it’s very, VERY likely that Ottawa would have been outbid for #19 and would have just watched him walk for nothing. That or sign Spezza into his late 30s for a lot of cap space. I’ve said it since last year: I have been a fan and defender of the guy his whole career and I think dealing Spezza sucks but is ultimately a smart business decision.

As for the team this year. I still love our top line. We still have one of the best players on planet earth QBing our power play. I think our goaltending along with a few other players can’t help but bounce back closer to normalcy after down years. And yeah, there’s definitely going to be a lot of trial by fire. I am actually okay with that. There’s been a lot of promising development of Ziba, Stone and Hoffman, but at some point you have to see what they really are. I put money on that at least one of them is a true 2nd liner. The addition of Chiasson only serves to bolster the odds of someone from this young, promising group working out. I’ll take a season on the chin to find out what they can do. The second line is what is up for grabs for sure. Lord knows we have enough bottom six players to ice two full teams. As for the defence, the only thing I’m sure of is that Murray will make a trade for a D man as soon as I post this because…internet.

A brief answer to your question about the mood on Twitter:
There was no better example of what it was like on Twitter yesterday than when Benoit Pouliot signed with Edmonton.
People were FURRRRRRRRRRIOUS that Murray didn’t land him. A good player slipped through his fingers, sure but here’s the thing: People would have been equally FURRRRRRRRRRRRIOUS if Murray signed him to that same deal the Oilers gave him.
All this rage over a guy that literally 24 hours before FA day no Sens fan talked about ONCE. What a difference a day makes.
I can’t really blame my fellow fans for their outrage. After a year of sticks, resigning Milan Michalek is not much of a carrot.
Oddly enough, re-upping Michalek reminded me a lot of the initial feeling after losing Alfie of how the next piece of news was “And now we announce the signing of a player you haaaaate from the Leafs, Clarke MacArthur!” And how much of a let down that felt like. Oops. Turns out I needed to be a bit more patient.
Sens fans need a win. Give Bobby Ryan a big…THING of riches.

Roundtable of Death: Robby Bryan Edition

roundtable

The Question: HEY – what you think of Bobby Ryan’s first season as an Ottawa Senator? Is he worth the dubloons?

Varada

I think it’s tempting to look at Bobby Ryan as a small disappointment, but probably only in the somewhat arbitrary terms we’ve put forward all season: he’s supposed to be a 30 goal scorer, and he’s probably not going to score 30 goals this year. Since he’s been described that way over and over, to score 30 goals is, at this point, a huge part of his identity. This is of course totally ridiculous.

He’s third on the team in points, with a +10 rating as of this writing, behind only Karlsson and Spezza. He has a positive Corsi For, and hasn’t been too sheltered, starting about the same percentage of his zone starts in the defensive and neutral zones as he does in the offensive zone. He doesn’t face the easiest competition either; MacLean seems to be a fan of rolling his lines.

All of this makes him an effective top six forward, and a very good one in the context of this (not very good) team. So, yeah: he’s been fine. Whether or not he was worth giving up two potential regular NHLers and what’s looking more and more like a lottery pick is another thing entirely, but I think, based on Ottawa’s season last year, and the weak draft, you have to think it was a risk worth taking.

Of course, it’s all completely relative to his salary, which, at a $5.1MM cap hit, makes him a deal. You could argue that he’s not providing as much value for his cap hit as his comparables. There are some pretty amazing players in that bracket – Phil Kessel, Patrice Bergeron, Jamie Benn, Evander Kane, Jeff Carter – but also some stinkers – Martin Havlat, Stephen Weiss, and David Clarkson. Also, the only way those other players have cap hits so manageable is that many of them are signed to gigantic, era-spanning deals.

The point being that if Ottawa can convince a still-young Bobby Ryan to stay in town for at or around his current cap hit, and knowing that his ceiling is probably higher than it was this season, he’ll be well worth the dough. But if he’s looking to make north of, I don’t know…$7MM on a long term deal? Then it may not be wise to commit so much to him.

James

Yeah, I for one have been quite pleased with Bobby Ryan. It would be a stretch, in my opinion, to say that he came here and didn’t do what he was supposed to. Any disappointment in him is merely attached to the disappointment surrounding the entire team this year. They’re better than they played and we all know it and that’s why we’re all so depressed about it.

Ryan may fall a bit short of the 30 goal standard that was placed on him the second he was traded here (albeit it’s a pretty fair standard considering he’s still in his prime and given the number of times he’s reached 30) but I don’t see that sub-30 goal total as his “new normal.” It’s just like how I don’t think that because Ottawa wont make the playoffs this year that they’re going to miss the post-season routinely now. Weird year, weird year.

