Fusspot rants, embarrassing photos of yourself and general correspondence go here: universalnicks@gmail.com

No, that isn't some long-winded euphemism for "the tree". If you saw Sunday's news conference where the suspended Miami Dolphins RB was introduced as a Toronto Argonaut, then you have some idea what I'm talking about.

I swear, this conference was unintentional comedic gold. It began with a blubbering and sweaty Keith Pelley proclaiming that, "I'm not a gambling man, but I'd bet my house that this man is clean."

I'd take that action. What kind of digs do you suppose the president of Toronto's CFL team might possess? Pretty decent, right?

Meanwhile, Ricky blankly stared out at the media with a goofy grin on his face. The NFL supposedly will be testing him ten (10!) times a month, but I'd get down on the likelihood that he had smoked something before he came in. Either that, or he had hit the Brass Rail for their lunch special.

After five or six minutes, head coach Mike "Pinball" Clemons began a Bible study, and proceeded to tell a story involving a Good Samaritan, a hitchhiker, a car driver...bloody hell, I wasn't paying full attention. And neither was TSN. I guess they got so fed up that they cut the feed before Ricky had even spoken a word. I had to switch over to NewsNet to view the conclusion.

Finally, the man of the hour took the mic. And guess what? Storytime, part deux. Seriously. The story Ricky told involved a king, a counselor, a partially amputated thumb, an Indian chief and a human sacrifice. There was no point. But he zoned out a couple of times mid-tale, which made it pretty damned interesting.

And the silence from the media, deafening.

Williams was then presented with his jersey, curiously bearing the number 27. When the media were finally free to ask why he chose it, Williams claimed that he had always wanted to wear it, but that the NFL wouldn't let him switch. He also added that 27 is a "very positive number".

Alrighty then. Mid-way through the second question, NewsNet cut their feed.

Welcome to T.O., Ricky. Don't forget to stroke Damon Allen's ego on your way out.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile (or even if you haven't), you probably are aware that I receive mail from the readers of the column.

I never expect people to agree with what I have to say each week -- in fact, I'm surprised that some of them do -- but often I will write something that will get under a reader's skin. So much so, that they feel the need to take some time out of their Sunday (or Monday...or Tuesday) to fire me off an email.


I make a legitimate effort to answer every piece of mail I receive. Sometimes it turns into quite the task. I do this for several reasons: 1) They took the time to write and I feel I at least owe them some type of a response; 2) They're usually surprised to death to discover that I actually respond (their surprise is directly proportionate to the amount of insults they hurl) and 3) I'm a woman. I like to get the last word in.

Anyway, I thought I would offer up some tips to those who get pissed, fire off an email looking to feel better about themselves, only to find themselves in a battle of wits without a weapon. Here you go.

1) Use quotes. I hate to cut and paste, and I can't stand to see it done, but it's the only way to be sure of what the other person is saying. So often I receive emails, and they've paraphrased what they think I've said. Quote, and then make your point.

2) Be succinct. For God's sakes, this is so important. I don't have time to sort through blithering missives that begin with an argument about the Argos that somehow morphs into insulting the Senators. (Not kidding -- I received one like this yesterday.) Which leads us to No. 3...

3) Stay on topic. Guess what? This isn't about you. It's about me, and what I wrote. If your beef with John Muckler is really eating at you, or if you hate this city in general, save it until I write about it. If I write about the Lynx, may I suggest that you bite your tongue for the meantime.

4) Don't read between the lines. I've proven that I possess enough bravery to say what I feel. I won't hide it. Don't go looking for it, because it isn't there.

5) Check for grammatical and spelling errors before you send. My opinion of a reader that doesn't do this drops about ten stories as soon as I see a blatant error. Seriously, it's just asking to be mocked.

6) Don't insult or threaten a writer. Firstly, they'll likely make a fool out of you and you may not even realize it. In short, you'll end up looking like a dumbass. And threatening will set into motion a rather ugly course of action involving the employer. Don't do it. Trust me.

7) Finally, do feel the need to relax. What writers produce is extremely insignificant in the grand scheme of things. It really doesn't need to be taken so seriously.

Hopefully this helps. And for the record, and although they don't realize it, I'm always complimented when readers assume I'm a guy. (Although hopefully, not due to the column photo. Ack. I hate that bloody thing.)

Friday evening deglaze

Friday, May 26, 2006

...because the Americans are indulging in inferior beer and superior fireworks this weekend (Happy Memorial Day to all of you).

Uh oh, Ottawa -- commence your Code Red freakouts -- and it's not a "sources say"! We've been given an actual name: Ritch Winter -- Hasek's agent. The long story short is that Hasek and Muckler have discussed the possibility of the 42-year-old netminder returning next year.

And just when people were beginning to calm down.

The most important part of this piece actually has little to do with Hasek -- we all assumed that Muckler was going to talk to Dom. Here's what the pseudo-GMs of the city need to focus in on:

If the Senators don't bring back Hasek, their options may be limited. Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson will be an unrestricted free agent, but there's going to be a bidding war.

