Friday, November 5, 2010

What Does a Healthy Senators Team Look Like?

Let me first dust off the cobwebs in here. Its been a while, but its tough to write blogs in midterm season (even though its a tempting distraction), and the fact that the Senators didn't get off to the smoothest of starts made it tough to sit down and type something, because Sens fans provide enough negativity.

With that out of the way, let's conceptualize what a healthy Ottawa Senators team looks like.

Now, I understand injuries happen, and heading into the season, they were a big concern for Sens fans. Sure, this team has some talent, but as is beaten to death, that talent is either aging (Gonchar, Alfie, Kovalev, Phillips) or injury prone (Spezza, Michalek, Fisher, Kuba, Leclaire).

Looking closely at these names, you'll see they arent just names. They constitute 5/6 of our top six forwards and 3/4 of our top 4 defencemen, not to mention our "starting" goaltender.

That's nothing to sneeze at (and please, don't sneeze at Pascal, he's delicate). Due to these injuries, the Sens have had trouble finding chemistry and consistency (its no coincidence that our fans "favourite line", the Kelly line, has been together, without injury for most of the last year).

Now, on paper, a healthy Sens team should compete in the East, and finish in the 4-6 spot, or so I believe, but thats not what I want to debate. I just want to excite you with that paper line up. So here is how I see it shaking down when the gentlemen nursing injuries come back.


1) Regin--Spezza--Kovy

People have been calling for the Regin-Spezza combination all year, and in the last few games, Regin has started putting up points, which is positive for this team going forward. Kovy always plays better with Regin and has played quite well of late. Spezza is a player who is supposed to elevate those around him, if he can this line becomes crucial to this teams success, because it allows a second line of...

2) Michalek--Fisher--Alfie

While Spezza was out, this was our top line, and they played like it. They put up strong numbers, and I think Michaleks game is more suited to Fisher than to Spezza. (Oakes always says Michalek is the only 25 goal scorer in the league that can't take or make a pass). While the first line is all creativity, this line generates chances off the cycle, and through hard work. It is also a good line defensively. But this line produced against the top defensive assignment before, think of what they can do against second tier defence. Salivate. Repeat.

3) Ruutu--Kelly--Neil

The chemistry here is undeniable. They play well together, simple as that. This line brings consistency, hard work, physical play, zone time and occasionally some offence. They are the best third-and-a-half line in the NHL.

4) Foligno-Winchester-Shannon

Now, in the summer I advocated for Zach Smith, and in the preseason, this looked justified. He just hasn't played his game this year, and thats a shame. I'm hoping this line invokes shades of the famous Foligno-Fisher-Shannon line that got Cory Clouston a job. Winchester doesnt have the offensive skill-set of Fisher, but is a hard worker, north-south type of player. The FFS line were the masters of the cycle and generated off of it. If this line can do the same, this team can be a true 4 line team, which will hopefully minimize the injuries up front.


1) Phillips-Gonchar

I've loved Gonchar's game and Phillips has struggled, but these veterans know how to play, and they are our best. Keep them together and let Chris develop some chemistry. Gonchar played best in Pittsburgh with Brooks Orpik (in my mind a similar player to our Big Rig) so, here's hoping Phillips can learn to play with the offensive juggernaught (always wanted to use that word)

2) Karlsson-Kuba

Oh sweet Jesus I never thought I'd be so happy to see Kuba back. He is bashed for a lot of things, but he will help stabilize the defense, and hopefully will have a similar effect on Karlsson as Mr. Hale has. Speaking of King K, he is starting to round into form and I'm not worried about him one bit. Period

3) Carkner-Campoli

Really pleased with Campoli this season, and a fine point was made by a commenter on another blog. What if he was playing with someone other than Carkner and on the first unit PP? We would all be talking about him. As is, he is rounding into a fine defenceman. As for Carks, hopefully we'll see the steady Carks we saw last year when he is back playing more comfortable 3rd line minutes.


At this point its a crapshoot. Before Pascal went down he was a lone brightspot and Ells was awful. In the last few games, Ells is winning, and it seems, once again, that Pascal has lost the starting job due to injuries. As long as we aren't losing games because of our goaltending, I don't care who plays here anymore.

