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On 20

Thursday, July 31, 2008

We're dealing with some family issues over here at TUC HQ, so this post will be brief.

If the Sun's report is indeed correct (TSN is reporting that terms weren't disclosed), then credit to the Sens for the steal. $2.525 million for next season and $3 million for '09-10 is more than an acceptable deal for a player like Vermette. Out of all the players from the Sens' general "core" (minus the big three), No. 20 is the most likely candidate to eventually remain in the top six forward group -- the ability is there...we're just waiting for the consistency to show up. This contract pays to demonstrate Vermette's current skill set, which is why it's so palatable. Keep in mind that a player like Mike Fisher -- who will never find a permanent home on the second line -- is being paid 6 million dollars next season (for the record, that's $534,603 more than Daniel Alfredsson will be receiving in the same year). Mark-to-market much?

Is Vermette gritty? Nope, he's soft as butter, but you can't have everything for cap hit of $2.7625 million, kids. Vermette does bring speed, scoring, PK and faceoff ability, and can be used in the shootout. The deal is very fair, and we're glad it's finally done.

Late-aft chewable

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Ottawa bloggers (including yours truly) are currently discussing this intriguing post from Neate over at OOLF. It's definitely worth a read.

From today's Sun:

According to insiders, Ottawa would trade netminder Martin Gerber and defenceman Andrej Meszaros to Los Angeles, the Kings would move 20-year-old centre Anze Kopitar to Chicago and the Blackhawks would propel goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and either of young blueliners Brent Seabrook or Cam Barker to the Senators.

On the surface, it seems the deal could be a rare win-win-win.

I know the mindset's a bit different in SoCal, but I've got to think there's no way in hell L.A. is giving up Kopitar, especially for that tandem. Kopitar is part of the young core that the Kings want to build around. Yes, it's true that they're looking for a puck-moving defenceman and a proper No. 1 goaltender. But who wants to settle for Andrej Meszaros as their premier offensive blueliner, and a mid-level-at-best goaltender on last year of his contract? Don't worry, I see you working: You think it doesn't matter, because The Manatee's overall performance would indicate that a paycut is coming after next season, and that L.A. could re-sign him for cheap, if they wanted to. Only thing is, L.A.'s got money to burn -- 27 million and change for 2008-09 alone (according to NHLSCAP). In short, if they want a big name in net, they've got the cash to pay him.

L.A. is a craptastic team right now, but they've got a couple of talented young pieces in place to build upon. Why would they hand them over for the NHL's equivalent of two Hollywood C-listers?

P.S. Sherry concurs. Hurrah for Ottawa blogger rage!

Same Ray, different day

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

From TSN.ca:

There were other issues and Emery did not shy away when Landsberg asked about his problems showing up late and behavior at practice.

"I seriously have a tough time showing up on time," he said. "I smacked a water bottle around one day and they said that was me pouting because I wasn't playing, but really I was just pissed off because I didn't do well that practice."

The OTR host then asked if the January 28th incident where Emery was late after going to the on wrong facility on Long Island was a form of protest against the club.

"I wasn't trying to make a statement, (January 28th) was after the All-Star break and I went to the game rink and they were at the practice rink," explained Emery. "I apologized for it then, it was my fault but like I said, I'm not the guy who's really nervous about being late."

Wow, he's really changed, hasn't he?

From The Complete Idiot's Guide to Making A Proper Apology:

Step 1: Apologize with sincerity

Step 2: Pledge to never let it happen again

Step 3: Ask what you can do to make it right

Step 4: Never do it again (Sincerely, Marcus Allen -- CBS Sports)

He doesn't get it. And after yesterday's interview, it's obvious he never will.

You still here?

Monday, July 14, 2008

From TSN.ca:

For the first time since the end of the Ottawa Senators' season, Ray Emery will face the media, as he sits down for a one-on-one in-depth interview with TSN's Michael Landsberg, airing tonight on Off The Record (OTR) at 6 p.m. ET.

The interview, a special extended two-part Up Front segment, also marks the first time the controversial goaltender has spoken publicly since being bought out by his former NHL club and joining the new Russian Continental Hockey League.

Landsberg traveled to Ottawa to meet with the outspoken netminder. Always one to speak his mind, Emery will address hot issues about being released by the Senators, his decision to play in Russia next season, his biggest regret, and his strained relationship with Ottawa GM Bryan Murray and former coach John Paddock. Landsberg will also question Emery about the Senators' collapse last season, possible plans for returning to the NHL in the future, the rumours of his off-ice excesses, and whether or not he has any last words for Sens fans.

