Roundtable of Death: We Just Traded Our Worst Contracts to the Leafs Edition

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Luke: People are out here like “WTYKY must speak on this”.

James: ____________________________!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Steph: I am so begrudgingly happy right now.

Andrew: I think it’s a deal that works well for both sides. Toronto will just buyout the players they don’t want (hint: all the guys being described by Bob McKenzie as NHL calibre) and get Lindberg and a 2nd rounder because I hear they want to have the most picks in the draft (that’s real winning) and GMBM got to trade another second rounder. But really Dion isn’t great, makes too much for too long, (the opposite of my financial situation btw), but instantly improves the blueline.

You all wanted an upgrade on D (yeah, you heard me) and this is what it looks like.

It’s also a way for the Sens to get out of nearly $10M in bad deals next season and for the rest of this season, so that mitigates the cost of Dion right now. The Sens love the deferred dollars in PW and Cowen’s deals, and this is a sort of creative interpretation of that.

Whatever, now we get a few months of hoping, beyond all odds, that Cowen will re-sign in Toronto. #DareToDream.

I don’t mind this trade. Defense was a need. We weren’t going to buy out those deals, they were just going to soak up more dollars next year. It will hurt later, but whatever. Sens are better because Cowen can never get back into the lineup.

Varada: “You all wanted an upgrade on D and this is what it looks like” is seriously perfect analysis. This is what it takes to trade for a defenseman who will actually play in this league.

Sens take on $22M in future salary for a bunch of players who currently aren’t contributing anything.

You know what would be an interesting point to look at: does the sens making deals that put a big financial burden on some future version of the team mean that Melnyk is selling?

Steph: Jared Cowen isn’t a Senator anymore. Sure, okay, we got another mediocre defenseman who misguidedly fights frequently and is overpaid but…your EB-Games-employee lookin ass ex-man Jared Cowen is GONE. This deal is not a thing I’m ever going to toast to, but it’s probably not going to be the cause of my drinking either. Contract wins and losses are being talked to death right now but we won’t know who “won” this deal for a long while (hint: Sens won, they’re winning the Cup, fuck the police).

Here’s what I know about the rest of the players we’re getting from extensive research in the last 5 minutes:

One time Matt Frattin autographed this kid’s face:

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Ryan Rupert is a twin and twins are the work of the devil. Casey Bailey is from Alaska and Alaska is the work of the devil. Cody Donaghey’s Twitter is the reason I had to look up what GOAT means.

Andrew: Steph, I love you. I am on board. Face autographs for all. EB-Games employees rejoice.

Chet: The Sens trading for the Maple Leafs’ captain reminds me of a Vulcan proverb: “Only Nixon could go to China.” But yes, this is what trading for a Top Four Defensiveman looks like. This is also Bryan Murray throwing Wideman and Wiercioch in a locked room with a shrimp fork and telling them that only one gets to come out, because you know Borowiecki is dug in like a tick on that third pairing.

And Clarke MacArthur helped convince Murray that Phaneuf was a good egg, right? But he still has a concussion? Vivid.

What I like about this trade is the number of different ways TSN 1200 listeners will be able to roast Phaneuf (which is Albertan French for “The Nine”) after some 6-5 loss to the Islanders:

a) That GUY Phaneuf used ta be the CAPTAIN in TORONNA. He was KING of the BUMS.
b) Phaneuf? Even TORONNA was smart enough to trade that BUM.
c) Bet that BUM Phaneuf is playin’ so bad ’cause he’s ticked off that he can’t find the fancy hair gel in Ottawa like he used ta buy in TORONNA.

I’ll hang up and listen. Although in the interests of hearing both sides (you gotta), any time you can improve your D by trading for the #1 guy from a team you just pasted 6-1, you gotta do it, even if it didn’t cost you $11M worth of guys, none of whom started for your team yesterday. At least the Leafs cleared enough cap room for Stamkos to use them as a stalking horse before signing somewhere else.

Andrew: Gotta say, the Stamkos Watch and subsequent disappointment is one of my favourite angles for this trade.

James: *Movie trailer narrator guy voice* “From the miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiind that made you fall in love with Clarke MacArthurrrr…”

Chet: I remember James describing his powerful emotions upon hearing that the Sens had signed Clarke MacArthur less than an hour after Daniel Alfredsson left for Detroit – and I’m paraphrasing, because at the time two cops had him in a headlock – as “Hey Sens fans, don’t worry, we just signed a guy you HATE.” Except nobody ever really hated Clarke MacArthur, did they? Did anybody even have an opinion on Clarke MacArthur until he came to town as something other than a blue jersey? After that it only took him five minutes to convince Sens fans he’d been a misused third-liner in Toronto, making him exactly the kind of “We Told You So, You Stupid Leafs” player that Ottawa could get behind. Phaneuf is . . . not that. Until today, Phaneuf was the overpaid, overrated, underwhelming captain of an overrated, overexposed, underperforming rival – with one of the NHL’s top 5 punchable faces – and flipping the switch completely on THOSE powerful emotions will take some time. But the Sens are a better team tomorrow, 36-year-old Dion Phaneuf is still five years away, and by the time Bobby Ryan TORCHES Jared Cowen on March 12 at the CTC, Phaneuf will officially be a member of the family. “That’s my son!” you’ll find yourself shouting despite yourself, as some drunk land-plankton in a Sundin jersey finally gets to shout “Suck it, Phaneuf!” before vomiting Carling Black Label into his sister’s purse.