Side note: Funny how some things can change in a heartbeat in the NHL. Seems totally normal that the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche sit comfortably high up in their respective conferences despite the Bolts finishing 3rd last and the Avs 2nd last in the entire league less than a calendar year ago. Short season? Nah, chalk it up to the Avs rebuild model of getting a number 1 pick, adding him to the team right away and putting a successful minor league coach at the helm (WORKED FOR EDMONTON EVERY YEAR!!!) or the Tampa model of trading a standout rookie forward for what was essentially a 3rd string goalie at the time, losing Stamkos to injury most of the year and trading away their captain Marty St. Louis. You know, “hockey moves” (See also: Varada’s Be a GM Mode: Tipz n’ Trixx article).
What was I talking about again? Right, your recent divorce…I mean Bobby Ryan’s recent engagement, I mean just Bobby Ryan sports stuff. Did he surpass expectations? No, but on the up side he’s more or less met them in my eyes. I would say Clarke MacArthur would get my surpassed expectations award and Cody Ceci a very unexpected surprise for the year. Bobby? Well, he was what I hoped he would be: A smart top line winger with a dangerous shot. Was he incredibly consistent? No, but again, I don’t think many players on the team can say that. Here’s an example of why I find it a bit hard to have a go at Ryan’s goal today: A couple of months ago he was on pace to score a career high in goals. Also of note, Craig Anderson was the best goalie in the league last year and this year has had trouble not letting in TWO fucking goals on the first ten shots.
Hey James?
Yea-huh?
Can you get to the goddamn point, please?
OH, sure! 
I think Bryan Murray traded a ton for a top line player and got one. His first year here was a really messy one for the team, unfortunately. The Senators, as a whole, blew a ton of opportunities to advance in the standings. Individually it’s fair to say he went for quite a cold stretch, he was also, in my view, misused by the coach at times. I think that has a lot to do with trying to ignite a losing team but I’m a bit concerned that there’s something about Ryan’s game that drives coaches bananas. In added twist, it’s also being hinted at that he’s been playing hurt. I think that taking off two weeks for the Olympics and still having to miss out on practice after speaks for itself.
I am very much looking forward to seeing how next year goes (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAADOI). I don’t think we really saw the Ottawa Senators this year and I don’t think we fully saw Bobby Ryan this year either. A little winning really makes a lot of shortcomings disappear. I don’t remember anyone complaining about how Dany Heatley was the slowest skater on the team when he was rolling or how Chris Neil takes a lot of bad penalties back when the team was winning a lot of games (though social media was not as much of a thing way back in the 1700’s). Tough season to out and out judge but if I had to, I’d say he was fine. Scored a lot of goals, found a line he gelled with, seems like a great teammate.
Would I re-sign him? In a heartbeat. We should let a 30 goal man walk after giving up so much for him? Not usually a benchmark for good contracts but look at Toronto: gave up just an absolute ton for Phil Kessel, it didn’t work out right away. Was I the only one wringing my hands thinking, “Thanks for giving powerful division rival Boston 2nd overall there, Burkie” but to their credit they saw what they had in Kessel and locked him up – for a lot of money. As a Sens fan I really wish they didn’t. Similarly, I hope Ottawa sees what they have in Ryan.
As for how much he wants, well that’s always tough. I’m just a fan *audible gasp* and as a fan I’m thinking, we’re basically a cap floor team; pay the good players. Stop giving the fucking Colin Greenings and Chris Neils multi-year, multi-million dollar deals to be 4th liners. [Editor’s note: at this point Varada stood up and started banging on the table.] I love a good Turris dream contract and all but I appreciate that they are rare. I’m not concerned about Bobby Ryan becoming a Stephen Weiss or David Clarkson so I say pay him like Jamie Benn or Jeff Carter. If he wants to stay pay him what he should get within the reason you’d expect from a good general manager. If he can’t wait to jump ship after one down year (downISH too, its not like they’re in last place! The team was seriously like two small winning streaks away from being totally in the mix) then I don’t know: two trade demands in a few years? Guy’s kind of a talented wuss then. I would personally really love to see a fresh start with a top six of:
MacArthur – Turris – Ryan
<exciting new toy or Hoffman> – Spezza – Hemsky

Roundtable of Death: Actual Death Edition

tod

It’s time for our end of season wrap-up. Thanks to everyone for reading this season; it was a great one. Make sure to follow us on Twitter, where James routinely kills it, and come back during the summer, when this blog converts back into a blog about devil sticks.

It really was the best of times
 

Varada: Preseason predictions, including my own, had the Sens as a bubble team at best. And I guess they were a bubble team, but on the right side of 8th place, and with their playoff probability well above 80% all season long. We got great looks at Silfverberg, Zibanejad, and Wiercioch, had some pleasant surprises in Pageau and the trade for Conacher, and enjoyed a number of improbable comebacks and gutsy wins. And, of course, they won a playoff round for the first time in six years. How could you call this season anything other than a success?

James: I think the biggest plus I take out of this season (and I truly feel there were many) is that though many players very green, this team has depth that can get the job done. I say this is my biggest takeaway because just a few short years ago plugging a Binghamton player or two into the lineup even for a short period of time was to see a different team. Ottawa’s always had good players but if they went down the team would suffer greatly. Do you have any substantial memories of Cody Bass or Roman Wick? The Ottawa Senators actually had a more successful season than the previous without Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson and largely Craig Anderson and Milan Michalek. Of course I’d have preferred full seasons from these stars but if 7th seed post season birth from a bunch of rookies and old men isnt team development I dont know what is. Cant wait to see the star players combine with the capable reinforcements. I dont know if there’s ever been a more exciting time to be an Ottawa Senators fan.