Patrick Sharp, Taylor and Tom Pyatt and all four of the Staal brothers were recently in Thunder Bay for a charity softball game promoting "Warm Up To The Worlds". The lead-off event is one of many taking place to hype the World Junior Baseball Championships, which will be hosted by Thunder Bay in 2010.

Check out this nice piece from Emmanuel Moutsatsos of the Chronicle-Journal on the game.

P.S. Whiskey Jack t-shirts? Gimme!

TOK: The Other Karlsson

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Check out this nice post from Sens Army on defensive prospect Mattias Karlsson -- he's a guy that gets very little pub amongst fans, but he's definitely got some upside. The Driver fell for him (in a totally platonic/fanboy way) at last year's developmental camp. This year's event showed that while he hasn't hit the next level, his game hasn't fallen completely by the wayside (given the current situation regarding Senators prospects, you have to search any glimmer of positive news).

This is the cover of Dany Heatley's new book, scheduled for release at the beginning of October. If you think that's good, check out the listing for No. 15's work on the Chapters website. There's a definitely a ball gag joke in there somewhere.

(Credit to the Sportsnet Forums for the find.)

*smashing plate over head**

From Pierre LeBrun of The Globe And Mail:

The Ottawa Senators, meanwhile, found a needed defenceman. Jason Smith, who signed a $5.2-million, two-year contract, helps fill the hole left by the departed Wade Redden and brings character and experience, qualities GM Bryan Murray was looking for after a controversy-filled season where departed goalie Ray Emery made headlines for the wrong reasons and team chemistry was questioned.

And from Jon Willing of Sun Media:

Smith steps into Redden's shoes

The Ottawa Senators have filled the hole on their blue line left by Wade Redden by signing another veteran NHL defenceman. GM Bryan Murray today signed Jason Smith to a two-year contract.

Memo to the media: Wade Redden and Jason Smith may hold the same position, but that does not mean they play similar roles. The former is a puck-moving blueliner. The latter is a stay-at-home defenceman. One cannot replace the other, because they perform very different duties.

(Jesus Christ, I feel like I should finish this off with a "Sincerely, Marcus Allen -- CBS Sports.")


*Marge : Homer's a very complicated man.
Homer : [smashing a plate over his head] WRONG!

Russian roulette

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

In a not-so-shocking move, Ray Emery is taking his act to the Russian Continental Hockey League. The paycheque? $ 2 million plus bonuses, for one year.

Rumours of this decision have been bubbling for a few days -- when I queried a source last week, they told me that non-Caucasian players found some of the country's citizens to be rather unfriendly, to say the least.

(Read between the lines, kids. You'll see the "r" word.)

In short, it's a completely different world overseas -- one where people don't care who Ray Emery is, or was. I think the source put it best: "Ray is in for a very rude awakening."

So the obsession with grit and leadership continues unabated, eh? Alrighty then.

Just to be clear: We don't have a problem with Jason Smith. The free agent brings valuable characteristics to the Senators (see above), although the salary ($5.2 million over two years) is a bit on the high side (yes, in spite of everything that's going on -- come on now, he's a 34-year-old stay-at-home blueliner). But...

(You knew that was coming, didn't you?)

1) Where the bloody (expletive) is the puck-moving defenceman that the Senators desperately require? Things with Meszaros have yet to be settled, and do you really want to put all your eggs in that basket? Same goes for Brian Lee -- he's just a kid and can't be expected to shoulder that load. The lack of a definitive defensive system in Ottawa already puts Lee at high risk for stunted development. They need someone who's fully developed with the skills and mindset to pick up from Redden's massive regression, and move the team forward (both literally and figuratively) at the blueline.

Pea Soup wasn't able to seduce any of the noted offensive defencemen available to the nation's capital, and we're left to ponder the reasons why. Obviously in the case of UFAs, it's their call (see puck-moving redhead, Brian Campbell). Campbell could've viewed Chicago as being on the way up, meanwhile Ottawa appears to be moving in the opposite direction. Alternatively, we could also suspect that Murray's hesitancy to throw the cash at a lengthy contract left him out in the cold. News flash to the GM: Don't know if you've noticed, but guys looking to drop 3.5 or less for a few years on a defenceman are signing Jeff freaking Finger*. Just saying.

As for guys like Dan Boyle, I loved the media's perplexed speculation as to why he didn't choose the Sens when he waived his no-trade clause. "Who wouldn't want to play in their hometown of Ottawa?" Yeah, you should have asked that same question of then-Baltimore Oriole Erik Bedard whenever he was on a rehab stint, and the Ottawa Lynx served as the O's farm team -- the guy's face would turn greener than escarole. Not everyone is willing to deal with that type of pressure. Furthermore -- and this kills the fragile Canadian psyche, which is why I love to point it out -- not all NHLers want to play in this country. Big money, low-key environment...San Jose, anyone? The Sens couldn't afford to make the trade regardless, so it's a moot point.