What else? Karlsson is gonna use Phaneuf’s contract to ask for 700 kajillion dollars in a few years. Fine. Worth it. Milan Michalek took a lot of BS from Sens fans, but his teammates loved him, he was good on the PK, he scored 30 goals one time, he wanted to be here, and he wasn’t Dany Heatley (Heatley’s ears just perked up at that mention as his Bugatti idles at some German drive-through window). Colin Greening is a good dude with an Ivy League diploma who took all the money the Sens were willing to give him, even if his final NHL fate is being turned into Diet Nathan Horton by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jared Cowen? You never know; what struggling players HAVEN’T turned their game around under the laid-back eye of the Toronto media? Mike Babcock has an arm around his shoulder right now, telling him, “Son, we’re going to give you every opportunity to get your game together,” as Kyle Dubas waves a “BUYOUT=650K=STAMKOS?” placard in the background. Good luck in Switzerland, you big western omelette.

I will miss Milan Michalek, actually. Yes, Michalek, the guy the Senators kept, at the same price, over Ales Hemsky, who literally only tried for 20 games – kudos to you, Bryan Murray, for not getting fooled, because Hemsky totally got ME on that one – after the Sens, barely in sight of a playoff spot, picked him up on an all-in move that ultimately failed. Is this more of the same? Yeah, maybe. But is it SOMETHING? Yes. Bryan Murray will be gone soon, but make no mistake, he’s not done writing the story Senators fans will tell about him. And I give the guy credit for that, no matter how this works out. See you in a week when he trades Wiercioch for Jonathan Drouin.

Luke: As of this morning I had resigned myself to spending the rest of the season evaluating interesting pending UFAs (Mikkel Boedker looks quite zesty! Jason Demers could be a satisfying acquisition on a number of levels!) and generally staying away from Twitter on account of my philosophy of devoting energy to things I enjoy. Then Andrew sent me a G-chat that read simply “GO ON TWITTER. NOW. TRADE.” and I was right back in.

I’m feeling very confused emotionally about this whole thing. On the one hand, there’s the joy of knowing that Ottawa has sent two of their worst players to a team I HAAAAAATE, although this joy has been somewhat lessened by every Leafs fan insisting “No, actually we want bad players!”, much in the same way I would make fun of myself in high school to discourage bullies from trodding that same ground.

There’s also a slight despair at having given up Tobias Lindberg, a prospect I really like, to a team I HAAAAAATE.

There’s also sadness at losing Milan Michalek, a consummate professional who did nothing other than whatever the org asked him to do, right down to waiving his No Trade Clause as his last official act as an Ottawa Senator.

And then there’s the uncertainty associated with acquiring a player who has mostly been an overpaid disappointment, yet could still be useful to the team given the right situation. Like James, I’ve certainly delighted in Phaneuf’s high-profile failings in the past, but even as I’ve mercilessly roasted the guy, I’ve also privately admitted that I thought Phaneuf was a victim of his role and expectations more than anything. “Dion Phaneuf: not as bad as you think!”, I would preach to my hapless friends, like a pretentious food connoisseur explaining how the shit sandwich they’d been served was actually considered a delicacy in some countries. Well now the shit is on the other baguette, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to fake a smile as I dig in.

James: I think we all know what Toronto’s plan is for Greening and Cowen. They are using that “New, veinier leaf logo” merch money to buy them out, something Bryan Murray has consistently said was not an option for the Senators. Baring injuries to better players, Greening and Cowen couldn’t even get into the lineup anymore. On a .500 team. That…is awful. I cannot stress this enough: Jared Cowen was going to get a fucking $800,000.00 dollar raise next year. Yes, almost a million dollars for playing EVEN WORSE this year. Another angle: He was going to make $400K less than Marc Methot next season. You know, the guy who’s done nothing but hold down the top pairing for years. What a mess. Though I have spent years defending him I have to respect the money ball of getting Michalek of the books. Blessed is the player that can play in the top or bottom 6 without complaint but the hard truth is Milo though his contribution to the team can be under-appreciated, he does spend quite a lot of time injured these days. We all know deep down that the Senators aren’t really the type of team that can pay a bottom 6 penalty killer, good as he is, 4 million bananas a year. Besides what does Michalek really do at this point that Pageau doesnt? It was time.

As I attempt to scrub my internal hard drive of years and years of roasts, I cannot really say with confidence I know what Phaneuf’s play is like on a game to game basis. I’m sorry I have shit to do besides watch a terrible team that i loathe in my spare time. BUT i feel pretty good that the chances of him regressing below a second pairing defenceman are farrrrrrrrrrrr less likely than Jared Cowen progressing into a bottom pairing defender. Besides we have Hoffmans to re-sign.

