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Downie gets 20

Friday, September 28, 2007

It's hardly a slap on the wrist, but is the amount enough to deter others? It's as if the league chose the exact middle ground, in order to encourage additional debate.

From TSN.ca:

The National Hockey League has handed down its verdict on the Flyers' Steve Downie.

Colin Campbell, the NHL's executive vice-president and director of hockey operations, has suspended Downie for 20-games for his vicious hit on Ottawa Senators forward Dean McAmmond in Thursday's exhibition game.

The Flyers were leading 2-1 when, at the 2:39 mark of the second, Downie skated the length of the ice and took a run at McAmmond, who had just released the puck while circling behind the Flyers' net and was met by Downie coming around the other side. Downie also appeared to leave his feet as he flattened the veteran.

The jarring hit came moments after Downie had been checked into the glass by Ottawa's Christoph Schubert in the Senators' zone.

The 20-year-old prospect gained a reputation at the junior level for some nasty play, but following Thursday's game said the hit wasn't pre-meditated, nor did he intend to go for McAmmond's head.

The troglodyte's interpretation

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

From the HF Boards:

I don't understand all the negativity (especially from Flyers fans). This hit was awesome. Notice I didn't say the injury was. I've seen several hits very similar to this where the recipient doesn't get hurt, and play goes on. The hit in and of itself was a little late, and he did ever so barely leave his feet. People are acting like he threw a blatant elbow at McAmmond's head while going full speed. Come on now. He lined him up and finished a big hit, and unfortunately McAmmond was injured. Lets not make this out to be more than it is. The problem is it has received so much attention that Downie will likely get a suspension far longer than what he deserves here. That being said, I like the kid, and I love his intensity, and I hope this doesn't hurt his chances of making the squad. He's the type of guy you should love to have on your team.

Awesome. Now can we just have someone explain how Steve Downie was just playing "Canadian hockey" by "finishing (his) check"? (The latter quote is his own explanation, by the way.) You've got to leave it all on the ice, right? You have to be willing to do what the other guy won't -- you've got to be physical.

I guess it's all open for interpretation -- and Downie should be viewed as a kid with a bit of an "edge". What a role model for the NHL and Canadian hockey.

P.S. I understand McGrattan's anger, but his post-game comments were foolish. He'll feel the hammer for that, no doubt.

Leftovers (abridged version)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Well, Roy Mlakar may assume fans don't want to discuss the future, but if that were the case, would The Man be on the job? From Darren Dreger at TSN.ca:

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is expected to meet with Dany Heatley's agent, J.P. Barry on Thursday in Ottawa.

And based on preliminary discussions, the Senators are aware of Heatley's expectations.

It's believed that Heatley is seeking an average salary of $8.5 million and a multi-year term similar to what Daniel Briere, Chris Drury and Scott Gomez agreed to this summer.

The question is, will Eugene Melnyk pay it?

Former Senator Zdeno Chara was allowed to walk into free agency and was immediately snapped up by the Boston Bruins.

Ottawa refused to overspend to hold on to the giant defenceman, focusing instead on signing veteran blueliner Wade Redden. In light of the struggles that Chara and the Bruins were forced to deal with last season, one might wonder if on some days Chara wishes he had a mulligan!

Ottawa remains a powerhouse and Heatley is one of the Senators' most feared players on offence.

With back-to-back 50-goal seasons, his stock has never been higher. If that trend continues as an unrestricted free agent, Heatley will challenge, if not surpass, Sidney Crosby's average of $8.7 million.

Thursday's meeting between owner and agent could go a long way in determining Heatley's future in Ottawa.

I'll be shocked if they hammer something out in time, but if fans want Heatley to stay, this is the right course of action to take -- and allowing the media to get a sniff of pro-active behaviour will always garner brownie points.