2) While guys like Smith are being signed, secondary scoring still remains a huge issue. I heard one media member claim last week that "a top six position (is) Nick Foligno's to lose at camp this year." WHAA? We've said it before, and we'll say it again: Foligno is a top-six winger on a team where Mike Fisher is your No. 1 centre. And if that's the case, welcome to 10th place overall, Ottawa.

3) Is anyone else bothered by the idea that Ottawa perpetually has to turn to outsiders for leadership? Grit is one thing -- we know the majority of this core is on the softer side. But the leadership -- particularly when you consider the amount of time the core has been together -- for Christ's sakes...what's the real issue here?

In talking with others about the situation, a couple made mention that Smith may be the one to "set Spezza straight" -- in other words, provide the tough love required for No. 19 to eventually hit the next level as an elite NHLer. But just a quick note here: Jason Spezza is now 25 years old, and has been in the league for 5 seasons. Shouldn't he be capable of maturing without such a desperate push? If he can't, what does that say about him as a player? It's quite possible that Spezza could always remain "young-at-heart", but what was once perceived as impish rambunctiousness has now morphed into borderline frat-boy-at-a-community-college territory. It's time to grow up, Peter Pan. Whether or not Jason Smith helps to accomplish that remains to be seen.

*twiddling thumbs and looking at the floor*

So yeah -- other than that, we don't have a problem with the signing. We just wish some of the other issues would have been resolved first.


*My favourite status update on Facebook right now: "(Name) has a finger for you, Cliff Fletcher, and it isn't Jeff."

The belated goodness

Monday, July 07, 2008

(The above poster is prominently featured on a bulletin board in my office. It's uh... on "permanent loan" from the Robin's Donuts' collection of Marathon, Ontario.)

Ugh...I have a bloody headache (largely from battling with my Yahoo! mail, which continues to go AWOL whenever the mood suits it -- I'm still receiving contact via Carrier pigeon, so try that for now). Where do we begin to tackle the unprecedented crap of the past six days? Common sense dictates to begin with the positive. Alrighty then.

Well, credit to the Sens for scoring up backup goaltender (and good Lakehead Boy) Alex Auld (see bottom left corner of photo). It wasn't a flashy signing, but Auld is big, under 30, inexpensive (the contract covers two years, for $2 million) and fairly consistent. Colour us biased, but it's about time the club picked up a player raised on Persians and Bare Point water, especially after they decided to pass on this guy in '05. For what it's worth, the Senators now have two bald goaltenders. That's got to count for something.

Local media have already attempted to flash their Lakehead knowledge at Auld -- during one interview where the backstopper was speaking to media while purchasing groceries, Auld was asked if he was at "Intercity" (the media member then made mention of spending previous time in the Bay). There's no grocery store in the mall, rook. Auld then stated that he was off to camp, which begins us to another point...

Dude is going to need a nickname -- for now, we're thinking we should name him after whichever lake his camp is located on (and I'm not talking about where he's pitching a tent, Mensas -- see the Lexicon of Yore for clarification). I'll be turning to my trusty sources to pull the info, but expect that Auld could soon be referred to as "Hawkeye", "Loon", "Dog", "Oliver" or "Mirror".

(Wait...that last one would've been more appropriate for the departing guy, right? Damnit, I said I was going to let that go.)


Other things we enjoyed...

Marian Hossa's deal is freaking brilliant. I don't understand the "traitor" remarks from some -- he was a rental in Pittsburgh, plain and simple. He goes to an elite team, and both sides understand why he's there: To win the Cup. If Detroit doesn't pull it off, they're not committed to him -- Marian walks. And if this last week has taught us anything, it's that a player can tumble, falter -- hell, fall flat on his face -- and still cash in. Hossa can do jack (expletive), and still end up as an 8-million dollar player in 2009-10. If he helps bring another championship back to Detroit, 10 million isn't out of the realm of possibility. In fact, it's practically a given.

Here's something else Hossa-related: Did anyone else enjoy Peter Chiarelli's epic little freakout when it became obvious that the Bruins were out of the running for the Slovak, and decided to throw cash at Michael Ryder instead? Ryder's most memorable moments of late either involve being benched or not dressing at all for playoff games (he played in only four games with Montreal during last year's postseason). Combine that fact with 31 points in 70 games last season, and that's somehow worth $12 million over three years? Enjoy, Boston.