Among the other goalies who could be available, San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov, who lost the No. 1 job with the Sharks, makes $3.63 million. Anaheim's J.S. Giguere, who also lost the No. 1 job, makes $3.9 million.

Florida's Roberto Luongo and Nashville's Tomas Vokoun could both be on the open market.

But Hasek will be looking for a base salary somewhere between $750,000-$1.5 million with games-played and playoff bonuses that were also part of his last contract.

Hasek finished with a 28-14-0 record and six shutouts in 42 games here last season.

The indications are Hasek would be willing to play less regular-season games (40-to-45) and give Ray Emery more of the workload to be ready for the playoffs.

"I'm just not sure there are a lot of options out there this year," said a league source.

"If you're going to move on from Hasek, then you better have somebody who is ready to step in. Ray Emery is going to need more time."

Translation: Edmonton's going to want to keep Dwayne Roloson. Montreal's going to want to keep Cristobal Huet. Other teams are looking for goalies, they'll be looking at some of the names Garrioch listed, and value for backstoppers is at a premium right now. Fans want, want, want...and they expect the team to also retain either Wade Redden and/or Zdeno Chara. Alrighty then. Sometimes Sens fans are so delusional, it kills me. I'm actually shocked that Nikolai Khabibulin's name hasn't come up.

As of right now, I could see John Muckler doing the following: Signing Hasek, and running a 1a and 1b goaltending system until he sees something else fall out. I don't believe he'd wait until the trade deadline. He might wait until he sees somebody fall off and go through a bad patch -- then make an offer. It's important to remember that you never (well, rarely ever) make a trade for someone when they're at their best. There has to be a reason why a team wants to purge a player.

Would this work? No one would ever admit that it has a chance in hell. And you know what? I kind of like that.

I received a truly great response to last week's column where I referenced Scott Radinsky's band, Pulley. There's such a great dynamic between punk rock and sport that few have ever tapped into -- I want to be one of the first. Most writers don't realize that so many players are fans of these bands, and eventually meet, socialize and become friends with them. They're a fantastic resource for information, because they speak honestly, and without the typical clichés. It was a band member who told me that Sean Avery had been spotted with Elisha Cuthbert, long before the media was even aware they were friends (who eventually became a couple). It was a band member who gave me true insight into Scott Niedermayer's feelings, when he wasn't sure if he was going to return to New Jersey. I'm sure most "journalists" wouldn't dream of associating with "undesirables" like "punk rockers", but that mentality is just ridiculous. So many sources are completely oversaturated that it can't possibly hurt to become a bit unorthodox. And ultimately, it's important to remember that this business is not nearly as serious and important as its participants would like to believe. It's just a game, and it's okay to occasionally have fun with your work.

Have a decent weekend, Cynics. More later.

Damn you, Adam

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Adam over at The Hater Nation has found a a new toy, and naturally I had to give it a whirl. Here's my first attempt:

I'll try and create a couple more throughout the day. If you're feeling creative, make up your own, save them using the instructions provided on the site and email them to me at erinnicks@yahoo.ca. I'll post the best ones later on.

Addendum to today's column

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Okay, so The Driver says that Red Bull puts me in a "poetic" mood -- I'm not sure if that's the reason behind this -- but I was able to apply the rest of Pulley's Blindfold to the Senators with ease. I couldn't do it for the column...I'm sure I freaked out people enough as it is. Here's how we'll do it: A line or two of lyrics, followed by an interpretation. Get it...got it? Good.

Sitting in the backyard on a Sunday in the morning touched by you/and all your curls that sucked me in: Game 5 (the elimination game) was played on a Saturday night. Who were people thinking about the most, immediately after the game? Alfie. Who has curly hair? Alfie. Who have people been sucked in by, based on longevity with the franchise and so-called "leadership" ability? Say it out loud, kids.

I can't hear you when you're screaming/I can hear you when you're talking to me/laughing at the jokes/laughing at the jokes I've told before: Screaming suggests emotion -- something that the team didn't show during the playoffs, hence the reason why you didn't "hear" it. But you can hear them when they're talking to everyone, laughing off the suggestions that come every year. The ones that say they lack the grit and character to pull off any legitimate post-season success.

It's only over when you've given up on me: Yep, we've covered this already.

You've held it in for so long/detaching yourself from everything I gave/now you're on your own/there's nobody else: Held it in, held back -- either or. You could say this points towards the team's lack of desperation play on many occasions throughout the years. The detachment line is something I can't attribute to any key situation, so I'll let it go for now. The idea that they were on their own is an interesting relevation. No Hasek to save them; no one to blame but themselves for their loss, as the Sabres provided a fair matchup.

So happy on the outside with your conscience coming home: Here's a line that addresses how easy everything looked for the Senators, from a casual perspective. They had many blowouts throughout the regular season, but lacked the ability to clinch those important one-goal games -- a revelation that the team had to be aware of, regardless of their early success. It was a flaw that became blatantly obvious during the Buffalo series.