Also, those in their feelings about Tobias Lindberg. He might make the Leafs yeah…THE REBUILDING LEAFS. Are we really thinking that guy had a chance of getting someone in the current top 6 out the paint? Shit, Shane Prince has twice the pedigree and is toiling on the 4th line trying to set up Chris Neil for one timers. Thumbs up to improving the defence which absolutely had to be done in exchange for shedding dead cash, giving up a prospect who had little chance here, a DEEC player and a second round pick.

Bryan Murray once traded a FIRST round pick for Chris Campoli btw.

Varada: I think I’d summarize this trade by saying, yes, it’s a blockbuster, in that trades don’t really happen anymore and this involved a lot of people. However, at the end of the day, it’s an often-injured top 6 forward, some dead cash, and some lottery tickets for a pretty ok top 3 D, some dead cash, and some lottery tickets. It’s hard for me to get worked up about it. We added a body we need now, and a player whose salary descends over the next five years who will be tradeable as the cap keeps going up. I’m a fan of the trade.

And to those who are writing that this is a terrible deal and we should be launching a BONAFIDE REBUILD™ – you know who you are, because you interpret every single occurrence through this lens – all I can say is that what was said when Phaneuf was signed to that deal remains true today: if you want to add a defenseman who can play 18-22 minutes for you every night, then you’re not getting him on the UFA market for anything less than a ridiculous number, and you’re not trading for him without giving up an amazing prospect. So you give him the term, and figure out the rest years from now. Ottawa got a player who literally could not be got any other way, and I don’t know what to say to those who are wishing we had to sit through 3-5 years of massive losing seasons instead. I’m a little tired of everything Ottawa tries being met with “Yeah, but this doesn’t fix everything the way the team being an entirely different team might fix things.”

Luke: One thing is certain, and that is that The Universe has set a course towards one of two possible realities – one reality in which Bryan Murray is hailed as an all-time genius for having managed to ship off Ottawa’s contractual dead weight to free up money for Mike Hoffman’s pending contract extension while simultaneously shoring up the Sens’ porous blue line simply by giving up a veteran 3rd line forward and Ottawa’s 3rd best prospect, or another reality in which Bryan Murray is remembered as having rid himself of two of his greatest mistakes by doubling down on an even bigger mistake and is subsequently forever ridiculed as an executive whose final year was mostly in service of our bitter provincial rival. Which reality we end up in hinges on one thing: Dion Phaneuf not playing like a pile of wet paper bags on Ottawa’s second pairing for the next 3 to 5 years.

Early predictions are mixed to say the least, but I have watched a lot of bad defensemen play for the Ottawa Senators this year, and I can confidently state that Dion Phaneuf will be an upgrade on no less than three of them.

“Phaneuf only looked good because he’s been playing against 2nd-tier competition!”, yell the braying masses. Well that’s good because that’s who Ottawa’s brought him to play against. “Phaneuf was being CARRIED by Jake Gardiner!”, goes another common criticism, as if Ottawa doesn’t have a defenseman as good as Jake Gardiner. This might be my inherent optimism talking, but it seems to me that if Dion Phaneuf can play well in certain situations on a team that is objectively terrible (Sorry, Rich Clune), he should be able to play well in certain situations on a team that is objectively slightly better than terrible. I don’t expect greatness, but I do expect an upgrade over what was there before by way of steady competence, and the peace of mind that steady competence brings is something you can’t really put a price tag on.

Well, I guess you can put a price tag on it. $33 million over 5 years would be the amount on that price tag.

New Yorker Long Reads: Mike Hoffman Edition

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Varada

Hello.

Mike Hoffman. Mike Hoffman is a thing now. Is he a legitimate thing? What is legitimate? What is “thing”? What we know is that he’s 26, has 84 points in 137 games, and, oh, is currently on pace for 51 goals with a totally sustainable 19.8% shooting percentage.

So, where are you on Hoffman? Sign him long-term? Trade him while his value is high? Give me your delicious takes.

Luke

Man, I hope I can keep this under 3000 words because this thing’s got more angles than a mid-90s rendering of Lara Croft.

First off: Mike Hoffman’s pace is more torrid than that love affair I had in Europe last year, and to Hoffman’s credit it seems to be considerably longer lasting. I’ll get our friends at Silver Seven to break it down:

– Since last year, tied for 5th in even strength points per 60 minutes played.

– Since last year, Hoffman is tied for 3rd in goals scored per 60 minutes played.

– Tied for 4th in goals this season.

What’s more is he’s just as strong at even strength as he is on the powerplay.

Is that 19.8% shooting percentage gonna come down? Yeah, obviously. Is he, statistically speaking, at his exact peak right now? Yes, almost certainly. After Destroyer of Worlds Mike Hoffman turns back into Normal Mike Hoffman, will he still be good? Yeah, I think he will be.