 

Gonchar is going to be a decision

Varada: He was a bit of a revelation this year, even if 27 points in 45 games and unspectacular possession stats still aren’t worth $5.5MM a year. But you don’t find a player with 19 seasons of NHL experience under his belt every day, and that experience probably went a long way when the team needed stability and leadership while weathering injuries. Looking at the Sens’ lineup, I don’t see someone who will step in and play 20+ minutes a night. MacLean seems to have thought the same, praising Gonchar in his post-season presser.

I think at this point nobody would be particularly torn up to see Melnyk’s money go back into Serge’s bank account. At the same time, do you remember Kuba? Solid stats, steady partner for Karlsson, a bit older, lots of experience, cup ring…and Florida gave him $4MM a year for two years. My point being, somebody is going to overpay for Gonchar, and if it’s Ottawa I guess that’s ok–but it will still be overpayment.

James: I agree with your points and think Gonchar had a very good season for Ottawa. When it comes to resigning Gonchar the decision to let him walk is an easy one for me. It’s not an indictment of his play. You’re right about all those things. A calmness with the puck that just cannot be taught, solid point production, raised his game unexpectedly: Hey, mind filling in indefinitely for a guy who plays up to 30 mins a night and is the defending Norris winner? THX BRO! Guy was instrumental in salvaging the season. That said, he is 39 years old. I thought he played a lot younger than that… well until about the post season. And hey that’s cool. Some of the young guys looked old against the Penguins. I just think its going to take 2 years to resign Gonchar and I don’t think Ottawa should do that. It’s not the money its the time. If Murray can convince him to sign for 1 year, yeah do it. Two? I’m going to take names of people who argue me and come back to them when we’re watching a 41 year old Sergei Gonchar play an 82 game season on the youngest team in the NHL.. 

It’s clear Karlsson has a steady partner now in Marc Methot who I thought was the best, most consistent defenseman all season for Ottawa. I think we’re all a bit down on Jared Cowen right now but he looked so normal out there that we quickly forgot how rusty he probably was. The guy hadnt played NHL hockey in nearly a calendar year when he came back. For me, I trust Cowen can take on second pairing minutes. Next Patrick Wiercioch. His game is not perfect but thrust into 42 games thanks to injury, Wiercioch, a rookie, was the second highest scoring defenseman on the team and finished a team high +9. All that at a paltry 15 minutes a game. The kid has some ability. Below that, guys like Benoit and Gryba (who played first pairing a lot this season LOL) have shown they can play at the NHL level and there’s always the emerging Boroweicki to consider. Notice I havent even mentioned Phillips yet who had his best season in years. Is Cowen – Wiercioch a viable second pairing? Obviously I’m not sure but this is still a rebuild and this season’s injury troubles showed me you actually can hand the keys over to the kids to an extent. I’ll take having a first pairing of a Norris winner and a fast, strong and physical shutdown beast and let MacLean play around with the rest over signing a very good 39 year old to term. If that doesnt cut the mustard, trade a little of that depth for a top 4 d man. With Karlsson – Methot we don’t even need an elite guy. Grow Sens Grow. 

Ottawa’s depth isn’t even truly appreciated yet

 
Varada: As much fun as it was to watch Ottawa’s young guns this year, remember that they still have three first round picks–Noesen, Puempel, and Ceci–who have yet to play an NHL game. You’ve got Stone on the cusp of breaking into the NHL, and others, like Hoffman and Shane Prince, making strong cases for themselves. Lehner is cutting the brakes on Anderson’s car right now. Who knows what other hidden, Pageau-like gems are in the system. Ottawa might lose some veterans next season, but there’s a version of this team that’s two or three seasons away that is going to blow the doors off the league.

Add to that a Norris trophy winning defenceman, a (probably) Jack Adams winning coach, a great development team in Luke Richardson’s B-ham Sens, and the fact that the contenders in the East are entering their twilight years of contention, and this team’s best years are ahead.

James: A huge, huge thing for me was seeing Robin Lehner get tossed into a second round playoff game and make some huge stops against some Elite shooters. Lehner went in ice cold and did not look scared in the slightest out there.  Maybe the pressure was off because the team was losing so badly but I think it would be assholish of me to assume the pressure is ever off playing the no.1 seeded team in the playoffs. Ice water in those veins. J/K you have to have a heart to have veins. I’m not trying to say anything extreme here like make him no. 1 or anything. That’s just amazing experience right there. I’m one for preaching patience with developing goaltenders but I must admit watching his dominance in Binghamton and composure during his call up that the 21 year old Lehner is way, way ahead of the curve.

I can’t move on from this topic without talking about Jean Gabriel Pageau. Look, I called the shit out of this from the get go but we’re not going to talk about that too much *brushes diamonds off platinum shoulder* We’ve seen breakout late season performances (Bobby Butlah) and unexpected playoff dominance (Peter Regin) but this one feels different. I’m not going to overdo it but with all the quality prospects Ottawa has I was waiting for a kid to come out of the woodwork and put up an undeniable performance. Pageau has been that so far. There were points in the PLAYOFFS where he looked like the most complete player on the team. Not bad for a guy with 9 NHL games under his belt going into the post season. I think he’s a lock to to make the team next year. With a coach who rewards quality of play the way P Mac does, what line he lands on will be squarely up to Pageau.