Another day, another application of the hammer from Alvin, although you may not have caught this one if you weren't paying attention. We'll be the first to admit that we had reservations about his promotion to head coach (and still do), but damned if he doesn't make things interesting. Today's quote was far more subtle. Here's Ray on his wrist:

"I'm just working hard at getting back right now. I obviously want to get some games in, but I've got to make sure that I'm not going to get hurt when I get in there," said Emery. "I'm close, but I'm not where I want to be as far as playing a game. It's kind of frustrating for me right now, but I'll get in there."

And here's Alvin's response:

"I think his wrist is fine, watching him a little bit in practice," said Paddock. "He's not taking shots like he did last year where he was always favouring it. I think it's just a matter of feeling comfortable with being back in the live competition.

"It's (about) where (he's) at and feeling comfortable. It's not injuring the hand, it's just about facing shooters and not wanting to embarrass himself. It's as much that as anything."

Paddock basically said it was all in Ray's noodle. Fabulous. I'm waiting for the day when he warns Ray openly that the Manatee is warming up to bitch-slap him with his flippers, because you know he's out for that No. 1 spot.

I honestly can't believe that all fans aren't as gung-ho about Paddock's call-outs as I am. (In case you missed Sunday's paper, it was the topic of this week's column.) I came across one blog that questioned Paddock's treatment of Nick Foligno due to rookie's age (Foligno is 19). Seriously? Foligno's cockiness was palpable in June at the rookie camp, despite his average-to-subpar outing. Then when training camp hit, a hefty portion of the media were ready to anoint him to the squad, similar to Alexei Kaigorodov last year. Ten to one says that rubbed Alvin the wrong way from the get-go. Is that Foligno's fault? No. But if word has it that he's the next big thing for the Sens (and he's content to act like it), he'd better bring it. Or else.


That'll have to do for now. The Driver and I are heading out of town for a bit, so this place will be quiet until the weekend at the latest, although I don't want to stay silent for that long. I keep hoping that the pre-season will be over when we return -- idle wishes, I suppose. Be good, and I'll talk to you in a few days...yeah hey.

Blind items

Monday, September 24, 2007

(If the following rubs you the wrong way, take it up with these kids. They're my sources.)

While there have been suggestions in the past that NHL pugilists should be tested for steroids, there are other substances that may be of interest to bloodhounds like Dick Pound. Last season, one scrapper was rumoured to be dabbling in something resembling powdered sugar before his morning practices -- and he wasn't putting it on his french toast.

And some local juice...

Which gimpy-footed Swede might require more than a phone call from Ottawa's team captain to convince him to play in the capital? He has claimed privately in the past that of all NHL cities, he hates playing in Ottawa the most.

Where your season ticket money goes

Saturday, September 22, 2007

...if you're an Islanders fan, at least. From TMZ.com:

Some girls get jewelry or clothes from their boyfriends on their birthdays -- not Hilary Duff. The Duffster -- who turns 20 on September 28 -- received an early birthday present from hockey player boyfriend Mike Comrie this week.

Comrie told her that he had left the gift in the garage at Duff's sister Haylie's house. "I opened the garage and I was just, like, shocked, just standing there," Duff told People.

The hunky puckster surprised the teen queen with a $100,000 Mercedes-Benz G-class SUV. "I've driven it tons," said Duff of the grand gift. "When I called him I was like, 'You're crazy! It's perfect!'

P.S. "Duffster"? "Puckster"? Blech.

Oh, really?

Friday, September 21, 2007

The following is a transcript taken from a mid-intermission interview with Sens' president Roy Mlakar, during the Sens-Capitals game on Rogers 22 last night. This was the answer given when the issue of potential future free agents Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza (UFA and RFA respectively) came up:

"Quite frankly, I find it amusing that the media has continued to talk about what’s going to happen after this great year, because I think the fans want to see what’s going to happen (this year). We’ve kept the core of the team together -- (GM) Bryan (Murray’s) done a hell of a job getting most of the guys back into the fold. Getting (Mike) Fisher long-term is tremendous. Not too many people have done what Mike (Fisher) has done here. Getting Chris Phillips done and (Anton) Volchenkov done long-term and just coming back as a Stanley Cup (participating) team, I think the fans are really excited. They really don’t want to hear what’s going to go on a year from now."