Hoffman’s just one piece of a very strong core. Erik Karlsson is the best player on the team, and I’d put Mark Stone 2nd on that list because he’s the only player I can remember who can look to be in the midst of a soul crushing slump while still being a point-per-game player. (Seriously, we’re only beginning to scratch the surface of Mark Stone.) After that, you can put Bobby Ryan, Mika Zibanejad, Kyle Turris, and Mike Hoffman in any order depending on the night. (Get a healthy Clarke MacArthur back and good lord is that Top 6 ever cooking with gas. Get well soon, you curly-haired rescue puppy of a man.)

The thing I like most about Hoffman is that what he creates is different than almost any other player on the team. I watch Kyle Turris and Mark Stone and I see two players with high end skill who are cerebral and can slow the game down to play the game at a different pace than other players. I watch Mika Zibanejad and Bobby Ryan and I see two players who are heavy on the puck, gifted with superb vision, and can finish plays with the best of them. I watch Erik Karlsson and see one of God’s Original Creations, a player who can do it all and usually does because he has to.

Hoffman’s not like those other guys. He can create for himself with his speed, but because his shot is so lethal, he creates for others by drawing the defense to him and opening up space for his teammates to operate. Mike Hoffman is pure, distilled liquid offense in a way no other player on the Senators is.

For what it’s worth, I think Hoffman’s ability to “drive the play” *makes wanking motion* is a little too ballyhooed around the Sensphere. Looks to me that Hoffman’s excellent With-Or-Without-You (WOWY) percentages are more a function of playing with Erik Karlsson than Hoffman being The Chosen One (Please click on these images from Friend of the Blog, Micah Blake McCurdy for more), but that is really a minor quibble in the grand scheme of things. Area Player is Pretty Good in General but is Goddamn Outstanding When Playing With Karlsson is not a headline I’m ever going to feel rage towards.

Put it all together and I get one conclusion: Mike Hoffman is A Thing now.

What does this mean for The Future? Well, I don’t think Ottawa’s ever had an asset as tradeable as Mike Hoffman is this season. I think most teams would consider him an established known quantity at this point, he’s still going to be under team control for another off season, and Ottawa would be dealing him from an area of relative strength (high end forwards) to address a position of weakness (goaltending. lol jk it’s the defense obvs).

I was struck with a sudden case of The Fear yesterday because I imagined a future where all of Mike Hoffman’s money was being given to Jared Cowen next season so they had to let him walk. I am more of a Murray Apologist than most, but a scenario where next year’s Ottawa Senators are paying Jared Cowen $4.5MM and paying Mike Hoffman $0.0MM would be unforgivable. Luckily with Chris Phillips coming off the books and a buyout of Jared Cowen coming down the pipe (please God), I foresee a solid $5.5MM in monies easily being available for Mike Hoffman’s next contract. We’ll even have enough cash left over to re-sign Chris Neil (a thing that is definitely going to happen, by the way).

In short, I don’t think The Infernal Budget is going to be a factor in Mike Hoffman’s future.

Which finally leaves us to wonder the following: Should Noted Good Player, Mike Hoffman, be traded so that the Ottawa Senators can acquire a Noted Good Defenseman?

The answer to this question is yes.

This is not to say I don’t have concerns. It may be many moons before we get another player of Mike Hoffman’s unique talents into the organization. Proper evaluation of defenseman is obscenely tricky, so I worry about getting fair value back in return. However, I do not believe the Ottawa Senators can seriously expect to compete in the playoffs with one NHL calibre defense pairing. The Chicago Blackhawks recently showed you only need to play 4 good defenseman to win a Stanley Cup.  Making a trade in Today’s NHL™ seems to be about as easy as hammering out a legally binding international carbon emissions agreement, but in much the same way ending the world’s reliance on coal and oil is necessary to the long-term survival of our civilization, acquiring a Legitimate Top 4 Defenseman is an important next step if Ottawa is to be considered a serious threat to win more than one playoff round.

Enjoy Mike Hoffman while you can. His speedy sharpshooting is soon to be replaced by steady but unsexy defending, and we will be both better and worse for it.

Or maybe Clarke MacArthur will come back, Patrick Wiercioch will find his Sea Legs again, and everything will be fixed. I’m not made of answers.

James

As Chort Smelters and Lunch Pairisty mentioned on “Advanced Chats: the Blogger Show with your host The Gawdbody Ian Mendes, a Presentation of Robillard Hearing Centres Now With Nine Convenient Locations to Serve You,” Hoffman is an interesting case as he is kind of an unprecedented type of player.

Basically, Bobby Ryan earned a lucrative contract on an otherwise cheap team mainly because of his success during his formative years with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim (Ed Note: Actual professional sports team name). His reputation preceded him coming here. We paid for those 30 goal seasons in Anaheim. Hoffman, however is still very much in the process of establishing his reputation hence the arbitration case in the summer and why this upcoming contract is such a tricky one.