Lastly, as far as development goes, I actually think it’s good for the young guys on the team to experience overcoming the struggle of a season filled with adversity, the glory of a dominant playoff win and then a pretty thorough ass kicking at the hands of the best team in their conference. Over the past two seasons there’s been a lot of fast tracking of experience. Consider that as of this writing Jakob Silfverberg has played only 4 fewer playoff games than Rick Nash. No. 3 overall Kyle Turris, has now played 21 more than the entire Edmonton Oilers’ top five in scoring. Unfair stat? Whatever fun is fun.
Several great looking young players are solidifying their sports in the lineup and there are more potential prospects than spots on a roster. Some smart moves and patience could turn this into a very, very dangerous team quickly.

We’re a year closer to the heritage jersey being made our primary jersey

 
Varada: For real. This has to happen. Death to the 3-D head.

James: Yo. I’d like to remind everyone out there that IM ONLY FUCKIN WITH HOT SHIT. How are so many people still rocking that Senagoth jersey? The Heritage is the nicest jersey since the original one. OH SURPRISE, SURPRISE Fan designed and brought to prominence by a fan petition. Open your wallets and show that the other jersey’s theyve tried to push on us stink. Just dive in. What a Karlsson uni isnt as safe a bet as an Alfie at this point? You leave the organization to their own devices and you get the SNES. You know what id like to see more than anything?

Image courtesy of Le Collectif

Twasnt broke, twidn’t need fixing.

Roundtable of Death: Round Deuce Edition

Nosaj Spezza

VARADA SAYS: 

Okee doke: so how do we beat the Pens?

Before their series against the Islanders closed out, my hope was that if Ottawa was going to meet Pittsburg we’d benefit from a Fleury meltdown and be able to steal a game or two. Unfortunately for us, that meltdown came early, the Islanders got to steal those games, and the Pens were able to turn to Vokoun–which is exactly why they signed him. They never had a 1B option when they had their meltdown against the Flyers. Now they’ve made the switch, and things are humming.
Still, it seems to me that Ottawa’s best chance is to learn from what the Islanders did, and what the Flyers did last year, and try to get under the Pens’ skin. It worked against what should have been a more skilled team in Montreal. Ottawa’s advantage is that they have a very good penalty kill–they can play with an edge, pay the price in the box, and probably come out of it unscathed. In the long run maybe you throw a few of their bigger pieces off their game.
The problems are that they aren’t going to get into Byslma’s head the way they did with Therrien; there’s isn’t a destabilizing force like PK Subban on that roster; Vokoun is playing better than Price did, even if Price has the higher ceiling; and that defence is big enough to keep Ottawa players outside of the greasy goal area where they pay their bills.
In short: get ready for a lot of previews that say “if Anderson plays out of his mind…but probably Penguins in six.” This series is going to be an all out war, and it will probably be Ottawa escalating it there. That’s their best chance of winning.
What say you?JAMES SAYS: 

*Super cool turntable scratching* Hey now youre a cool guy it’s the playoffs get paiiiiiiiid (we get paid so much $$$$$$$$$$ to write this!)

Well, the big bad Pengus are coming to town SOON! At the time of this writing tickets are going on sale in 32 minutes and there’s no schedule up on the team’s official website. IT’S A VERY ORGANIZED TIME TO BE ALIVE!

Okay, I’d like to preface this, as I always do, by taking an impressive leather bound book off of this custom built mahogany shelf and opening it to the case of The People vs. Horse Races. Pretty much every pundit is going to pick the Penguins to take this one because ‘nem Penjins b more better.’ Okay, awesome. A couple of weeks ago I heard some hockey analysts discussing if Toronto would manage to steal even one win from stalwart Boston and despite being stomped in a couple of games it’s anyone’s series with the Bruins looking like the ones on their heels. Now, admittedly, I don’t like Toronto, a little too “I hate everything about them” for my taste, but I must say, that match up is as cut and dried on paper as Ottawa-Pittsburgh, and when you compare paper to reality I don’t know why the New York Rangers don’t win the Stanley Cup every year. All that stuff said, if Ottawa were the underdogs last series they are some sort of undersloth this time around.

The last series was quite helpful to Ottawa in that the plucky Islanders exposed the speed issues that Pittsburgh has as a team. Especially now with Latendresse riding the pine, speed is not something that Ottawa lacks themselves. It’s rough to see Weapon X Erik Karlsson operating at “normal” speed but there still things about his game that remain strong like, I don’t know, his ability to deke out an entire fucking team or his patience and ability to hang onto the puck. To me this series is going to fall largely on the shoulders of the youthful exuberance: the Zibanejads, Silfverbergs Pageaus and Conachers. Tall order (sorry Cory, JGP) for a bunch of rookies, you bet, but with Pittsburgh clocking in as the NHL’s oldest team (29.5 avg. age) and Ottawa the youngest (avg. age 26) it would be foolish not to think that MacLean will be using sprightliness as a strategy. If you have wheels, use them.