Blindfold me a role/blindfold me a role you played so well: This is easy. They had every fan in this city completely seduced with the believe they could pull it off. They played the role of elite, offensive firepower. Until it mattered, of course.

It's only over when you've given up on me: See above, column etc.

There's one thing left to say/Those words you said to me were never true: The quotes claiming that did have grit and a proclamation of confidence -- their expressions on the ice said otherwise.

I justified everything I gave to you: A fan's disappointment, based on the belief that things would be different this year. An investment of time, money and passion. All for naught...yet again.

I won't ever look at you the same: Another line that could be applied directly to Alfredsson. His pathetic pylon move that led to the Pominville goal encompasses everything that critics had claimed: He lacks the passion and gumption of a true leader. I don't think a lot of fans believed it until that moment.

Step aside/you always walk away: Step aside and make way for the teams that want it more. Walk away and give up any hope of achieving success, because you lack the character required.

There you go: A complete breakdown of Scott Radinsky's stellar work, Blindfold -- a song obviously about a failed relationship, but could be applied to the Sens with ease. And I had it figured out after a 12-minute shower.

Go ahead and admit your amazement. Your awed wonder and golf claps are highly appreciated.

Hasek: It's Ottawa or nothing

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I was extremely curious to see what Dominik Hasek was going to say during his appearance last night on Off The Record. Hasek is one of the few interviews I'll pay attention to, because although he chooses his words carefully, you occasionally don't get the prototypical hockey response.

Needless to say, it was an interesting few minutes. We all knew that Hasek wished to stay in Ottawa next year (he's a UFA), but the answers he provided made his feelings crystal clear. He expressed no interest in playing for anyone else -- that he "only wants to play for the Senators", and didn't want to leave under the current circumstances. He also told Landsberg that he was upset because he "hasn't finished his job here yet".

I don't care if you're a Senators fan, a Hasek critic...a statement like that in today's league will stick with you.

When's the last time you heard anyone, anywhere say that they only wished to play for Ottawa? When have you heard a player for the Sens say, "the job's not done here yet"? I don't remember hearing Wade Redden or Zdeno Chara drop such bold statements. And yes, I know it's about money. And Redden and Chara are in positions of power with the ability to command millions of dollars from several teams of their choosing right now. That's not what this is about. It's about expressing a commitment to this franchise right now -- and recognizing unfinished business. I love that. I'm not saying anyone else from Ottawa doesn't feel that way. Maybe they do. But I don't remember ever hearing it expressed so blatantly. And during this depressing period when fan morale is bottoming out (yet again), it's extremely refreshing to experience.

Let me just say this right now: I like Hasek a lot. He's hilarious, he served his purpose (and then some) up until he was injured, and from a work standpoint, he makes for great copy. I'm well aware of his age -- the risks the Sens took when they signed him, and the bigger ones that would await if they resigned him.

I don't think it's possible for the team to keep him, based on risk and recent reaction from Murray (who said it was time to move on). But if he wants to come back, obviously the team's in a position of control. But perhaps even to offer the league minimum, and have him share the duties with Emery would be too much of a stretch. It would be a better situation than he had in Detroit -- Emery isn't as much of a threat as CuJo was -- but Hasek might not be able to swallow his pride.

There was one other interesting comment that Hasek made during the interview. Landsberg asked if Dom was subjected to any pressure from the team to return, specifically during the Buffalo series. Hasek initially said no, but mentioned "Alfie and the assistant captains" coming to him before Game 4. He didn't reference what they said verbatim, but claimed that he told him he couldn't help them.

If this is true, you could classify this as another example of the team lacking the inner fortitude to look to themselves for confidence.

If you're down 3-0, do you go running to your injured No. 1 goaltender, looking for a hero to save you from yourselves? And if he plays and you lose, does he automatically become the scapegoat?

Very interesting.

This is a difficult situation for both parties -- there's extreme risk involved for the team to remain involved with this player. But how often do you hear of anyone wanting to finish a job, and finish it with Ottawa of all teams? How do you handle that?

P.S. Check out the interesting reaction to the interview on the HF Boards.

If they had won

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

As per Argus' request, here is the unpublished column that would have appeared in the May 14 Sun, had the Sens gone up 3-2 in their series.

The Shawshank Redemption was a movie about hope, but I can’t quote it here. ESPN’s Bill Simmons has made it his life’s work to squeeze Shawshank references into everything. I think if I did it, I’d have to pay him royalties.

Therefore I’m left to quote another favourite – The Usual Suspects. Suspects is hardly hope-filled, but it did have a stellar line dropped by the mangiest of the Baldwin brothers – Stephen Baldwin. His character said this, when faced with what seemed to be an impossible task:

“There’s nothing that can’t be done.”