Especially tricky when you consider his age. It’s not unusual for players to start hitting their “prime years” around Hoffman’s age, but typically they’ve been in the league longer than a season and a half by then. There’s a reason that he lost his arbitration case and I would think it was lack of a track record at the NHL level. That said, while I’m running my yap about sample size the kid is snapping twine…you see what I did th– twine is what nets are made out o— let’s move on…

If Turris was worth the risk of a long term deal without much of a track record, then so too is Hoffman. Mistakes were made with this philosophy, signing Greening and Cowen [thxu Tim Murray], but I think we can agree Hoffman is clearly a much better hockey player than both of them…combined.

Whatever he’s worth, pay it, but I just don’t know what that is. 5 million? 6? I don’t know. I’d be fine with it in that same way Bobby Ryan might not be worth his contract price but I’m more about keeping him in the fold going forward than getting a bargain every time. The elephant in the room on this one is “Can the organization do it?”

The funny thing is, name me a player Murray has failed to re-sign during this budget era. Ryan, Anderson, Lehner (RIP), Stone, Zibanejad, MacArthur, Methot, Pageau, etc. were all re-upped during that parade of signings.

[Shameful afterthought: Hi, I totally forgot that he failed to re-sign Alfie which is TOTALLY understandable seeing as he was a marginal AHL 3rd string goaltender and not much was made of the story in the local media. SORRY SO SLOPPY! Anyway, back to me ranting despite not being very smart…] 

Spezza, I guess, but we were going to have to foolishly overpay for him and Hemsky was simply not worth what he asked.  Anyway I just want the team to have space and funds for Erik Karlsson’s impending 10 billion dollar raise, so lock up the as many good players as possible before then.

The thing I was glad to see with one more year before pushing the chips in on Hoff was that his game is more than his speed. That was my only concern after last season. The guy’s got insane wheels but as demonstrated the other night against the Los Angeles Krangs, his hands are as deadly as his feet. If he slows a bit as he ages (which will probably still be above average speed tbh), it’s not like he will stop being able to release the puck like he has been doing night after night. I think the risk is actually decently low despite the unique situation.

So put me in camp “PAIY HEEM HEEZ FAAKING MAHNEE.” I am really, really enjoying having one of the most exciting and productive forward corps in the East and I don’t want to change that. 1000 years of putting five past Jonathan Quick.

All this said, as per Andrew’s recent post, Hoffman is exactly the kind of player who could net us not just a top four defenceman but a KWALIT-E defenceman, which is what is clearly holding this team back from taking the next step. Gets into this thing where maybe we’d rely on Hoffman’s scoring less if we had better defence…so…uhh….gotta go!

Andrew

What Luke said, basically.

I think Hoffman is legit and has been for awhile, but the organization, for whatever reason, seems cool on him, so I’ve kept my distance. This is actually something that can be measured, like I don’t want to invest 30 hours working on a Mike Hoffman painting only to see him in St. Louis next year.

I think he’s going to be traded for blue line help, or rather, one of our decent/good forward pieces should be moved for a good defender, and he seems the most likely candidate. But I would also rather “PAIY HEEM HEEZ FAAKING MAHNEE” because I like blowouts and this team can score and that’s a lot more fun.

For the record, Mike Hoffman, you had me at TEEN WOLF CASTING CALL.

Steph

Hey guys, I only have 20 words left to work with after those responses. Anyway, shouldn’t trade Mike Hoffman, he’s

Sent from Outlook Mobile

Varada

Guys, guys, guuuuuuuuuuys….we’re forgetting about Mike Hoffman’s EPIC attitude problems and the fact that, in the NHL, you always take the coach’s side. Lest we forget that the last time we had an elite sniper who hated his coach, one enchanted ventriloquist’s doll named Cory Clouston, we chose CORY CLOUSTON over one of the three players we’d basically built our entire team around. Thus was heralded in the Cheechoo era.

All this to say, while the undisputed champion of Torching His Relationship with Management remains Jared Cowen, Mike Hoffman is also turning a wee bit into a sour patch kid. I don’t think it’s his fault or anything, but there’s a track record evolving here. They go to arbitration. He shoots daggers at Dave Cameron. He clearly wants term and to be paid – as is the right of any human who can score goals like this at the highest level of hockey in the world.

All that to say that I would love to see Michel Hhaffmann re-signed, and I wouldn’t mind tacking on a couple of extra years on the end to keep his cap hit down, knowing that he’s waiting an extra-long time to make the NHL and wants to stay in the show now that he’s here. But it’s hard for me to see giving the guy the $6m-$7m an elite scorer would get on the open market. His speed and shooting percentage are not the sort of thing people build strategies around, because both erode in time and he’s already 26.

I guess I’m overthinking the part here where Hoffman occasionally gets nailed to the bench for defensive lapses that are all but naked to my untrained eye. Maybe the coach is saying, “Go out there and execute play x and y” and Hoffman is saying “I’m just going to shoot the puck, you wiener” and so the coach benches him. There’s something happening there that we don’t necessarily have access to.

And if Ray Emery can get us to the Cup Final, get re-signed, then bought out for being Not Our Kind of Guy, then an RFA with snooty-patootie airs is going to get shipped off for 2017’s Marc Methot.

Just to be clear I DON’T WANT THAT.

James

Not trying to Actually you here just playin a little word jazz as something you brought up got me thinkin’.