While on the subject of age, it will also be on Ottawa to make this a very, very grueling experience for The Old Man Iginalas of the world. Ottawa has the tools to punish in Neil, Smith, Cowen, Gryba, Methot and for the love of god I hope Greening. Even Phillips is a pretty tough customer when it’s post season time. The greatest challenge of course is that Pittsburgh boasts some of the world’s most talented forwards…which is uhh nice for them.

This series will, as every hockey game ever has, come down to goaltending.

I feel it important to point out that the Islanders did not exactly get world class goaltending in their series. Evgeni Nabokov (the Alexei Kovalev of goaltenders if you ask me) gave up a putrid 24 goals in 6 games. I’m very much hoping we get a little bit better of a performance from Craig Anderson. Also, speaking of goaltending, I would like you to please put on your rant proof goggles now:

Why u heff be mad is just Tomas Vokoun! I love how going into the series the storyline as you mentioned above is all, “Oh no how will we survive now that Pittsburgh’s #1 overall pick, Stanley Cup winning, Olympic Gold Medalist, former all star goaltender has been benched and we have to face Mighty Tomas Vokoun! He who was the Washington Capitals 3rd string goalie LAST YEAR and was acquired for a seventh round draft pick! He who previous to this series rocked a 3 and 8 playoff record on the defense-first Predators. Am I the only one who forgot this guy was even in the NHL when Pittsburgh traded for him last year?

Goaltenders being the strange beasts they are I must admit, there’s nothing to say Vokoun isn’t capable of Jaroslav Halaking them to the promised land. It could happen. Pittsburgh is playing better in front of him. It just seems funny to me that not even a week after watching a team that “has trouble scoring” positively break Carey Price and then capable backup Peter Budaj’s respective spirits I’m not going act like Pittsburgh’s goaltending problems are in the past because Vokoun beat the Islanders twice.

What do you think shitty Jerry Seinfeld joke-device?
“What is the deal with Jason Spezza?” *canned laughter* *canned throwing a chair at my head*

One minute you have MacLean saying “He still a long way(s) away” the next you go on the Sens website and the top story is “SPEZZA PRACTICES!!!” What’s a girl to do? Spezza is a whole mess of questions. The most obvious is, “How ready is he?” Others include, “Even if 100% healthy can he just step in and play playoff level hockey after not playing since January?” or “If Spezza comes back this team suddenly has a ton of talented centres…who moves where?” Seems like the more we know the less we know with this here caper. Only one way to get to the bottom of it.

VARADA SEES THAT AND RAISES A…
You know how I’m hesitant to compare myself to world class athletes? Okay, well I am, and I have to say, as a person who just had a minor, minor back injury himself and spent the better part of a fucking week getting back to a place where I couldn’t get myself a granola bar without a ten-point strategy plan, I will say that 1) my empathy meter is off the charts for Spezz, and 2) a back injury is not the kind of thing that you can play through. It’s not the most horrific of injuries–it’s no “stick in the eyeball” or “blade through the achilles heel” that are so much the rage these days–but when you think about it…it’s your fucking back. That thing is like 45% of your body, and it holds you upright. You don’t know how much you depend on it to do everything until you have an injury. I wish I had filmed myself trying to put on socks this morning. It would be the saddest, funniest, then saddest 45 minute long Youtube video in the world.

All that to say that I’ll believe Spezza(‘s back) is back when I see it. Dudes in the NHL are usually, what, about 200lbs? And they tend to lean on you a bit. While skating pretty hard. The guy had back surgery. I don’t want to get into a Hasek-like arrangement where all 1.2 million people in the Ottawa Valley start reducing health care to the question of whether or not player X is being a wuss.
I’ve gotta ask: what do you think about MacLean’s magical mystery tour of lineup decisions in the last round? Scratching Concher for Matt Kassian; playing Benoit over Wiercioch; benching Latty; confining Jim O’Brien to one of those spinning mirrors from the Superman movies. So far his bag-of-acid methodology seems to be working (see: “you’ve had a terrible game, Conacher – get in there!” resulting in scoring the tying goal with 26 seconds left). But at some point you have to ask just what the hell if going on, right?

BUT THEN JAMES HAS TO GO AND BE ALL: 

Yeah, it’s weird. I heard Shawn Simpson talk about this stuff the other week on that local series of ads with the occasional radio show on it. He said, fans will always be bewildered by coaching decisions because you’ll never know how that team works behind the scenes unless you’re on it. Case in point I suppose would be, how are you gunna bench Latendresse indefinitely against his former team and not even give him 4th line minutes for a guy who is SOMEHOW ACTUALLY SLOWER THAN HIM?!?!? Then at the end of the day, Kassian 2 assists in the deciding game. I don’t get ranty again here but Gui is going to head into this off season as the Street Cred Peter Regin like, “Yeah, my coach didn’t feel I had enough fire against my former team in the playoffs and benched me for a goon who ended up having more points than me….anyway, I would like to talk to you about what I bring to your team for the price of $2,000,000 per season!”
Just to build on what you’re saying about Spezza…yeah, the last thing in the world I’d ever want is for him to be rushed. Maybe it’s just a media circus but seeing the Sens organization hype it up too was interesting. Considering he’d be playing up against Malkin or Crosby there’s not going to be a lot of wiggle room for him to “feel it out.” I have to admit I’m very confused about the whole thing…which I’m guessing is the point.