The Ottawa Senators aren’t about to head into a 91 million dollar drug heist on a boat. But they are continuing to face an uphill battle, game by game.

However, when the metaphorical snap of femurs occurred due to fans and media jumping off the bandwagon after three losses, you have to wonder how many are now currently parked in front of the couch with an entrée of crow.

Thursday’s meltdown was unlike anything this city has experienced. As far as many were concerned, Game 4 was simply a formality. You’d think it had already been played.

ESPN’s Scott Burnside described Daniel Alfredsson as “The face of Senators’ futility”, and surmised that if Alfie were to ever clutch Lord Stanley above his head, it would be “somewhere else, in a different jersey”. Sportsnet’s Ian Mendes referred to himself in his blog as “an idiot, for thinking this Senators team was going to win a game when it mattered.”

Was Alfredsson worthy of the criticism? Absolutely. As the team’s leader, he was expected to play a key role in rallying the troops when the team was down 3-0. And time after time, the Senators came onto the ice, without demonstrating a killer instinct. Worse still was the captain’s actual play, which lacked passion, and more importantly, offensive effectiveness.

But in the midst of a series, regardless of whether the team was on the brink of elimination, could we not have waited to discuss the ultimate legacy and future of Daniel Alfredsson in Ottawa? Can we save the trade scenarios until the Sens have completed their post-season play?

As for the belief that the Sens can’t win when it matters, that’s a difficult opinion to disagree with, because the Senators’ playoff history speaks volumes. But again, the timing of such a statement is critical. The series was incomplete. As of today, it still is. And how fair is it to criticize this team for not believing, when so many were ready to throw in the towel before they were even done?

If Alfredsson had put his shot three inches inside the post at the end of Game 3, we likely wouldn’t be discussing his future as a Senator. If Ray Emery had gotten his glove down on the tying Buffalo goal that led to overtime, and an eventual Sabres’ victory in Game 1, perhaps he could have squelched some of the negativity towards him.

And if the bandwagon jumpers had said their piece before a Senators’ Game 4 loss on Thursday, they would have appeared ahead of the curve – fully armed with their, “I told you so” retorts on Friday.

But that’s not the way it’s worked out so far.

Timing is everything right now. The Senators are trying to prove to themselves, the fans, and the NHL that their time isn’t up yet. The very least their supporters can do, is stick with them until the actual finish – be it good, bad, or extremely ugly.

More love from the readers

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Alternate title: 98% of the blog readers are male, and I know how you live to check out chicks in lingerie, so don't say that I never do anything nice for you.

P.S. The Cynic does not take requests -- you know how to use Google. Get busy.

Now onto the mail...once again, real mail, from real(ly) bizarre readers.

Is it really necessary to pull crap like this?:

"IDOL TIME: American Idol host Ryan Seacrest was recently involved in an affectionate photo-op with the Stanley Cup. One assumes this would be a great rebound from his recent "relationship" with Teri Hatcher -- the Cup has some meat on its frame and proves to be a better conversation piece."

I'm sure you're not friends with Ms. Hatcher-- in fact, I'm quite sure you've never met her-- and yet you feel as though you are qualified to sit in judgement on her. Sorry sweetie, she can't help it if she's naturally thin and beautiful and adored by many. I know it must be a blow to your own ego in some way that you should need to single her out, but what an ugly, base, lowbrow cheapshot for you to take... Not to mention the fact that it's a tacky "writing" gimmick used by sports columnists accross (sic) the country. You'd be better advised to be a renegade and acquire some taste.

The reply:

Dear Desperate Housewife,

Oh, please. Are you going to lose sleep over this?


Eonline!/Gawker/Defamer/US/InTouch/Scoop Editor-in-Chief

The final response:


I'm actually flattered that you replied (for real). Thank you!

This latest Hasek rumour is coming from someone possessing strong affiliations with the team and players:

Dom had been given medical clearance to play in the first round, but held back because he didn't feel 110% better. When he was asked to play in the Buffalo series, he said that he would if he received his bonus money, up front, guaranteed.

Hasek was to pull down an additional 3.5 million USD in bonuses if the team won a Stanley Cup. His salary for the 2005-06 season was 1.52 million USD.

It seems highly suspicious to me, regardless of Hasek's prima donna mentality, that he would waltz up to Muckler and demand a cheque for $3.5 million, before he even strapped on the pads. But who knows?

On the surface, it comes off as pretty damn far fetched. However, my source (oh Jesus, I can't believe I just said that) is extremely reliable.

P.S. The rumour is completely free of any Boo Boo-related influence.

New request

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A request for the commentators: Please keep your thoughts to 250 words at the very most. Between reader email and posts to the blog, I have a very difficult time getting through all of it and responding. Some comments are pushing the 800-word mark. For the record, that's longer than my column. I'm honoured you think my diatribes are worthy of so much of your time, but at some point, common sense has got to kick in.

I don't have the time to respond to everything, point by point, and I desperately want to. So again, please...keep it succinct.