It’s interesting the examples of Bad Attitude Bears you mentioned:

Corey Clouston was maybe the worst choice of coach to side with over player but, disaster that it was at the time, it’s crazy to think the Sens actually won a trade where they were handcuffed from getting maximum value for a two time 50 goal scorer and, like you’re saying, guy Ottawa built the team around, for Milan Michalek, a 2nd round pick and Jonathan Cheechoo.

Sure, because of chronic knee injuries Milo’s more of a 3rd line player and, sure, Cheechoo is in the KHL, but at least Michalek is still IN the NHL and at least Cheechoo has recently been an all star in the KHL. Heatley is in the GERMAN LEAGUE. And after not living up to a one year, 1 million dollar deal and getting waived. In his last year with the Sens homie was making TEN MILLION DOLLARS. Ovechkin money! He was making 8 million as recently as the season Karlsson won his first Norris. What a world.

Meanwhile at Geppetto’s Workshop: Clouston was recently fired from the WHL.

Oh, and that ever-so-valuable second was traded for Andy Sutton for our LEGENDARY 6 game playoff run of 2010.

I will always be fascinated by this ever-unfolding saga.

As for Ray Emery, despite that Cup Final run, I think we have a special case here as well. Dude was getting into a Latrell Sprewell level of bad eggness at the time. Being late for practice [not a game] is one thing but fighting your teammates, threatening to kill the townsfolk, “partying” *rubs gums* to the point that it’s local lore even on a roster where a dude KILLED a guy? I mean, dude played himself out of the whole league for a while there. No one wanted to pick up a relatively young, pretty cheap goalie who just started in the big dance? Who is he, Annti Niemi? *Rim shot, mean-spirited applause* He wasn’t let go because he showed up to games dressed like The Mask and drove an iridescent Hummer.

To his credit, he’s rebuilt himself into an inspirational redemption story, but when the Sens cut ties with him he seemed like a nightmare douche…even for a pro athlete.

AAAAAAAAANYWAAAAAAAY, all this to say, if the same treatment were to happen to Hoffman because something something he got mad at being demoted despite being one of the league’s top scorers, t’would be some new heights of mismanagement. Especially considering Jared Cowen, who, I don’t know if you’ve heard this, stinks at hockey and seems like a tool, is still a regular fixture in the lineup. Pray4FenceMending.

Roundtable of Death: The Sens are Dead, Long Live The Sens

In which Luke, Varada, Chet, Steph, and James discuss how it’s better to have won and lost than never to have won at all.

Luke:

Part of me just wants to let Mick, Keef, and The Boys take this one.

I’m having a hard time coming up with anything to say about this series other than “So it goes.” Having watched nearly every bounce go Ottawa’s way for two months, I’m not inclined to summon my equine dental hygiene specialist to closely examine this horse we’d been given.

That said, as someone who publicly stated “Montreal’s bottom 6 is terrible”, the first three games of the series were still deeply troubling to me. By the time Dale Weise scored in overtime to give Montreal a 3-0 series lead, I was reduced to a hollow husk of a man who could do nothing but mutter to himself “Well on the bright side, at least no one could have possibly predicted this!” My feeling is that if you play the first three games of that series over again, there’s no way Montreal goes up 3-0 a second time. I say this because they DID play three more games in the series, Bryan Flynn, Torey Mitchell, and Dale Weise were nowhere to be seen (just as God intended), and Ottawa won 2 out of the 3 games. If you lose because the other team does stuff that’s so unlikely there’s no way you’d ever expect it to happen again, should that make you feel better or worse? Let’s ask Bruins fans. I bet they have thoughts on the matter.

Going into Game 4, I was filled with something approaching dread. Making the greatest run to the playoffs in NHL history only to get swept in the first round would have raised philosophical questions I would have been ill-equipped to answer. Luckily we were spared these questions as Mike Hoffman did a thing, Ottawa blew out Montreal once in Montreal (as is now playoff tradition), and only the referees were able to stop the series from going to a Game 7. We had some moments, people, and that’s all you can really ask for as a 7 seed. *Hands out t-shirts reading “2015 Playoffs: They Didn’t Totally Suck!”*

Speaking of the Refs Tho

I’ve been trying for the past 18 hours to work myself into a moderate froth regarding the heinous refereeing that led to Ottawa’s untimely departure aaaaaaaannnnnd……………..I just can’t do it. Every team loses due to human error, and as annoying as it is that the errant humans weren’t the ones who play the game, the lesson to be learned is that if you don’t want to risk losing in an utterly soul crushing way, you shouldn’t go down three games to zero against Carey Price to begin with.

I feel like this was a fitting way for this Sens team to go out, to be honest. Yes Montreal won, but did Ottawa really lose? This year’s team will forever be remembered as the team that only the refs could kill. Not a bad legacy for a team that gave us one of the most enjoyable 12 weeks in Sens history.

So it goes.