(It's worth noting that Bruins' coach Claude Julien has handled Ryder through nearly every stage of his career, and in speaking with sources close to the coach, it's obvious that Julien thinks very highly of him -- hence the signing. However, Chiarelli is still the guy holding the manpurse strings, and he obviously let them fly right open on this deal.)

Next up: "Why defencemen take one look at Ottawa and run in the other direction"


"Was I supposed to reference Redden's departure?"


"The rage unabated"

(Yeah, that'll do.)

More later.

Pre-free agent frenzy mini-deglaze

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

...because a lack of sleep means no pictures. Deal with it.

Alright, so I had planned to go the route of others, and get into Bryan Murray's cleansing of the White House (the removal of Brian McGrattan and Ray Emery are the most notable in this situation). My concern did not pertain to those players as much as it did to Jason Spezza, whose close friendship with both the former 16 and 1 concerned many. Unfortunately this would involve -- yet again -- touching on a topic that I am growing tired of discussing. Unfortuately it's the comments like these at the end of posts that really frustrate the hell out of me. Case in point from a quote pulled off the Sens Army blog:

Is it a refusal to use anonymous sources? Give me a break--it’s obvious that in his rumour-reporting, Bruce Garrioch has no problem with quoting the anonymous. Is it wanting to stick to the on-ice news? Last year was evidence that off-ice problems make on-ice news. Is it an unwillingness to bite the hand that feeds you? Well, if you’re afraid to report the truth out of fear for the repercussions, journalism might not be you true calling.

It's quite lovely for the US Weekly generation to sit around assuming that people can blast whatever they wish into a public forum. Ever heard of a little thing called libel? It's not a joke. It has nothing to do with fear -- it has everything to do with evidence. In case you have forgotten, here's what I wrote about this subject in January:

But believe me, this isn't a topic that could normally be broached with any semblance of truth or ferocity, unless you possessed a gifted photographer and an attorney on a choke chain (a fact that I have personally been warned about from friends and colleagues alike).

Furthermore, I'm finding extremely difficult to believe that those who continue to demand every raw detail are incapable of seeing the bigger picture. Persons in hockey sweaters are not the be-all and end-all of this drama. Certain activities like these do not lend themselves to the highest moral standard of human behaviour. Combine this revelation with an emotional reaction -- it's not something anyone wants to deal with.

If you're looking to blame anyone, blame the Senators for failing yet again to protect their multi-million dollar investments. I've said as much as I could, and that's far more than anyone else has -- mainstream media or otherwise. You want to blow the roof off because you think you know the whole story? Knock yourself out. If not, you might want to check yourself. I'm all for slagging the media where appropriate, but this isn't the time.


As for the Sens' development camp -- I don't know what some of the other bloggers/media were watching, but if I were Bryan Murray, I'd be extremely concerned. Yesterday's 3-on-3 tournament provided very little encouragement from the farm. Typically, you can see a difference in skill between potential AHL call-ups/signed free agents who have a shot at making the team, and the rest of the prospects. That wasn't the case on Monday. We saw very little out of Cody Bass, Nick Foligno and Jesse Winchester -- Foligno has filled out nicely, but still screams "third-liner at best". Winchester's conditioning is extremely suspect -- we caught him on multiple occasions panting for breath while crouched over on both knees. This year's No. 1 pick, Erik Karlsson, also seemed to be struggling with similar issues. Perhaps Ian Mendes filled him up with too many meatballs. Also worthy of note: Karlsson has the Spezza disease. He likes to skate with his head down, particularly in the defensive zone. Given that the kid is a blueliner, you can imagine how many times we saw him doing this.

The one semi-bright spot? Ironically, it was TUC's perennial whipping boy, Brian Lee. Granted, we wanted to take a hatchet to his overgrown hair, but Ottawa's blueliner babyface seems to be developing the first hints of a mean streak. We caught him throwing a couple of hits, which was totally unexpected -- but pleasant to see. Now if only he could put some meat on that upper body. He's still got a case of the ganglies. (I know that's not a word -- but it's the best way I could describe it.)

Not to sound like an a-hole, but we feel comfortable trusting our assessment of the situation, particularly after conferring with our partner from The Other TSN, Patrick Williams. P covers the AHL, and has often referenced the Binghamton team as being in dire straits. To say that the Ottawa media is lacking in regular coverage of the Sens' prospects -- particularly in Bingo -- would be an understatement of epic proportions. They only caught a short glimpse this week and so did we, but what we saw wasn't good. If that take is in line with someone we respect who normally follows the main prospects, it can't be far off.

More later.