Let that be the last time

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The last time we see Alfredsson lack the killer instinct. The last time we watch Redden act like a pylon.

The following will be the column that appears tomorrow. I'll leave this up for the meantime, because it's the way I feel, and I really don't have anything else to add right now.

The Boston Red Sox fans can sympathize. Surely the Atlanta Braves supporters can as well.

The problem is, both of them have championships to show for their misery, regardless of when it began.

Nine seasons. Nine seasons of playoff berths. Nine seasons that saw the Ottawa Senators finish five times with 100+ points. There was a President’s Trophy, and a Jack Adams award-winning coach. Nine seasons that allowed the top defensive core in the league to form. Nine years that saw this team eventually emerge as the odds-on favourite to win it all -- a begrudging admission to make, specifically for the team’s many critics.

But these nine years also bore witness to a team perpetually on the losing end of a mental battle. Goaltending issues. Confidence issues. History kept repeating itself, yet everything seemed logical on paper. Why couldn’t it work out?

And more importantly, why couldn’t this year be different, when so many believed it would be?

When the Senators repeatedly fell short in the post-season, inevitably the blame fell upon former coach Jacques Martin. The implementation of Bryan Murray into the head-coaching role after Martin’s dismissal provided a clean slate behind the bench. GM John Muckler then began adding “names” into the Ottawa lineup. Dany Heatley. Dominik Hasek. Perceptions began to change.

And oddly enough, the lockout itself played a role in changing ideas about the Senators. It provided a buffer from the messiness of the past, almost allowing the team to approach the fresh league with a “new era” mentality.

However, the Senators’ history is never truly forgotten. Especially when reality rears its ugly head.

There’s something exceedingly frustrating about being on the cusp of greatness for so long, and lacking the ability to break through. Blowing through the regular season, tackling the majority of battles with ease, handling the rough spots with professionalism – it almost seems as if someone is handing the Sens a map with directions that lead straight to the world’s most famous trophy.

Poor navigation skills are one thing, but do we really need this many detours?

The Sacramento Kings know what it’s like. So do the Indianapolis Colts. The latter, in particular, have a very clear idea of how it feels to be labeled the favourite, only to perpetually come up short when it matters.

Teams on the cusp realize that their window of opportunity is short. If they linger, they risk breeding a psychological petri dish filled with cynics, bandwagon jumpers, and vicious monikers that stick like Crazy Glue.

Nicknames like the “c” word. Chokers.

Cusp teams run out of excuses when they last as long as the Senators have. You can only fire so many front office faces, trade so many players, and garner so many free agents.

Most of all, you can only lay the trust and hope in your fans’ hands for so long. Patience may be a virtue, but blind allegiance is not.

Nine seasons. Nine seasons of building and hoping -- of joy, but many more disappointments. Other teams’ fans have waited longer. They have pined and prayed for a breakthrough. Their patience is admirable.

Nine seasons is long enough for a Senators core to prove they are capable of bringing a championship to Ottawa. If they are unable to do so, then perhaps they should shut that window. Jump off the cliff. Get off that cusp. It’s seems blatantly clear that this nucleus of players can’t get it done. It might be time to find someone, somewhere, to become the eventual Senators who can.

Okay, it's a bit late for me to give you a breakdown of Thursday's win, so I'll just run with my recent thoughts from the last couple of days...

There's something oddly sweet about watching so many fans in the city go flying off the bandwagon, only to have the team shut everyone up for another 48 hours. When was the last time everyone threw in the towel before the series was even over? And don't say the most recent Leafs series, because fans produce enough vitriol to carry themselves through that particular situation. It was just so bloody bizarre -- the talk of firing Muckler, trading Alfredsson, breaking up the core...I'm not saying I don't agree with these ideas, but the series wasn't even done yet.

And it's one thing to have these discussions with your friends, in public, or even on the radio. The words get out there, they hang for a while, but they dissipate. Something as blatant as this piece by ESPN's Scott Burnside, referring to Alfredsson as "the face of Senators' futility", or "non-partisan" beat reporter Ian Mendes calling himself an "idiot" for believing are hysterical. The reason being? These pieces were both pumped out after Game 3, and before Game 4. And now they sit, for all to see, for all persons to go back and quote a very obvious demonstration of putting the cart before the horse.

I'm not saying Alfredsson wasn't worthy of the criticism. He absolutely was. His game for the most part has lacked passion, and more importantly, offensive firepower. But regardless of those facts, can't we wait to discuss his ultimate legacy and future in Ottawa? At least until the playoffs are over?

It may be over tonight. Maybe Monday. Maybe even later than that. But the point remains that it shouldn't be that much of a strain to stay on the bandwagon for four games. Casual comments of disappointment and pessimism, those are to be expected. But when you put yourself out there that far before the series is done, you're going to look rather silly when that so-called "expected" sweep doesn't occur.

Odd? Not really.