Varada:

I just finished watching a bootlegged copy of Avengers: Age of Ultron, and it’s just like, what, so the Hulk is invincible now? That’s his power? He can do anything and nobody can stop him? The movie ends when the Hulk just does the thing everybody said they needed to do? At least it’s not as bad as that show Daredevil. Hoo boy! What a torture-thon! Literally! He’s constantly torturing people! I don’t understand how that’s supposed to be an enjoyable watch. What’s that? There was a hockey game last night? Oh, yeah, that broke my heart.

But I think you’re right, Luke: it’s hard to be particularly bitter when the team put themselves in a position where a miracle run was required just to sneak into the playoffs on the last day of the season, then they lose a tightly contested first round which they just as likely could have won.

This isn’t a Toronto team that doesn’t know what stage of rebuild it’s in, or a Sabres team that’s definitely, definitely in stage one, or a Carolina team spending oodles of money to be terrible with no end in sight. This team played entertaining hockey, got into the dance, anything could, and did, happen, and we’re all better for it.

Was the announcing annoying? Considering Price was outplayed by Anderson, and debatably even Hammond (who I thought was really good! No idea where people get this “played himself out of a job” thing), and was talked about as if he was the best player in the world throughout: yes. Only one goalie in this series allowed five goals in one game.

Was the officiating atrocious? Maybe. It was certainly weird, as quick whistles and face-off violation penalties can attest. The series occasionally felt as if the refs would randomly drop a power-up onto the ice and the team would hope for a red shell. It was weird, but it’s an even weirder tradition in the sport itself. Powerplays change the whole dynamic of the game, and always have, in ways that forever distort the purity of the contest itself.

Are the Canadiens full of pests who really got under my skin? Absolutely. Prust and Gallagher had jobs, and did them, and I hate them for it. I guess it’s interesting to see Montreal learn from what we did to them a couple of years ago.

But all in all, the Senators won the respect of the league and its many armchair experts, all of whom couldn’t give a crap about a small market team with the lowest payroll in the league. They did so with Vezina quality goaltending, Norris quality defenseman, a Calder quality rookie, and only room and financial space to grow. The future’s bright.

Now bring back the damned heritage jersey and let’s build some memories.

Chet:

Winning is great, but you know what’s sometimes more memorable than winning? Heroic failure. We’re all moved by heroic failure, right? Gallipoli? Cervantes? Kristers Gudlevskis?

The Senators went out on their shields last night, and as much as I love the 0% ROI complaining about blown calls, I’m with Luke in that I can only get so frissoned about last night. They would have needed another goal anyway, and just like those Iranian hostages, they shouldn’t have been there in the first place, trying to win four straight off Carey Price. Besides, losing a game like that is all of a piece with a series in which the Sens had already lost two overtime games, which are already basically coin flips. It was clear from the very beginning that the only thing separating the Sens and Habs were a few bounces one way or the other, and it was almost immediately as clear that luck, or fate, or that Mufasa-like cloudbank over the casino that looked just like Julia Robillard, was not going to give the Sens those bounces.

But they scratched and clawed anyway, didn’t they? To make sure Montreal knew, in a deep, uncomfortable place, that Ottawa was better? That their own lucky bounces would run out soon enough? And when they do, maybe in the next round, maybe in the conference finals against the Rangers, when Carey Price simply can’t keep his so-so team afloat forever, they too will fail. Except at that point, there won’t be anything heroic about it. It’ll just be Julia Robillard evening things out.

The Senators played like beautiful, star-crossed, tragic heroes last night, and I’m proud of them. Senators history is full of more talented teams that choked, or gave up, or won, but in a predictable, suffocating fashion. These guys refused to do any of those things, which is why we’ll remember them. As failures, and as heroes.

Steph:

You know what sucks about being constantly convinced that your team is going to do the thing – come back in the third period to win the game, come back from a 14 point deficit to make the playoffs, force game 6 against a team with probably the best goalie in the league, etc. – is that when they don’t do the thing for once, you’re extra disappointed. I couldn’t be team tank in January and I still think this run was worth not getting a high draft pick, but it still doesn’t feel good for the season to end like this. We all went through the stages of hockey grief together.

Denial: Nah, nah, this was a shitty dream and I’ll wake up to the Sens in the conference final and also Jared Cowen never existed and Alfie is back on the team.
Anger: The Habs are a shitty team with maybe 3 good players, they’re dirty, Gallagher is a piece of shit, the refs were against us, it was a garbage end to a Cinderella season, fuck hockey, I’m done with sports.
Bargaining: If only the ref hadn’t whistled early on the Pageau attempt they would have evened the score, forced overtime and probably won, since the Sens work best in high pressure situations, right?
Depression: Get the tequila. No, not the good stuff.
Acceptance: I guess I’m cheering for the Flames. Habs are still garbage fucks though.

I don’t know, I’m still mad about the officiating, but I don’t want to be thinking about it 20 years later like Leafs fans about Kerry Fraser. The last months of the season were incredible to watch, and I want those crazy goals, improbable wins, and Hamburger themed revolutions to be what’s remembered about this season. In the end, the Sens did the thing – they kept trying to win no matter how many shitty bounces or shitty calls went against them, and that’s what should be remembered about this season and give us all hope for next season (when it will be revealed that Jared Cowen never existed). ​

James:

Hahahaha You slay me Chet…those things you’re referring to that I totally know about…CLASSIC examples of heroic failure things. I would add some but I’m…uh…in a—

HEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY what a way to go out. And by “what a way to go out’ I mean “I’m still trying to figure out what all the feels mean.”