So are we to assume if the media chose not to discuss the futures of Wade Redden, Dany Heatley, Chris Kelly, Jason Spezza etc., that the fans wouldn't do it on their own? We're led to believe that fans don't wish to contemplate the future, or readily admit that their beloved team may ultimately have one more serious kick at the can before the vultures begin counting down the days to Dany Heatley's first day of freedom in July '08? Perhaps I should forward some choice missives from my inbox to members of the Sens' front office, because when it comes to my readers at least, the future -- and its relevance -- is now. The ironic thing is, as a columnist, I've barely brought the issue up with the exception of two Mike Fisher-based columns in the span of three months. The e-mails I've been receiving of late are totally unsolicited, but nearly all have inquired about the futures of the Senators' UFAs and RFAs.

Ottawa fans aren't about to take the Scarlett O'Hara approach of, "I won't think about that today; I'll think about it tomorrow." The potential loss of a back-to-back 50 goal scorer is an ominous threat to any team, regardless of when it will occur (and keep in mind that No. 15 is only one of many issues). If Heatley doesn't produce, Ottawa will be bitter over their "last big chance" potentially being wasted. If he thrives, they'll eventually be heartbroken because they know he'll be impossible to keep. I know we all like to question the fans' intelligence, but they're more than capable of coming to these conclusions on their own while discussing them to a vast degree, despite what may happen this season. Fans will want to know what's going on, and more importantly, they're eager to learn about the future of Dany Heatley and others in this city (if any). Frankly, to suggest otherwise borders on a high level of naivete.

Otherwise known as Lincoln Scofield

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

We call him The Manatee. The Driver refers to him as Dominic Purcell. Whatever you want to call him, the Sens No. 2 goalie began making his case last night with an eye-popping 52 saves vs. the Flyers in London, ON last night. And yes, we know it's preseason, but it should be noted that Gerber's positioning, which has often been called into question, was spot on Tuesday night. There were rebounds aplenty, but he always seemed to know where they were going. This is what we were hoping for. We've got our fingers crossed that he keeps it up.

P.S. Dean Brown got a smirk out of me when he referenced Brian Lee giving the "hairy eyeball" to Steve Downie, then said that if Lee actually possessed a hairy eyeball (literally), it would be his only body part to ever require shaving. Gord then piped up to claim that Lee "looks like a ten-year-old".

NHL Winter Classic: Frosty event, hot ticket

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

From the NHL's Public Relations department:


"Demonstrating once again that our fans are the most passionate in sports, more than 42,000 tickets to the AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic were sold in the first 30 minutes of availability this morning. Due to the overwhelming demand, plus our commitment to Sabres and Penguins season ticket holders, the Buffalo Bills and sponsors of the event, we are currently sold out. If additional tickets become available, we'll release the information at a later date."

From Chris Stevenson:

The Senators just announced the first game of their pay-per-view package this year, Nov. 22 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, will be available in high definition. That's what a lot of fans have been asking for, and rightly so, when you have to ante up $10.95 to see the game.

Senators VP of broadcasting Jim Steel said the club is looking into showing more of the other six games on Sens TV in HD. “We expect the majority, if not all, of the Sens TV games will be available in HD,” he said.

When the hell is this going to end? Now Bryan Murray is enlisting the help of Daniel Alfredsson in an attempt to woo Peter Forsberg to the capital with a well-timed phone call. What is this, junior high? Why doesn't Alfie just send a folded note with the traditional "Do you like me?" query, followed by boxes labelled "yes" and "no". And you just know that Forsberg, being the crafty bugger that he is, will return it with an additional square created (and checked) that reads, "I don't know." Of course, said note will need to be passed through Toronto and snickered at for the full effect.

Keep in mind that Forsberg is recovering from ankle surgery (again), but will still expect the Brinks truck to back up, regardless of the situation. Not to be overly harsh, but the only way I'd consider this is if Peter literally removed all problems, and surgically attached his knees to his feet like Cotton Hill. Think about it: He could skate around headbutting players (read: Sidney Crosby) in the stomach and groin with no remorse. Words cannot express how badly I would like to see that happen.