Friday, May 12, 2006

I was in the Hazeldean Shoppers Drug Mart this aft, and noticed something rather peculiar. There was a small amount of Maple Leafs paraphernalia located beside the Senators gear (car flags for Ottawa, magnets etc.). Here's what was weird: All the Leafs merchandise was infant-oriented. Bottles, soothers, baby booties et al.

Coincidence? I think not.

All quiet on the Cynic front

Thursday, May 11, 2006

With tonight's Senators win, I've been forced into an irritating situation. I will need to write two columns to cover each potential scenario, regardless of what happens Saturday night.

Therefore, I won't be giving you my thoughts on tonight's game right now...duty calls.

More later...hopefully.

P.S. Feel free to comment on the game in this post -- I'll attempt to sporadically interject my thoughts if possible.

One more night

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I found it somewhat amusing to learn tonight that Buffalo's mantra all season has been "no excuses" -- they share the moniker with a 'banger style of demim that was popular during the '80's. No doubt Lindy Ruff got the idea for the catchy slogan after staring at the posterior of some trashy Buffalo bar skank.

That's my best attempt at a swipe. To be fair, the Sabres don't deserve to be slagged. They've been nothing short of spectacular by holding the Senators at bay. And the only question that remains is, "What now?"

Ottawa doesn't have a dying assistant coach to come in and give them the pep talk of their careers. They don't have a young phenom waiting in the wings that they can turn to for Game 4. They have under 21 hours in ememy territory to prepare for the biggest game of their lives.

Emery played well once again, and managed to keep the Sens within striking distance with a healthy combination of key saves and dumb luck. But the offensive game, particularly along the boards, left something to be desired. I'm beginning to believe that I could sneeze and take any number of Ottawa players off the puck with ease. Chara once again rarely chose to play the body, and the defence remained up high during key chances -- Buffalo has forced them into a lose-lose situation for the majority of the series. Either stay back and not be able to help out with second chances on the rebound, or come down, risk getting caught and have Buffalo charge down the ice during a turnover. The point would be moot if the Sens could keep up with the Sabres' speed.

The most interesting part of the broadcast ironically had nothing to do with the game. It involved the ongoing discussion of Hasek's health, and Dom's recent positive comments. A clip was shown of Hasek practising, which led me to shout at the screen, "Go down! Go down!" I sounded like a pornography director.

My deadline for the column is Thursday. Game 4 is Thursday night. From a work standpoint, it's my feeling that if the Senators are going to tank this thing, I'd really appreciate it if they did it tomorrow.

Chara pseudo-update

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

This little tidbit regarding Chara's health comes across the pond from Cynic wingman Josh, who's currently holed up in a Dublin bar somewhere. He's probably got more Guinness in his bloodstream than platelets right now, but we can trust him. Here's his take on the speculation that Zdeno may be banged up:

"Chara can't be too hurt. He lives right beside my boss and he said he sees him outside gardening all the time lately and doing yard work. Probably getting the house ready to sell in a week, that's why!"

Well Z, that's lovely. We have no problem with you planting pansies. You just don't need to start acting like one.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Initial thoughts on Game 2...

Ottawa showed improvement -- they outplayed Buffalo for the vast majority of the game. However, Ryan Miller will be completely redeemed after tonight because Ottawa pelted the Buffalo goalie with 43 shots over 60 minutes. On the other side, Emery probably won't get a free pass from the critics, because he only faced 17 shots and barely a handful of serious chances. In other words, he has yet to squelch the criticism that began Friday night.

I don't know whether it's better to assume Daniel Alfredsson and Zdeno Chara are suppressing undisclosed injuries, or to surmise that they're simply demonstrating indifferent play. It pains me to suggest the latter, specifically in Chara's case (remember that he sat out of a recent practice, which could indicate something's up from a physical standpoint). Don Cherry referred to Alfredsson as "disinterested" tonight. I think that's the wrong choice of words. But his play definitely lacks passion, and there must be a reason behind it. Tonight's game was one of significance -- you could even use the term "desperation game" in Ottawa's case. Chara and Alfie's respective games said otherwise. But we have yet to understand the reasons why.

...because .

"Look at me! I'm passive-aggressive, non-committal Senators fan! I'm off this bandwagon quicker than a Bryan Smolinski wind sprint! The way I'm acting, you would assume the final score of Friday night's game was 7-0! It was, wasn't it? Ryan Miller for Vezina! That kid stopped everything! Put Mike Morrison in net for tonight! Give me Dominik Hasek's home address! I have morphine and self-affirmation books for him! I'm convinced the series is done! One bad game means that the series is done! Buffalo destroys! Buffalo is in the Sens' heads just like the Leafs are! Big bad Leafs! It's all about the Leafs! I can't stay on topic! The Senators' chances are OVER, because they lost the first
game! O-V-E-R! Snap go the car flags!"

The preceding rant was brought to you by the Sarcastic Voice of Reason. Please enjoy Game 2 responsibly.