Corny as it sounds, I think today we are all Dave Cameron showing a stiff upper lip to that blown call. There’s nothing we can do other than move forward and let that dickbag in the office cook and act like he actually won that series. BTW I think it’s going to be a big year for “his” Yankees AND “his” Patriots/Cowboys…I guess he doesn’t root for the Heat at this point.

To build on Chet’s point, hey, to the victor go the spoils and everything but if I take one major thing out of this series it’s this: If that’s the class of our division I’m extremely excited about the future because that simply is not a very good hockey team overall. Sure Ottawa lost this time but have you ever seen a team go down 3-0 and seem less intimidated about that? Especially a Sens squad. If that’s what losing to Montreal looks like, where the biggest margin in the series was a 5-1 win? I’d take them as a playoff dance partner again in a heartbeat. That was not like Sisyphean task of facing the Pittsburgh Killbots year after year in the past. The Senators still have a lot to work on (Could have made Price work way, way harder) but they have a ton to build on as well. I’ll take a 1-1* rivalry with these assholes.

To me, the story of that series was Craig Anderson. Just a few weeks ago, I was confidently saying the wise move going forward was to give Robin Lehner his long awaited shot as starter, install Hammond as backup (he’s not going to keep going undefeated but SURELY he’s as good as Curtis McElhinney) and deal Anderson while the dealing’s good. 3 games of Andy and I am totally rethinking it. To come in after basically not playing for months in relief of a goalie who couldn’t have been on a hotter run just to go toe to toe with Carey Price and to hold it down like that? That was damn impressive. Not to get too ahead of myself here but I think a big move is going to be made this summer and I’m glad I’m not the one who has to decide what that move is.

Moaning Korner: Dat fucking broadcast tho. Much as I talk about shit about commentary, don’t get it twisted, I looooove cheering for the “bad guys.” Ask yourself this: Would you really want Glenn Healy endlessly waxing on about if he were but a glove upon the hand touching the cheek of Craig Anderson? Blech, no thanks.

We live in a world of hockey media where the most talked about team is a garbage pile of perpetual failure. The Canadian hockey press basically covers the Chicago Cubs as if they were the Yankees. It’s funny and consistently shines a spotlight on the ongoing embarrassment of our hated rival. With years of training I’ve come to embrace that bias to a large degree. If you ever want to know the extra satisfaction that is your team beating the opposition AND the announcers just look up JG Pageau’s hat trick on Price two seasons ago. Bob Cole’s call on that third goal is worth more than all the Saturday night losses to the Leafs on HNIC combined. As I’ve said in the past, I am more or less used to the bias at this point. I have no doubt that if Toronto went on the same epic march to the playoffs that Ottawa just did, they would put them on a postage stamp. Whatever. I don’t want Ottawa to be Canada’s team. I want to see them grow and succeed on some hater shit. There is no bandwagon here (well, save for the gawd Ann Murray). This thing is ours for better or worse and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Anyway, all this in mind, the coverage of those six games was just unbearably shitty. I’ve sat through countless Saturday night cringefests on CBC but that was just a new level all together. From the gotta hear both sides on Subban’s slash on Stone it was slanted to the point that I think went beyond being annoying as a Sens fan to just a sports fan in general. Hearing any series called that way would be frustrating. I can handle bias of that stripe from a bunch of failed football commentators on an ESPN Nashville feed or whatever, all of those local broadcasts have an obvious slant, including ours. But there’s a reason a clownshoes guy like Jack Edwards is on Boston public access and not NBC. For national coverage of TWO Canadian teams that was just embarrassing. The Habs already had Gallagher, Prust and Subban trying to get under everyone’s skin, they don’t need your help from ice level there, Glenn Healy. You know the game’s fucked up when former Leaf AND Hab Mike Johnson feels like the only voice of reason in the whole mess. For the first time I thought even Elliot Freidman’s approach was clumsy. Felt like HNIC jumped the shark and pandered out of desperation or something. Either way, what an all around shit show that was. “You think that shit is poppin’ man but it’s not poppin’ man” – Ghostface Killa, Re: HNIC Panel.

I have more to say (WHAT!?) but I’ll leave it at this, after a season and a half of almost inexplicable lethargy came a coaching change and an historical run by a below average career minor league goalie we were treated to something truly special. Hammond was the spark, the inspiration, but the whole team turned the season around under immense pressure. The team as a whole, especially many of the young guys, can’t unlearn what they went through these past few months. How to win games. I think as fans all we wanted were honest efforts and we got those to the very end. We got a team who figured out how to compete with anyone. I’ve been yammering on about the need for a passing of the torch for a minute. All you need to do is look at the lineup Dave Cameron iced these past few months to see that the time has come.

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.