On one hand, guy just started skating with the team a couple of days ago but on the other the scenario is very similar to the Karlsson one we saw. He went from “unable to do any workouts standing up” to leading the team stretches and playing in a little over a week. The only thing keeping me from being super nervous about this whole thing is that Spezza had his surgery 4 and a half months ago and that does seem like a good while to recover (source Dr. Mario, Scientologist). I find Spezza to be a player where you can really tell when he’s playing hurt (which is often). Last example of such a time was I believe in a playoff against the Pens when he just couldnt match Crosby and was booed by a small but audible habs fan-esque contingent at SBP. We need this guy and I dont want to give idiots, nor Pittsburgh for that matter, ammo if he’s not ready to go.

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 

Roundtable of Death: The Passion of the Distaste for Peter Regin

tod

James

So after Tuesday’s undeserved and tide-turning face off penalty (ITS A GREAT PENALTY!!!) we can officially conclude that Peter Regin is straight up bad luck at this point, right? …Let’s retire the number 13 while we’re at it.

Imagine you’re Jim O’Brien, getting scratched game after game for a guy who has 3 assists on the year. Don’t get me wrong: despite a strong start, JOB isn’t exactly burning down the house with his 6 points and minus three, but what the hell is up with a supposed “skill guy” like Regin who hasn’t put up a point in weeks not getting an extended stay in the press box?
The nail in the coffin for me here is fucking MATT KASSIAN has more goals than him. The debate whether Regin is a top six *puts on giant novelty Mickey Mouse glove and does hand wanking motion* or a bottom six player is now over. 3 points and a minus rating with two and a half weeks left in the season shows you’re barely an NHL player. I know his stock was high as recently as the beginning of last season, and hey he looked good early on, but for me, when he went that one season with only 3 goals in 55 games he became more or less expendable. You can just go out on the free market and buy better production than that on the cheap. Or even better, if you’re the Ottawa Senators you’re in the position to just cut him loose and give one of your many depth players a try. Stephane DaCosta came up and put up a goal and an assist in less than 10 games. Is he NHL ready? I don’t know but again the greater question is, is Regin at this point? Could a Hugh Jessiman or Mark Stone not do what Regin is doing?
People didn’t give a FUCK when Bobby Butler was waived, or to a lesser extent when Foligno was traded. Foligno could hit hard, play centetr or wing, and he put up nearly 50 points last year! Butler spent much of last year in the box and still put up 6 goals and 10 assists, was a +8 and people were ready to burn that guy’s house down. What I’m saying is, Ottawa has parted ways with more productive players (and quicker) for less.
I wonder what the strategy is here? Is MacLean trying to light a serious fire under O’Brien until he gets to that Reginesque point of charging into his office and demanding to play? When Regin did it it was awesome. Full credit he was on fire in that game against Montreal and pretty much won it for Ottawa. The thing is it seems he can’t do that for more than one game in a row. Remember when Bobby Butler did the same thing vs. Calgary last year? Neither do I!
At 26 Peter Regin is still quite young and YES HE WAS GREAT IN THAT ONE PLAYOFF SERIES but that was in 2010. With the injuries this team has suffered this season I could see why Ottawa might want to keep the waivers to a minimum, but why he was kept over Daugavins is baffling to me. At least Dogman was durable. And that’s the other thing: If you like me believe Regin is a bottom six player at best, watching him get knocked about like a pinata game after game is not exactly endearing for a PK lunch pail guy. O’Brien has the wheels, a degree of touch and PK skills like Regin but with more durability and a modicum of toughness. As a fan, I expect to see JOB in against Philly on Thursday.
Much like Butler before him, I hope Regin can turn it around and wish him success but as per my feelings toward The Ballad of Bobby B last year, I’d much rather see him try to find his way somewhere else.
Varada
It seems to be like there are at least two tiers of expectations against which to assess Peter Regin’s putrid, awful, unwatchable season. The first expectation is that he’s a cheap depth guy, best suited to playing on the 3rd or 4th line, who won’t lose you hockey games. If that’s the case I can’t really disagree, though like you say James: it’s not like those guys aren’t plentiful in the NHL. Ottawa can swing a little bit more for the fences with its depth guys. It’s not like Regin is tough, agitates, or has much offensive upside these days.
The second set of expectations, and easiest to consider a failure, is that Regin is a number 1-2 centerman with puck possession skills ideal for Paul MacLean’s system. This has been pretty thoroughly disproved at this point.
Sometimes it was Regin starting the game as the team’s number one center when Spezza was hurt only to find himself on the fourth line so fast he would get whiplash (in favor of Smith for chrissake). Sometimes he’d be a supplementary winger. In any case, there’s something far more disturbing than his never becoming a top six player (which, ok let’s admit, is hard to do).
Check out these Relative Corsi ratings:

2008-2009 GP 11 RC 13.3
2009-2010 GP 75 RC 18.9
2010-2011 GP 55 RC 8.4
2011-2012 GP 10 RC 0.8
2012-2013 GP 27 RC -0.7
Now, that’s not all that bad – even the negative rating is near even, which means Regin is usually pushing the puck in the right direction, even playing with terrible, terrible linemates, and though never getting much in the way of point production. What’s more disturbing is the trend. That’s a good body of work right there, enough that sample size starts to get mitigated a little bit. As Regin has struggled through injuries, his effectiveness has seemed to slip, and is heading steadily southward. You might assume it’s his natural progression down the lineup into a marginal role, and his Time on Ice p/ 60 minutes has decreased, but only from between 11-12 minutes a night to about nine minutes this year. When he was having those great Corsi seasons, he was only enjoying two more minutes a night, at most. He also only started in the offensive zone about 7% more of the time.
In other words: not that much has changed about how Regin is being played, but he’s still getting worse. He’s not as terrible as I first thought, but he’s experiencing his worst season as a professional, and he’s trending downward. Why take a risk on that sort of player when you’re organization is stuffed with depth guys?
Of course there’s also his point production, which with his number of games played puts him in the arena of Tim Jackman, Tim Brent, and Ryan Reaves. Some of those guys only play about six minutes a night. Clearly this is disappointing for anyone expecting him to be 20 goal guy (<– actual prediction!)
It’s not that he’s a terrible fourth liner. It’s just that we don’t want him to be a fourth liner. At 26 he’s in what’s supposed to be his prime. He might rebound, sure, and his underlying numbers are enough that you can see why management would spend only $800k to bring him back for a year. But the years of monster Corsi possession now seem to be behind him.
I’d hate to see him rebound elsewhere. On the other hand, it just seems like a warm body in the lineup right now. I’d rather give that ice time to Mark Stone, Shane Prince, or Mike Hoffman and let them develop in the NHL.

Roundtable of Death: Which pending UFAs should BryMurr bring back? / spending other people’s money

tod
Varada
Daniel Alfredsson
Look, I think he’s lost a step. He’s missing wide open nets, giving the puck away, trying to beat younger men one-on-one with that puck-the-puck-off-the-boards-then-climb-over-the-guy thing he does but it’s not working anymore…he’s just not looking elite out there. He also still plays 20 minutes a night, on the penalty kill and the power play, in all crucial situations, and carries himself like a consummate professional. The tangibles and intangibles are ridiculous, and I fear this team’s post-Alfie experience. Obviously I’d resign him, and I’d even do so at a premium to make up for the fact that he only made $1MM salary this year–half of which he lost to the lockout. That’s right, Alfie made $500,000 this year. If he’ll have us for another year, we should have him.
Guillaume Latendresse
Like you said in an earlier post, James, we’re starting to see what this guy can go. He looks like a legit top-six forward, even with is sluggish skating, and if he’s willing to take another bonus-heavy contract to mitigate the fact that he’ll spend most of the season injured, I think why not? It can’t cost the team much more than what they’re paying now. If anything, he can be had for cheaper.
Peter Regin
 
Apologies to Steven, who loves this man for reasons I cannot understand, but Regin is fast becoming the new Jesse Winchester: a guy who will get to say he played in the NHL for a bit, and for a brief, brilliant moment, was placed on the first line with some real stars. I’d be  curious even to see if Regin gets picked up by another club.
Sergei Gonchar
 
I think we all knew when I proposed this article that this is basically what I was talking about. Gonchar’s looked awesome for pretty much the first time since he was signed, making the kind of simple, intuitive plays that you expect from a veteran. If he wants to play another year in the NHL – and I think this year is demonstrating that he’s able – someone will sign him. If he doesn’t want to play for the Islanders or Panthers, though, he should consider taking a one year extension along with Alfie. Ottawa is still 1-3 years away from having to extend their rookies to big money contracts, so they can afford Gonchar. And if this year is any indication, depth-especially on the back-end- is king. The other reason? Look at the UFA market for d-men. Who else are you going to sign if you need to? 38 year old Roman Hamerlik?
Mike Lundin
 
He never really got his chance in Ottawa due to his own injuries, but when he has played he’s been slotted on a lower pairing. Not a great thing when you consider that your ice time is being given to young AHLers like Gryba and Wiercioch. Lundin should probably be a casualty of the depth chart, even if he’s cheap as hell. Also, look at his CORSI numbers: he hasn’t been driving puck possession, which is a problem when you’re supposed to be a hybrid puck-mover.
Andre Benoit
 
You feel for Beniot, too, because he’s an older, career AHLer who’s finally found a club who will play him. He’s cheap, he’s effective, and he’s playing MacLean’s system well. Look at his CORSI relative to Lundin’s: he’s playing well. I would re-sign Benoit, especially if he’ll accept a two-way contract, though if he’s earned the right to demand anything at this point it’s probably a one-way contract and a chance to play a full season. Not sure if he’ll survive camp, but there are worse things than occasionally scratching a guy who only makes $650k a year.
Ben Bishop
 
Ah, the other key question. Much like Ottawa’s defensive depth has been a savior, so too has been having three outstanding goaltenders. I know Bishop is the natural player to be moved – he’s 26, and he’s at the height of his value, but he’s also a restricted free agent without a ton of leverage. I like Andy a lot, but who can you get more for on the trade market? Andy was playing Vezina hockey earlier, and makes far more money. I’d rather see Bishop re-signed and the reins handed to he and Lehner.
James

Daniel Alfredsson

Alfie gimme ooone more chaaaaace. I agree Alfie’s game has diminished a little but my observation is that’s only noticeable some games, not all. With certain stretches of the season’s compressed schedule often serving up as many as 4 games a week, it’s not crazy to see him look a bit gassed some games. Asking a 40 year old, even of Alfie’s fitness and ability level, to play as many minutes as 23 year old Kyle Turris is a model I can’t believe is working. I accept some speed bumps here and there. Hiccups aside, Papa Alfie looks a little older but all things considered, only a little. I think he comes back next year and for the love of Jesus Murphy hope he gets to play reduced minutes in an 82 game season. Team has all sorts of cap space and you know he wont even ask for much salary. Lastly, if the team does end up getting two clearly defined lines going next season, I don’t think its crazy to think he could play till 41. Bibi hear our prayer.

