Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

10/06/2009

Thanks For Playing: Ottawa Senators

Filed under: Daniel Alfredsson,Dany Heatley,Jonathan Cheechoo,Ottawa Senators — Joe Yerdon @ 6:44 PM

I get that I’ve been dragging my ass on these but my PR-friendly reason for going slow on these is so I can look at all these teams with the magnifying glass I need to to make sure I don’t make a boneheaded choice.  Of course the three teams I’ve profiled already have had impressive starts of their own (Colorado in particular going 2-0 so far) so perhaps I’m just yet another Internet blowhard that doesn’t know anything.

Naaaaah.

I’m to the point now where the final two teams I’m going to look at I do with severe reservations because they had so much off-season upheaval that it’s tricky to tell which way they’re going to go and how they’ll respond to things.  In the case of the Ottawa Senators, they’ve done what they can to rid themselves of a cancerous presence in Dany Heatley and despite one failed trade with Edmonton that would’ve provided a very nice return package, they sent him away to San Jose for a couple of players who very well could help make the Sharks look really bad for dumping them.

There’s a lot of qualifying statements in there and that’s a fun way for people to cover their asses when making supposedly bold statements, so instead of doing that I’ll just come out and say it.  The Ottawa Senators aren’t making the playoffs without Dany Heatley this year.  Of course, they didn’t make the playoffs last year WITH him so that statement isn’t as bold-sounding as it should be, but I digress.  Coming over from the Sharks were steady goal-scorer Milan Michalek and the enigmatic Jonathan Cheechoo.  We know what the Sens are getting in Michalek, a 20-30 goal scorer that functions well on the power play.  In Cheechoo, that’s more of a question than Dany Heatley’s ability to deal with a tough head coach.

dany_heatley8So long, douchebag! Oh… Now we can’t score.

For three seasons Cheechoo was a goal scoring fiend notching 28 in 2003-04, 56 in 05-06 and 37 in 06-07.  Then something happened, as he netted only 23 the following season and a mere 12 last season all while being supplanted as Joe Thornton’s right wing man by youngster Devin Setoguchi.  So which Cheechoo are the Senators getting from the Sharks?  The guy who was a budding Brett Hull or Sylvain Turgeon redux?  Some have theorized that Cheechoo needed the change of scenery but let’s face facts, if anyone was feeling pressure to perform in San Jose, Cheechoo was pretty low on that totem pole underneath Thornton, Marleau, Nabokov and two different head coaches.

At least in Ottawa he gets to join a team with another enigmatic centerman in Jason Spezza and much like in San Jose, Spezza is really all the Senators have that passes for a playmaking center.  This does not bode well for the Senators.  Mike Fisher is a nice defensive centerman capable of occasionally making plays but asking him to be the scoring #2 guy is like asking for Carrie Underwood to be your girlfriend.

sensshoulderThe “O” stands for 0% chance of making the playoffs.

Er, nevermind.

Along the wings, the Senators still have captain Daniel Alfredsson and signed Alex Kovalev in the offseason to help create two lines of solid-enough scoring talent (provided Cheechoo can shake off the cobwebs).  Nick Foligno and Chris Neil are solid depth pieces and Chris Kelly is an all-right checking center.  The rest of the forwards here toss out names like Peter Regin, Shean Donovan, the even more enigmatic Ryan Shannon and the man with a name that sounds like he should be the villain in a teen comedy, Jesse Winchester.  Outside of the all-worldly talent of Alfredsson, Spezza and the temperamental Kovalev, most of this teams offense is surrounded with question marks.  That’s just a minor cause for concern here though as the major concerns come from the defense and elsewhere.

On the blueline, the Senators trot out a top six lead by the steady and solid work of Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov.  From there, things get dicey as duties fall to former Islander Chris Campoli, big shot and power play guru Filip Kuba, and a choice of youngsters like Erik Karlsson, Alexander Picard and tough guy Matt Carkner.  In goal, the Sens bust out Columbus castoff Pascal Leclaire, who lost his job thanks to injuries and Steve Mason as well as farmhand turned into last season’s starter Brian Elliott (from the University of Wisconsin).  While neither of these guys are named Martin Gerber, the lack of  faith in goaltending has to be stuck in the back  of coach Cory Clouston’s mind.  Hell, it’s got to be stuck at the front of his mind too.

But hey, at least Dany Heatley isn’t around anymore to sulk and be a huge distraction, since that’s where all the team’s problems on the ice stemmed from.