P.S. I know his feet are torched as well. When it's time for those to go, that's when Ottawa can ship him to the Leafs for their turn.

P.P.S. Doesn't the cartoon version of Jimmy Carter look just a bit like Bryan Murray? C'mon...I know you see it.

Perception is nine-tenths of reality

Monday, September 17, 2007

Some additional thoughts regarding the long-term lockup of Mike Fisher:

Although I wasn't able to fit it into the column (see previous post), one thought that stuck out in my mind pre-signing was the perception of Fisher if he were to, for lack of a better term, go to war with the Senators over a paycheque. Fisher's aura in Ottawa is so massive and sparkling that the idea of it taking a hit for the sake of coin seems practically unfathomable. I wonder if this issue was brought up during his personal negotiations, and if Fisher and Todd Reynolds (his agent) deemed it best to finish the deal a) to avoid any distractions and b) help to protect the centre's image as the eternal good guy -- particularly when you've got Dany Heatley already imposing major restrictions on negotiations.

Fisher's signing already seems to have earned him major brownie points with fans -- as if it were humanly possible to possess any more -- and thanks to Scott Hartnell's similar salary (which I also wrote about in late June but am unable to unearth the link, so you'll have to trust me), a five-year $21 million deal seems like great value. Here's how it'll shake out:

'08-09 $6 million (includes a 1 million dollar signing bonus)

'09-10 $4 million

10-11 $4 million

11-12 $4 million

12-13 $3 million

And remember, it was reported that the first three years included a no-trade clause, according to Chris Stevenson.

So what does this mean? Let's break it down:

1) It seems blatantly obvious that the Sens are looking to keep Alfredsson and Fisher in the red, black and white for life. Fisher will have one more boatload contract after the five years is up (barring catastrophe), and then it will be a smooth ride into the twilight of his career. Ottawa knows Fisher is their golden child, and they'd happily kick sand in the faces of all teams who were looking to seduce No. 12, come July '08. Both sides walk away from the table looking good -- it was a total win-win. For now.

2) This pretty much signals the death knell for Wade Redden's career in Ottawa -- but to be fair, you should have heard that bell ring when Brian Lee's name was called in this city two years ago at the Draft. They knew this was coming. We all knew this was coming. Redden's salary (both present and upcoming) has become increasingly difficult to justify, and the awkwardness of this summer's attempted trade will not be easy to squelch.

3) $6 million dollars next season for a player who will be considered the No. 2 centre this year -- a situation largely due to Paddock currently running low on options. Does Fisher need to begin scoring? You bet your demi-deity-worshipping ass he does -- and it has to start yesterday. 48 points for 1.5 million dollars seemed like a good deal on paper. But you can count me as one of the few who has always insisted that the 27-year-old needed to find the back of the net more often, which is a difficult sentiment to express in a city that is so enamoured with one player. And you can trust that despite all the love, if he is unable to put points on the board for whatever reason...you WILL begin to hear about it eventually, especially if both Redden and Heatley are lost to free agency.

Here's my column from yesterday.

Here's the news:

From TSN.ca:

It looks as though Mike Fisher won't be going anywhere for a while.

Fisher has signed a five-year, $21 million extension with the Ottawa Senators.

Fisher scored 22 goals and dished out 26 assists in 68 games with the Senators last year. In 384 career NHL games Fisher has totals of 92 goals and 100 assists and a +49 rating.

The 27-year-old centre was slated to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2007-08 season. Dany Heatley, Wade Redden and Chris Kelly will also be unrestricted after the season.

Thank you. Oh yeah...and the signing? That's some nice work. Some thoughts on getting Fisher locked up coming later today.

UPDATE: Chris Stevenson is reporting that the first three years of Fisher's new contract feature a no-trade clause.