Bill Lantendresse

Given the avalanche of injuries (including his own) exposing the importance of depth I think Ottawa could use all the top six players they could get next year. Frankly, Milan Michalek freaks my shit out at this point. We’re looking at 15 games service from him this year. He’s a Spezza type guy where it looks like some time missed is basically a guarantee but the skill is worth hanging on to. Anyway, Lantendresse ain’t exactly Tony Starks or anything either but he’s a left winger who’s fast proving he’s still a top six player and at this stage of his comeback I think can still be had on the cheap.  As for his lack of foot speed, I’ll be concerned as soon as I see it as a factor that hurts the team. As long as he keeps doing his thing in the crease I think he’s got a style of play that’s really working. Besides Ottawa’s seen success in the past with one if not the slowest top six left winger in the league (Heatley, Danii). Say yes to the Latendresse. I’d give him a year or two at the same 2MM rate.

Peter Regin

I put one of my trademark smartass polls on twitter this weekend asking who would score goal numero uno of the season first: Peter Regin or Eric Gryba. A lot of people replied that it would be “hilarious” if Gryba did. Not so sure how hilarious that ended up being when it actually happened. As Ottawa fans that have followed Regin’s career we know his game has its strong points and lot of potential but Im sick of watching Daugavins and Obrien get scratched for this guy. After watching him get batted around like a ball of yarn against Tampa on Saturday I think he’s played himself off the team…and with only 3 assists and a -2 rating in 23 games, he could find himself in the KHL next year.

Sergei Gonchar

This one is really tough because I don’t know how smart it is to re-sign Gonchar. I also just doubt it will happen on Gonchar’s side of the table. I think it’s pretty safe to say he’s going to want 2 years and a good amount of money. You have to love his play. He’s kept this team alive on the back end in King K’s absence. HE LEADS THE TEAM IN POINTS FOR GOD’S SAKE. But let’s please all of us remember that as young as Sergei is playing he will be 39 in 19 days. Going with the extremely reasonable assumption that it will take 2 years to get him to sign in Ottawa again, don’t come running to me when you’re ripping your hair out at watching a 41 year old Gonchar on the back end. I think instead we acknowledge Sergei played a huge role in keeping the season alive, we let him know we should have told him we loved him more and let him sign that overpriced one year deal that he will only sign in Pittsburgh (who I HAAAATE btw). I wish I could Freaky Friday Gonchar and Phillips’ contracts.

Frozen Dinner Mike Lundin

Sorry Homer, I am just your memory. I cannot provide you with any new information at this time. I think Borowiecki gets his shot next year and bumps Lundin. Boro is young, tough and if you ask me has a bit of an underrated pass. I sincerely hope Lundin lands a job somewhere but I think it’s time for more of the kids who can likely play a comparable game to get some experience.

Andre Benoit

I would definitely love if Ottawa gave this guy a long term 2 way deal. Like, make him the indefinite captain of the Binghamton Senators a la Denis Hamel before him. People have their issues with him but like with Gryba, these guys were given a pretty unreasonable amount of responsibility. Benoit has a very heavy shot for and doesn’t get manhandled too bad for a small defender. A guy I’d love the Sens to have on speed dial for a call up. If he can get a one way from another team though, that’s great for him.

Ben Bishop

I think he’s done a great job but I’m not about to say I want to see him play over Craig Anderson. I know I’ve long been of the “let Lehner spend a few years in the AHL whats the rush?” opinion. But my opinion’s changing here. If one goalie has to be moved I am actually quite comfortable with the idea of Lehner being an NHL back up. The last couple of games have shown some shades of RAWbin Lehner but I think he could handle the backup role well, even excel being eased into the league. With Anderson’s injury, Lehner hasn’t exactly been given the easy teams in his starts. Gotta love the rookie as the go-to starter against Boston. In a perfect world I would keep all three (doi I want all the toys!) but if that’s not feasible Anderson and Lehner are the guys I hang onto. Ottawa finally has a goaltender who’s putting up Vezina numbers I’m not about to say ‘move the guy.’ Please send Bishop as far away geographically as possible and to a team that plays with extra large nets. Les Numeros:

Craig Anderson

15

22

1.49

459

.952

2

0

8

4

2

884

58:58

0

0

0

Robin Lehner

8

17

2.05

283

.940

0

0

3

1

4

497

62:14

0

0

0

Ben Bishop

10

25

2.62

318

.921

0

0

6

4

0

573

57:19

0

0

0