…Cough…

What the Senators have here is a team that cannot afford an injury to Alfredsson, Kovalev or Spezza.  Without Spezza this is a team without a playmaking center and have virtually no one to pass to the wingers who actually can score.  Yeah, I know, injuries are capable of crippling any team at any time, I get that.  What hampers Ottawa is that even without Heatley and his ego, attitude, and monstrous contract, the team is still pretty hard up against the cap.  With this, defenseman Brian Lee was sent to Binghamton of the AHL to keep his contract off the docket ($1.275 million worth) and having to replace anyone who is injured becomes more of  a chore, especially if they’re not long-term injured reserve (LTIR) eligible.    Let’s also just say that what the Sens have available to them in the AHL isn’t exactly appealing.

Ilya Zubov is a young center with potential, but he’s apparently been sent to the AHL for the last time (at least for his liking) and Martin St. Pierre was signed in the offseason to help out up the middle just in case, but to me he strikes me as a player who is really good in the AHL and just can’t get over the hump in the NHL.

Yuck.

Someday the Senators are going to get out of salary cap purgatory and be able to replenish their stock and someday they’re also going to figure out how to get better at drafting because having homegrown third and fourth liners is nice… But it’s not going to win championships and for the time being, it’s not going to even get them in the playoffs.  Canada’s capital city is going to have to settle for being the tackling dummy for the Leafs and target practice for the Canadiens this year.

Thanks for playing Ottawa, the Islanders, Avalanche and Coyotes await you at the first tee.

08/23/2007

At least it’s not completely awful

Filed under: jerseys,Ottawa Senators,Reebok Edge — Joe Yerdon @ 9:58 PM
OK, maybe I’m in the minority on this one – but I actually like these a lot. Of course, I’ve always been a big fan of the Sens styles…even back when Sylvain Turgeon, Norm Maciver and Dennis Vial were the best guys to suit up.

06/02/2007

Shutting My Trap

Filed under: Anaheim Ducks,obstruction,Ottawa Senators,trap — Joe Yerdon @ 11:33 AM

Before the outcomes had been decided in the Wales Conference Eastern Conference Finals, ESPN.com columnist Damien Cox wrote a column that should’ve struck a nerve and resonated with each and every hockey fan and NHL fan alive.

The point of his column was that you didn’t have to like the Buffalo Sabres, you didn’t have to root for them, the city or the players – but what you should be doing is rooting for what they represent. Some folks pushed aside what he wrote as campaigning for the American team against the Canadian team – somehow, someway nationalism rears its ridiculous head into the discussion when it comes to hockey all the time.

What Cox was saying here, though, was that the way the Sabres play is the reason to root them on because the way they play is representative of how the NHL should be played. Fast skating, free-wheeling, high octane – you know, the way it used to be played back in the archaic 1980s.

Of course, now after witnessing the semi-nationally broadcasted torturous re-murder of the NHL that is being disguised as the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals, perhaps some folks will realize the error of their way for pshawing Cox’s column. Game 1 saw the abuse of the ignorance upon officials to call obstruction and while goals were scored, some folks sat on their hands and said, “Well, at least goals are still being scored while these teams continue to skate in each other’s way.”

Game 2 proved how quickly things can go from awful to nightmarishly horrific. The first goal of the game which proved to be the game-winning tally wasn’t scored until there were just under six minutes left to play in the third period. The Ducks continued to employ a suffocating neutral-zone trap that prevented the Senators from skating freely between the blue lines and then forced them to again and again dump the puck into the zone before gaining the line. Having to continually do this followed up with the defensemen stepping up and impeding the progress of the attackers (without penalty of course) made sure to earn Ottawa all of 16 shots on goal in the game leading J.S. Giguere to his easiest shutout since the 2003 Finals (forever to be known here as Hell on Ice).

With the Ducks throwing up hockey’s version of the Berlin Wall and using their defensive trap positioning to pick off passes and catch up to dump-ins before the Senators could even gain the zone (thanks to rampant, uncalled interference), Anaheim was able to long-distance pepper shots at Ray Emery. The game-winning goal was scored by Samuel Pahlsson thanks to a defensive “oopsie” courtesy of both Daniel Alfredsson and Joe Corvo. What kind of “oopsie” was it? Not interfering with anyone and standing everyone up illegally at the blue line. Give Pahlsson a ton of credit, he scored on a great shot – but that said, the Ducks are playing one style of hockey that we’d seen year in and year out while the Senators (no angels themselves in this regard, just ask Buffalo) are at least showing some signs of wanting to play hockey the right way.

Well that is until Bryan Murray saw that the Ducks are getting away with murder and has vowed to play the same way back at them.

GREAT!

What my main worry here with the Ducks making it this far was that teams next year would follow their lead and go back to old, bad, sport-ruining habits. Now it appears that we don’t even have to wait that long. Thanks a lot.

ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside made note of this in one of his articles, pulling this quote out (emphasis mine, as always):

Although Ottawa coach Bryan Murray didn’t complain about the Ducks’ obstructing
his team as he did the past two days, forward Dany Heatley said the Ducks are
playing them differently than any of their three previous playoff opponents.

“No question. No question,” Heatley said. “They do a good job, whether
it’s subtle or whether it’s blatant. They definitely play a real hold-up
style, defensive style.
We just have to find ways to battle through
it.”

Isn’t that supposed to be illegal under
the new rules?

“Yeah, it is,” Heatley said.


Now, I’m not going to just cite one quote and tell you that the sky is falling – I’ll just ask you to go ahead and re-watch those first two games and tell me what you think. Now does this mean the rest of the series will be unwatchable? Not really.

In the Calgary-Tampa Bay final three years ago we saw two terrible and nearly unwatchable games played in Games 1 and 2. Of course, the hype going into that final was that neither of these teams play the trap and we’d see the return to good old fashioned hockey. What happened then, of course, is that both teams were terrified of each other’s offensive weapons, got scared of taking any chances at all and bored everyone to tears by trying to out-trap and out-interfere each other. Thankfully that series went seven games and games 3-7 made up for everything else (for the most part).

If you’re going to tell me I should have hope that things will turn around in this series and that we may still see some exciting end-to-end style hockey though…you won’t catch me holding my breath as Anaheim has been doing this kind of crap all season and now moreso in the playoffs (with the added flair of being dirty as well) without being check-mated by the League. So now Ottawa in desperation is going to follow them down into the sewer and play things the same way because when in Rome you do as the Romans do. In this case, the Romans want us to be bored and not see a single compelling thing ever again.

05/26/2007

Well if The NHL Can Take Forever Off, So Can I

Filed under: Anaheim Ducks,Ken Hitchcock,Ottawa Senators — Joe Yerdon @ 4:48 PM

So the Campbell Conference Western Conference Finals ended earlier this week, and the NHL in their infinite ability to do everything smartly won’t be starting the Stanley Cup Finals until this coming Monday.

Memorial Day.

Leaving this amount of time between when the last Conference Final ends and the Cup Finals begins leaves hockey fans bored and wondering about what’s next. This year, it happens to be convenient that the Finals will leave fans in the same condition as well. Very bored and very eager for the next season to begin already. I’ve already sounded off about the NHL officials both big and on the ice about how they’re letting every bad old habit come back in a big way with regard to the rules and their interpretations and I’m sure here in the Finals we’ll see a continuation of the lack of care for how the game is called.

I’m also sure we’ll see epically low ratings since it involves a Canadian team (sorry Canada, Americans in populous and buoyant TV markets really just don’t care about your teams) and a team that has no genuine following and would still play second-fiddle to the L.A. Kings if both were successful. Then again, this is the NHL and we don’t care about no stinking ratings. That’s why they’re on Versus in the first place. What I’m most eager to see for next season is to see how many teams come out next year looking to mimic the style played by the Ducks so that they too can be successful in the “I’m Looking The Other Way – I See Nothing!” NHL.

If things occur like they have going into this year where officials got back on the bandwagon for calling everything and then eventually giving up because they’re tired of the complaining and bitching, we’ll make it about 20 games into the year before the dump-and-chase-and-clog-up-everything-on-skates style is completely returned and the norm. The NHL made it to just after the All-Star Break this year before this horrible transformation occurred so it’ll likely take half as long this time around as I’m sure you’ll have a handful of teams airing grievances with the Commissioner and Stephen Walkom that we saw the Dark Ages style of hockey come back with reckless abandon in the playoffs and that in order to make sure the game doesn’t go back to sucking huge gonads again, they better go back and read through the rule book.

If you see Pat Quinn get hired on as a coach again and the Columbus Blue Jackets (coached by Jake and the Fatman stand-in Ken Hitchcock) take off to success next season, you’ll understand that the NHL has truly learned nothing and don’t care about their future. While I can’t say I’ve got a huge beef with the Senators appearance in the Finals, don’t think that they aren’t guilty offenders here. Ottawa too has made it a point to play a swarming, stop offense at all costs kind of hockey as well with one glaring difference: They attack on offense. The Sens won’t just look to sit back and wait for the power play to put goals on the board, and while they can do that well (just ask Lindy Ruff about the Sens power play…actually don’t do that if you value your life) it doesn’t behoove the Senators just to sit back and wait for the power play to happen. Sure, you can do that against Anaheim since they will take stupid penalties and every now and again an official will actually call interference – take nothing for granted since the NHL is careening back to their bad days.

I will say this though. If you like the game of hockey, and you liked how it was played in the 1980s and the 1990s version of hockey bored you to tears and made you pray for a lockout…your rooting interest in the Finals is easy.

You’re pulling for the Ottawa Senators.

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