Not to go all "back in the day" on you, but I remember when Fan Fest was referred to as "open practice", and basically it was the sleepy heathens of Kanata who came out to check out the new meat on a Sunday instead of receiving communion. A couple hundred people would show up, the team would run through drills, and you'd have a scrimmage at the end. Frankly, I can't believe how big it's gotten -- with activities, face painting, handouts at the door...you'd think an actual game was taking place. Not to mention the fact that 90% of the lower bowl was filled (seriously), and at least one-third of the second. The concessions were open...there were lineups in the womens' concourse bathrooms for Christ's sakes.

And while I missed the intimacy of the smaller events of yore, the larger crowd brought with it some elements I wasn't expecting (more on that later).

Basically the morning for me entailed calling out numerical troikas in the manner of locker combinations, or really buggered up measurements. Paddock had the lines all over the place (with the exception of one). Combos included:

- Heatley-Spezza-Dimitrakos (Dimitrakos served as a warm body for the majority of ths scrimmage that could keep up with the pace. Other than that, I wasn't overly impressed.)

- Donovan-Eaves-Kelly

- Foligno-Alfredsson-Daugavins (it's blatantly obvious that they're desperate for someone to hang long-term with Alfie and wish for Foligno to play that role. If it happens, I'll eat my Arizona State ballcap -- it's the closest thing to non-animated progeny that I own.)


-Eaves-Kelly-Dimitrakos (Eaves is on a short leash -- he needs to step it up.)

- Zubov, Neil, Donati (weird)

There were two defensive pairing that stuck out like a sore thumb: Phillips-Lee and at one point, Meszaros-Corvo. Look that last duo up in the dictionary -- you'll find it under "masochism".

As for basic vibe:

- (insert obvious Manatee on brink of distinction crack here) To put it bluntly, he looked like hell. Plodding movement, poor positioning and timing...it's not looking good.

- For the Meszaros haters (and I know we have a few here): You won't be shocked to hear that he's picked up where he left off from last season.

- Alfredsson's ready to go. Didn't miss a beat, and looked in season-form. Phillips also appeared prepped for the year to start.

- Spezza was actually booed for a giveaway (backwards pass). The reaction was surprising; the catalyst was not.

- By now you've likely heard about the Yablonski-Neil fight. Yablonski definitely got the better of No. 25. (At one point The Driver yelped, "Watch the orbital bone -- we need him!") Apparently this wasn't enough to sell people on the one they obviously must refer to as "Yabs" -- he was being heckled mercilessly towards the end of the scrimmage by two dudes at the glass. The Corvo-Neil dustup was slightly entertaining as well, with No. 7 delivering a punch to the back of Neil's head.

- McGrattan knows he's in trouble. He's doing everything he can to prevent it (including scoring a goal yesterday).

- Neil and Hamel have a noticeable chemistry and read each other quite well.

It was difficult to get a proper read on true lines because the combos were changing constantly. I'm hoping to have a better assessment once the preseason begins.

More later.

Dave Trembley's meltdown

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Here's the footage from last night of former Lynx manager Dave Trembley in a decent meltdown.

I think I can fully consider myself a Manatee convert these days -- the guy plays dressup, line dances and then drops this yesterday:

Goalie Martin Gerber has worn a black mask void of any Senators logos when he's skated with teammates at the Bell Sensplex.


So, as some have suggested, is the blank mask a silent statement of Gerber's desire for a trade, like the plain white one Martin Biron wore in Buffalo last year (he was finally moved at the trade deadline)?

"That's B.S.," said Gerber, who has been getting ready for Ottawa's training camp, which begins today.

"I'm trying the newest model from Itech. We're just working on this one and the one for games should be ready by now. This was just to try it out and see if it works.

9.8 out of 10. .2 deduction for offering an explanation.

P.S. To learn of the origins of the Manatee moniker -- click on the March '07 archives and scroll down to the March 22 post entitled, "Leftovers".

Remember: I'm freelance

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

*shuffling feet and softly whistling*

Here are the new Binghamton jerseys, and they had us until we saw the sleeves. What is that -- freshly threshed wheat?

...because we've never heard of this team.