So, what do you think? Does this line up presented before you make you a little more excited? Or will you believe it when you see it?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Captain #11, Daniel Alfredsson

There are no words that I can write to adequately honour this man. We are all blessed to have him leading our team. Congratulations sir.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

In Pascal, We Trust

Or at least some of us do.

As I'm sure many of you already have read, two (somewhat) contradictory things have come from Cory Clouston in the last two days regarding Pascal Leclaire;

1) To paraphrase, he was disappointed that Pascal didn't save what he viewed as a weak shot by Alex Ovechkin, that Ovie didn't get much behind the shot, and that it needed to be saved.

2) That Pascal will start his 4th straight game tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes.

Now, I love CiCi just as much as the next Sens fan (though he is starting to take some serious flack, over at The 6th Sens and SenSay) but I don't agree with one of those decisions.

And for me, it was throwing Pascal under the bus. I was at the opener against Buffalo (with Oakes) and we were sitting front row. The Sens did not play well (not as bad as they did against the Leafs, but not well). Pascal was shaky to start the game, but played very well as it went on. Watching the Caps game the other night, he again played very well, and for once, the consensus around this team is that he has been our best player.

So why throw him under the bus? He already felt terrible about the goal, and there are many other guys to blame for the game (Brian Lee wandering into Campoli's corner and leaving Semin WIDE OPEN?), so why do it?

I think it was heat of the moment. I think Cory thought we were thirty seconds away from a shootout where anything can happen and it was snatched away. That is why he deserves a round of applause for putting Pascal in tonight, and recognizing the importance of him getting into a groove.

The Sens have a chance tonight to get their first win, and Pascal has earned the right to be the goalie to get that first win.

Right now, I believe in Pascal.

Do you?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Ridiculous Excited

Now that the first round of cuts has been made by the Sens (which you can find here, if you haven't yet), things are starting to get a little more serious, and therefore a little more exciting.

With some of the guns in the line-up, we lit up the Habs, so with a roster that is by my estimation 75% of our starting line-up, I'm really excited to see how we play the Leafers tonight.

The game last night in Dundas was a cute idea, but I personally am glad we sent a Micky Mouse lineup. The ice surface was just too small, no room to move, and we just didnt need to risk having some of our top guys getting hurt in a game like that.

Now for tonight's game, the lineup, according to the Sens Twitter feed, looks like this




So what about this excites me? Well aside from this being the first game where we will see all of our top 6 in the same game, there are a few things that make me salivate a little bit.


This should excite every one of you. This is most likely our top d-pairing in the coming years. Cowen, if he plays his game, should provide a physical presence in front of the net, while Karlsson can move the puck with the best of them. What I like about this pairing is they cover off each other's weaknesses. Karlsson obviously isn't very physical, and most complaints about Cowen so far have been about his decisions with the puck. Also, in Spokane, Cowen played with a smaller, more offensive player.


In a dream world for me, this is my third line to start the season. I know I will be crucified, but I think Kelly's line could split equal time with this line depending on what the game calls for. If the Sens need an infusion of offence, a line like this is MUCH more likely to produce it when compared to Kelly's line or a line of Winchester-Smith-Regin/Foligno. Hopefully this line has an unreal game tonight giving Clouston something to think about.


We are playing the Leafs, so chances are, one or two penalties will be taken. When that happens, I'm excited to see the powerplay on a few levels. Every forward expected to see PP time this year is in the lineup tonight, in addition to QBs Karlsson and Gonchar. With Campoli and Weircoch (how unreal was that shot last night btw?) on the second unit, we could see a preview of how the Sens will win games this year tonight.


Leclaire for 60 minutes with a pretty decent lineup in front of him. Hopefully he can play better than Elliott did against these same Leafs last week.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Some Point Form Thoughts on the First Two Preseason Games

Now that the Sens (or the team we put on the ice and called the Sens) have played a couple games, both of which we have been able to watch on TV (seriously, preseason games on tv?! SO sweet), its time for what I have noticed!


--All eyes have been on the rookies; J-Cow, Wick, Butler, Weircoch, Hoffman and Lehner, and they have each performed to a different level.

--Wick seems a little tentative out there, and doesn't seem to be getting a ton of minutes. He did, however look quite good at the end of the last game on the powerplay with Regin, Karlsson et al.