(Aside -- Just because I mentioned the Leafs, doesn't mean we need to comment on them. The series involves Buffalo and Ottawa only. Rodogg, I'm looking at you.)

Is it wrong that I want to rub the Phoenix Suns' series victory in Bill Simmons' face like a grapefruit, James Cagney-style? Way to get ahead of yourself, Mensa. And of course, the victory was made all the sweeter by the presentation of Steve Nash's second MVP award. Unfortunately, the likelihood of Nash's legacy even making a significant difference to the growth of basketball in Canada is slim to none. Ask Wayne Gretzky how hard it is for one person to make a difference. Steve Nash is facing the same battle, and for him it likely would be much harder. Canadians are obsessed with a single sport, and the NBA currently has only one franchise in this country to sell the entire nation on.

And about that other competition on Friday? Someone got screwed. Just sayin'. And don't expect me to defend my gender on this one. Rachel's redneck smack is circa '95 -- she should have been bottom 5. Overall, I thought the field was extremely weak and the material subpar. Seanny has been running away with it far too easily, which makes for an anti-climatic event. Maybe they need to add a swimsuit competition.

Notice anything?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Just sayin'.


More email...I know how you live for it. This came from a reader who took exception to my Don Cherry observation last week (quote from column below that the reader included):

"Don Cherry: When you incorrectly identify the players involved in a specific and controversial issue (namely Chris Neil and Sean Burke, as opposed to Chris Neil and Chris Dingman), something’s wrong. We’re not exactly arguing over semantics here. It’s one thing to stir up a discussion — it’s completely another to be unaware of the facts (and significant history) going in."

But, he was right on the button this time. How tough can a player be, pointing at a goalie and challenging him? Chris Neil is the epitome of one of the biggest NON tough guys of all time. No matter who Neil was pointing at, he still did the big bad turtle when it came time to answer the bell. Oh, for sure, maybe just maybe he wouldn't have turtled if Burke came after him, but that would be a typical Senator play, to beat up a goalie. (Ed. Note: Whaa?)

If you are going to threaten the other teams goalie, then you need to be man enough to answer the call when the inevitable challenge comes. All year, Neil hid behind McGrattan, and now that big bad Brian sits all the time, Neil resorts to the little turtle move. Ain't that just like a Senator?

I noticed more dives in game one by the Senators against Buffalo than I've seen in an Olympic diving event. (Ed. Note: Don't know what game he was watching.) Man, what the Sabres had to do to overcome the absolutely atrocious officiating to win that game was immense. Here's to Buffalo for showing more heart and desire than ANY of the Senators can muster up. (Ed Note: Like who? Fisher?) The Sens were basically handed this game on a silver platter, and STILL could not win. That's not a good sign. Don was on the ball this time. One of the few times Don is ever right.

Marcus Allen then responds:

Hi there -- thanks for writing.

You're entitled to your opinion regarding Chris Neil, and I'm not going to indicate whether or not I share it, because it's irrelevant in regards to the point I was making in the column.

Chris Neil pointed at Sean Burke, and not Chris Dingman. The reason being that he has a history with Burke that dates back to the infamous Philly-Ottawa brawl. Cherry did not reference Sean Burke at all, and indicated that Neil was pointing at Dingman, who wasn't even on the ice at the time. That's all I was stating in the column. Nothing more, nothing less. Don was wrong because he identified the wrong player.

As for the rest of it...

Of course Neil turtled. Who's going to deny that? There was no need for him to fight, code be damned. The score was 5-2 in favour of Ottawa. There was a playoff game at stake. He obviously wasn't proud of what he did -- the _expression was all over his face. The camera was perpetually on him afterward, and he didn't smile once. In fact, he looked extremely embarrassed. But drawing those seven minutes in penalties was the difference in that game, because it completely destroyed any momentum that the Lightning were building at the time (and they were -- Ottawa was on their heels). He played the role of pest. He turtled. He took one for the team and it paid off. Scoreboard.

As for Brian McGrattan currently being a healthy scratch -- the last time I checked, fighting was a rarity in the playoffs and generally remains highly discouraged at this time of year. Neil had 33 points in the regular season. McGrattan had 5.

Those are the facts. Anything else boils down to subjective opinion. Thanks again for writing and take care.

Erin Nicks

P.S. I can't remember any specific examples of "typical Senators play" in which an Ottawa player "beat up" a goalie. If you can, feel free to remind me because it must be an aberration. But "typical" suggests this would be a regular occurrence, and if I can't remember any player-goalie brawls taking place, then something must be wrong with my memory. If there was any goalie involvement whatsoever, it would certainly only involve the backstoppers themselves, as that it is the norm. Ray Emery can more than hold his own (as demonstrated by his AHL history), and he has yet to fight thus far.

The Las Vegas Review Journal's Norm Clarke comes through once again, this time with reports that Arizona Cardinals' top pick and general pretty boy Matt Leinart is dating Paris Hilton.