· Alright, it may not officially be fall proper, but it's close enough for us...and that means two things: The return of regular Deglazes and the beginning of the NFL season. Full disclosure: TUC HQ has always shown a high personal preference of football over hockey for obvious reasons. Firstly, football is always much more of an event than your run-of-the-mill NHL game could ever hope to achieve. The majority of games take place on one day, which provokes an insane buildup. Combine this with a much shorter season, a one-and-done playoff format, a product that translates beautifully to television and the high prevalence of HD broadcasts...in short, the NFL kicks the NHL's ass up, down and sideways. Apologies for overstating the obvious.

Of course, we spent Sunday watching our beloved Broncos break the hearts of thousands of Leaf fans masquerading as Buffalo supporters. A couple of thoughts: Sophomore QB Jay Cutler (a.k.a. The Cutlet) is half asskicker, half myocardial infarction inducer with an arm that won't quit -- sometimes we want to high-five the hand attached to said arm, and sometimes we want to break off the arm and beat him with it. And have you seen his team photo yet? He looks like that kid you knew in high school who was obsessed with first-person shooter video games (and always rumoured to have been caught enjoying a Sears catalogue a bit too much in his parents' rec room). As for Travis Henry (a.k.a. Nouveau Shawn Kemp), we were initally concerned, but can't complain about 139 yards (an average of 6 per carry) on his first outing. No TDs, but you know one's coming -- the guy knows a thing or two about scoring. (I'm sorry, that was way too easy.)

· As for the Senators -- with a fairly successful rookie tournament completed and players beginning to trickle for training camp, you'd assume there would be a high sense of optimism surrounding the beginning of the season. Not on this end. Let's see...we've had Ray Emery's recent traffic incident, the Manatee is pulling a Martin Biron (scroll to last paragraph), constant speculation regarding the futures of players like Jason Spezza (potential RFA), Mike Fisher and Dany Heatley (potential UFAs of the big fish variety). In addition, one player has been engaging in some heavy-handed irony regarding his long-term status with the team. Outwardly, it would appear he wishes to stay. Whispers and actions indicate otherwise. This is an awful lot of drama to contend with in mid-September. We don't envy Bryan Murray's position right now.

· You may have noticed that nothing was mentioned in this space regarding the alleged last game played by the Ottawa Lynx (the Triple-A version, anyway). What am I supposed to say? Am I supposed to comment on the ridiculous nature of Ottawans who throw their support behind a quality product when it's too late? Am I expected to reference the pathetic nature of certain media members in the past who were heard openly complaining about being "forced" to attend the Lynx' annual Media Day? What about the outlets that regularly chose not to cover home games? What about the radio stations that treated game coverage as an open mic night for their on-air staff?

Here's what I will say: The Lynx -- staff, players and front office -- have been an outright pleasure to deal with. The level of courtesy and respect shown by all of them should never go ignored, and I will always be grateful for all of their help and kindness. They were, and are, the best team in the city to deal with. No contest.

And to wrap up today, let's close out with an e-mail from Blair in Burlington:

"Ever heard of an HBO show called 'The Wire'? There is a drug dealing kid on there who is a dead ringer for Ray Emery."

Blair sent this link (as well as this one) to solidify his point. Point taken.

Screaming behind our hands

Friday, September 07, 2007

Pink elephant in the room! Pink elephant in the room!

P.S. "Old bag of bones?" What kind of smack is that?

[Photo credit: Ottawa Citizen]

Things we're enjoying right now

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

* LOLJocks -- In the spirit of LOLCats, this is pretty self-expanatory.

* West Side Slant -- This is a SoCal friend of ours from the Rome days of yore. Plenty of vitriol on the NBA and NFL to be found here.

* BetUS.com -- It's that time of year when you feel the urge to get down, and this site has all the action involving any possible sport you follow, and that includes futures bets. For the record, they've got the Sens at +800 right now, and Anaheim at +450. Go check it out.

* NHL Top Shelf - A newer site with message boards for all 30 teams, news and blog links.