--Butler seems like he needs a year in the AHL to polish off his game, but he looks like he has a real solid future for the Sens. He is not afraid to fire the puck, and hopefully some of those will go in soon.

--Lehner is making it exceptionally hard to NOT overhype him. In a market starving for a saviour between the pipes, he is making us drool.

--Jared Cowen looked average in the first game, but in the second game I thought was one of the Sens' best defenceman. Positionally he is excellent, he uses his size to win battles, blocks shots, and generally looks good, especially on a pairing with Karlsson. Only thing he needs to work on is making quicker decisions, and unfortunately, he can't learn that in the WHL.

--Weircoch looks dangerous on the powerplay. With him running the powerplay in Bingo this year, they should see some success.

--Hoffman looks a little overwhelmed out there, which is odd considering how well he played in the rookie tournament. He is a project (which isn't a slight against him, being a 5th rounder) and given time in the minors he may be a scorer for us some day, just not today.


--Simply put, Brian Elliott should NOT have let in the second or third goals last night, that essentially put the game away. Here's hoping he is just rusty, because that was bad.

--Chris Kelly looked excellent on Tuesday, as did Chris Neil. If they can pick up where they left off at the end of last year, that's excellent news for the Sens.

--Nick Foligno looks like a man possessed. Everyone has Peter Regin pencilled into the top 6, but Nicky is going to give him a run for his money.

--Zach Smith is a monster out there. He is totally confident and is playing very well. He is, in my mind, an absolute lock for the big club.

--Ryan Shannon (who took a BRUTAL elbow) doesn't look be to impressing me. He is really leaving the door open for Smith, Butler and Wick.

--Winchester looks much better than he has in previous years, but is in my opinion working from a more limited skill set than a guy like Zach Smith.

--Brian Lee sucks. Period. He doesn't do anything particularly well, loses battles, gives the puck away, its bad. I was hoping to see him step up and grab Kuba's spot, but God help us if it has to be him to fill it now.

--Guys like Hale and Benoit have played well and should really help an improved Bingo team this year.

--Karlsson is the man. He is so smooth and confident. I didn't like that he got beat to the outside by Kessel and Kulemin, but it was his first game, and those boys can flat out fly.

I think that's about all of my thoughts so far. Looking ahead, I'm excited to see some of the big boys play, and interested in seeing Gryba compared to Cowen, because to me, that's the battle for Kuba's spot right now.

What have you noticed? Who has impressed you?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bobby Mac, You've Earned My Respect

I cannot imagine that there is anyone who reads this blog that does NOT read or other places that this has been posted, but if you have not yet read this, please, do it.

Its a long read, but it is incredibly touching and well written, and for somebody that I felt seemed snobby when he was here for the Stanley Cup Finals, I have sure changed my opinion of him slightly.

So here is the link, Bob MacKenzie on Pat Burns.


More Sens tomorrow.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Remember That Hockey Thing? It's Right Around the Corner

That's right, the newest version of the Ottawa Senators will open their pre-season on the 21 of September against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

That's only five days away.

This has me, well, decidedly more excited than just about anything else in the world right now. For serious.

Pre-season is a fun time of year for me, because historically I've been someone who gets really excited about young players, and I like that they get mixed into the games along side veterans and give us a taste of what it will be like when they finally make it to the show.

Now for every Erik Karlsson, who had his highlight reel assist, banked off the boards from two zones away against the Bruins last year (which I couldn't find on youtube), there is a Brandon Bochenski. But at the end of the day, after watching the final game of the rookie tournament, I'm interested in seeing how those kids do on a line with Jason Spezza, or in a pairing with Chris Phillips.

The obvious ones that we will all be watching of course are Butler, Wick, Hoffman, Gryba, Weircoch and Cowen. But even a kid like Jakob Culek intrigues me, and I'd love to see how far off he is from being a professional, or if he will end up a professional at all.

Because the fact is, this is a league that has been taken over by young players. Every year the top 4 or 5 scorers are not over thirty, and many of them are closer to 25. This has become a league where one year you are playing major junior, and the next you are counted on to be a top contributor on a professional NHL team (like Tavares and Duchene of last year).

So watching how these young players fit in with the existing group of veterans and existing systems at the NHL level, even in pre-season is both interesting and important.

Me? I'm intrigued most by Roman Wick, so that's who I will be watching closest.

Who do you have your eye on in training camp?