I expressed disgust at this revelation in a casual back-and-forth with Adam at The Hater Nation, who claimed that if "(You) want to know why he's with Hilton, then you should see the video."

Well, I have. And I can tell you that Hiton's moves are straight out of Cosmo, circa '96. Any man with a shred of common sense and a taste for Russian roulette would rather lick a cutting board covered with raw pork, egg white and Ebola virus. Tell me a wholesome, tanned girl from ASU with more tequila than hemoglobin in her bloodstream wouldn't show Leinart a better time.

Memo to Matt: Phoenix is the U.S. capital of female pulchritude. Mix in some restraint, and perhaps a visit to your friendly neighbourhood free clinic. God knows what that crazy chick is carrying...she even seems to be enjoying that cow's company a bit too much.

Don't blame me

Thursday, May 04, 2006

If you were watching all of the first-round playoff series, or even if you weren't, you probably got a pretty good idea of what each team's respective marketing groups were doing. Montreal went with the red towels and their "Ole" song from the regular season. Calgary's "Red Out" was effective. Tampa stuck with the insipid thundersticks, as did Ottawa.

But the winners for best accessories and accompanying song thus far goes to Edmonton, and of all teams, Anaheim. Edmonton's silver pom poms were noticeable (especially when the crowd would use them to taunt Manny Legace), and attractive.

Anaheim made a very shrewd decision when it selected Pennywise's Bro Hymn. It's a local connection (the band is from Hermosa Beach), the clip selected is highly singable as well as aggressive, and it's extremely original. You can listen to the clip that the Ducks use below.

Why is this relevant? Simple. I have a beef, and it seems a number of others do as well.

There have been casual complaints made about the Senators' playoff marketing scheme. Some were made publicly, and others were discussed amongst the fans themselves.

Some have taken issue with the game-opening festivities (plodding music, same tired antics). Others believe the team could've come up with a more original idea than "Rev up the Red" -- an idea that seemed to be plagiarized from Calgary.

Above is the logo being used on the playoff t-shirts. "Sens Army"? Seriously? Is this the best they could come up with? Apparently. Was this the only idea on the table?


How do I know that?

Because I submitted an idea of my own.

(See, I knew I was going to get to my point eventually.)

When the NHL broke for the Olympics, I corresponded with the Senators' V.P. of marketing, and submitted a theme and song that I believed to be original and effective.

Playing off the idea of "Leafs Nation", I decided that Sens fans should align under one banner. I chose "Empire", because a) it was a theme that hadn't been readily used in the NHL and b) it made sense, based on the logo and team name.

The corresponding song was The Empire Strikes First, by Bad Religion. It was heavy, hardly prototypical, and featured a chorus that fans could easily chant. What more do you want out of a playoff song? You can listen to it below.

The V.P. liked the idea, was familiar with the song (which I took as a positive sign), but claimed that they had already decided on a idea that he believed to be "similar".

That idea was obviously the Sens Army.

Now just imagine how torched I was to discover this vague and uncreative idea had been chosen over mine.

I won't lie: I had some personal motives. I'm a huge Bad Religion fan (the blog's title was taken from a B-side song), and have interviewed the band on their hockey preferences several times (they love the NHL). The likelihood of getting them to perform in Ottawa at a game if the Senators went far in the playoffs, could have been accomplished with relative ease. And the coup de grâce? One of the members has been photographed for the band's liner notes in Senators gear on several occasions.

Maybe the band's political views scared them. Maybe they were just stubborn. But the fact remains that the Senators' marketing staff was given an idea with a multitude of angles to hit on, and they turned it down.

Now you know the rest of the story.

The waiting game

Monday, May 01, 2006

As the Senators await their next opponent, the Cynic has been keeping busy on other beats. And there are also a select few of us that are eternally grateful to Dora the Explorer's road show for pushing the Sens out of the SBP on Saturday and Sunday. This will allow certain columnists to comment on the Sens' series for once.

But today and tomorrow will be earmarked as days off (or "orf") for yours truly. I'm planning on being scarce around here, but who knows how it'll fall out.

See you soon...yeah hey!

P.S. The above photo features everyone's favourite dinged Czech goaltender, engaging in a favourite downtime activity of his.

Actually, the NHL would prefer them in the stands right now. Here's a really interesting piece from the Wall Street Journal on the league's efforts to get celebrities out to games. So far the league has lured Survivor *cough* star, Jeff Probst into seeing a Kings game, and even threw in glass seats as an added incentive.

But it hasn't always been an easy sell. Steve Carell from NBC's The Office declined this invitation, as did his castmates. The NHL sent George Clooney a VIP pass to any playoff game anywhere. (How much do you think that would go for on eBay?) Clooney's reps claim he hasn't received the pass, but that he's strictly a "football, basketball and baseball guy". I think that's Hollywood-speak for, "Nah, I'm good."

It's a pity the games no longer appear on Fox in a situation like this -- the cameras would be treated to half the cellblock from Prison Break.

[Link credit: Deadspin]