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?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

So Rookie Camps Are Fun, but Are There Any Spots?

As of this writing, the Ottawa Rookie Senators are currently winning 7-3 in the third period to Chicago's rookies. Yesterday, the Rookie Sens lost to Pittsburgh 5-3.

One very bright spot in the loss to Pittsburgh was the play of Bobby Butler, who picked up two goals and was all over the ice, having excellent chemistry with Mike Hoffman.


Bobby Butler, the Hobby Baker finalist and top NCAA player from last season is a player the management are very high on, and who looked quite promising in two games last year. Bryan Murray describes him as a very smart player who is "a goal scorer". We know he can put the puck in the net at the collegiate level with 29 goals in his last year, and appears to be able to put the puck in against his prospect-peers.

So the question is simple, can he do the same at the NHL level? Oakes did a sweet piece back when the Sens first signed him that can be found here, that talks about what we might be able to expect.


Another, exceedingly intriguing prospect is Roman Wick. A similar type of player to Butler in that he is an offensive winger (an area where the Sens are not so deep), Wick is a prospect from the past. He was brought back into the consciousness of the fanbase while playing for the Swiss at the Olympics. He is big, strong and could look good on a line with someone like Milan Michalek.

The question with him is, can he bring the success from the Swiss League, playing for the Kloten Flyers, to North America? And if he cannot right away, how long is he willing to stay here improving in the AHL?

Now I would say these are the two most NHL-ready forward prospects the Sens have (assuming, as I do, that Zach Smith is a lock for the 4th line, and is therefore not a prospect), and they are exciting because they offer at the chance for some offence. But is there even a roster spot for either of these gentlemen?

Well let's look at the roster. Under one-way forward contracts, the Sens currently have

Spezza, Kovalev, Alfie, Fisher, Michalek, Regin, Kelly, Ruutu, Neil, Winchester, Shannon, Foligno.

That's twelve, and technically, that's all you need. But if you remember, I said I believe Z. Smith is our fourth line centre, so now we are at 13, which is the number most teams carry. So let's look at line combos with these thirteen.


This is, in all likelihood, the most safe bet as to how the lines will start this season. I'm not Winchesters biggest fan, I think Z.Smith does everything Winchester does, only better and with more intensity. I'm also not a huge Shannon fan.

So in reality, in Training Camp, Wick or Butler only has to outplay Ryan Shannon for a roster spot.

Now there are pros and cons to this. Would Butler and Wick benefit from 4th line duty? Or is it better to give them more minutes at the AHL level and use them for injury call-ups (remembering that Locke and Keller will also be in line for call-ups)? In addition both players need new contracts after this year, and you want to keep them happy and around for the not-so-distant future when Kovalev and Alfie retire leaving huge holes in the top six for wingers.

So how do you handle these two young players?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Remember Us? Well Like Our Team, We've Got Something To Say

Remember us?

We're a little blog that started up in March of last year. Followed the team down the stretch and into the playoffs and like the Sens, after a little break for the summer, we are back and ridiculously pumped to see how this year's version of the Ottawa Senators tackles the NHL from Pre-Season until Post-Season.

I say UNTIL Post-Season because I am sure (like Dion Phaneuf about his Leafs, but better looking and probably smarter) that this year's team is as good if not significantly more dangerous than last season's version.

THN says 10th in the East. Tenth. From a leading hockey publication. Pre-season NHL power rankings over at TSN aren't complete but I'll put money that the Sens barely crack the top 20 in their esteemed opinion.

And yet there is optimism among Sens fans. Look over at SensChirp and he says second in the East. Yost? He thinks the Sens need Thomas Vokoun to do it, but predicts a second round appearance. Canucnik goes as far as to call the Sens the BEST TEAM IN THE EAST. "Bar none".

So how could there be such a divide between the "experts" and the true fans in the blogs and message boards? Homerism and Kool-Aid gone wild?


Or maybe because the Sens don't have the sexiest, most exciting team in the league, so most people don't bother to look twice at the talent assembled here.

We don't have a Crosby or Ovechkin. Hell we don't even have a Kovalchuk, Luongo, pair of Twins or a Stamkos.

We don't have highly touted young stars like Doughty, Toews, Kane, Duchene or Ryan.

We don't have a fancy exciting starting goalie like King Lundqvist, Miller or Halak.

But does this mean we aren't a talented team?

The exact opposite actually.

We instead have a 26 year old true point per game centre, the longest serving captain in the league (who is 3rd in points since the millennium), the 2008 NHL shutout leader, the leader in rookie scoring for the first round of the playoffs, and the 2nd highest scoring defenceman since the lock-out.

Not to mention the supporting cast.

Kovalev? One of the most skilled players around, his SKILL cannot be argued.

Regin? Couldn't be contained in the playoffs.

Michalek? Couldnt be contained at the beginning of the year before losing his centreman and his knee.

Fisher? A serious consideration for the Men's Olympic team playing with Kovy last year.

KellRuutNeil? A third line that gave the Penguins absolute fits.

The Big Rig? The better, more steady half of Philchenkov. How do you think Volchy was able to go out of position to block all those shots and make those hits?

Get the point yet?

Look, I'm not saying we have the best team in the East. I'm not even saying we will finish second. My honest opinion is 3rd or 4th. I think Gonchar frees up room for Kovy and Spezza on the PP, I think Leclaire has a career year knowing that if he doesn't his career is over and I think that Karlsson produces at the pace he did at the end of last year.

Or we could end up with injuries. But I think healthy, this is a fantastic, VERY dangerous team, and I'm actually starting to enjoy that everyone else doesn't notice.

It'll feel better when we rub it in their faces later. The high octane Sens are back, and we're back. Now let's get some hockey discussion going on here, and let's get this season started.