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Welcome back. (More about this sign, and other Northwestern Ontario goodness later.)

If you were at the Senators Fan Fest yesterday (and I was -- I rushed back from Thunder Bay to be here in time for it), you'd probably understand the title of the post. Now it seems clear why they were handing out those ridiculous paper helmets circa the Gretzky Era. Not only did they make everyone look like they belonged on a short bus, but I'm convinced that they lowered everyone's respective IQ as well. I was not impressed with what I saw yesterday, and my concern mostly involved the players who will make up the final squad. Here are a couple of quick notes:

Martin Gerber: You'll notice that Gerber's poor performance was mentioned in today's Sun, but it doesn't explain what the issue was. From my vantage point, I saw an uninspired performance, lacking the effort and crispness of an efficient No. 1 goalie. The rebuttal to all of these complaints will be, "it's a practice". It doesn't matter. You have to be expected to perform, regardless of the situation, and especially if you're pulling down down $3.7 million a year. That certainly wasn't the goaltender who gave Team Canada fits at the Turin Olympics. If this continues, expect some sort of "Swiss Miss" moniker to arise -- likely from me.

Alexei Kaigorodov: I tried to keep an open mind regarding the White Knight -- but it was difficult, given that I've been reading the HFBoard's insistence that the 23-year-old was some sort of Russian deity for nearly a year. And after yesterday, I can tell you that every concern I've read about him is true: The haphephobia, the sketchy faceoffs etc. He also wanted nothing to do with the boards, seemingly creating a barrier between himself and any edge -- it was like bumper bowling on ice. But probably the biggest irritation involved his insistence to casually reach with his stick, as opposed to skating for the puck. These Gumby-like attempts were completely ineffective, but I do understand why he doesn't make the effort to move his legs: The White Knight has all the pickup of a three-cylinder Geo Metro.

Joe Corvo: I now understand why Joe Corvo is labeled as an offensive defenseman -- he's got the same disease as every Dominican ball player in the MLB: He'll take a swipe at anything that comes his way. Patience is definitely not Corvo's forte, and it shows -- whenever the puck arrives in his direction, he panics and immediately fires in the direction of the net, refusing to pass to his open linemate. Granted, some are bound to go in, but the idea of putting this high-strung player on the same line as Wade Redden doesn't seem like the best idea (Corvo and Redden played together for the majority of the scrimmage). The former King is entirely too reckless and needs a stay-at-home defenseman like Chris Phillips to bail him out if he gets into trouble in his own zone (and he does -- regularly). At one point, Corvo blindly followed Redden down the right side, deep into the offensive zone. Both were hugging the boards, and the rest of the ice was wide open. Do you want to see that happen in the playoffs? Yeah, that's what I thought. If Redden and Corvo stay together, expect Redden's offensive numbers to drop off.

Not only was I unimpressed with what I saw from these three, I was bored for the majority of the scrimmage. This team seemingly lacks any kind of identity, and although the goal is still the same (win the Stanley Cup), the path to it doesn't appear as clear. Chris Stevenson attempted to put a positive spin on this revelation in a Friday piece, but after reading it, I was left feeling perplexed. Here's a quote:

"With the personnel changes made this summer -- the departure of Zdeno Chara, Martin Havlat, Dominik Hasek, Vaclav Varada, Bryan Smolinski, etc. -- this Senators team won't be as skilled as some in the past.

But you know what? That's not necessarily a bad thing. Really, what's all that skill got them so far?"

I will agree that there's less skill, but has that skill been replaced with another positive attribute -- like heart, for example? Of course not. Less skill, and the same lack of intensity. How is this supposed to sell tickets?

The ironic thing is, it did -- and then some. 13,000 single-game tickets for the first half of the season were sold on Saturday.

It really explains the power of those paper helmets, doesn't it?

4 responses to "Fan Fest-ooned with uncertainty"

  1. Aha! She's back.

    I don't dispute your observations at the "Fan Fest", since I didn't see the game. But still - isn't it a little hasty to rate Gerber's performance based on a lone intra-squad game? Yes, you acknowledged that this argument already, but still. The Cup isn't won in September.

    From a pure entertainment perspective, the lack of identity thing would bother me. How do you get excited at the sight of Corvo charging out of the tunnel? Ottawa has spent years trying to nurture some character development on the team - I don't get the feeling that the new additions are the heart-and-soul warriors the team has needed for so long.

    But on the other hand, other than Chara, the players lost are pretty forgettable. Who needs Pothier?

    Since the core of the team remains intact, questions surrounding team identity have to rest with the cornerstone players who have been the face of the team for so long. Aldfredsson, Phillips, Redden, Fisher, Neil.



  2. Of course it's early, but as I said, Gerber is pulling down a big salary -- bigger than any Sens goaltender in recent history. Not only that, the team has signed a three-year contract with him. Combine this revelation with the memory of Hasek busting his ass at every practice he attended. I expect the same thing from Gerber, and everyone else will, as well. This isn't Raleigh, and we've been convinced that Gerber is the right man for the job. You know how fairweather the fans (and media) can be here. The minute they sense any kind of trouble, they'll turn on him. Gerber has to make the right impression immediately -- and his first opportunity was yesterday.

    Havlat is another name that people are going to miss, mostly because he was nurtured through the system for a number of years, and great things were expected of him. He was a big part of that "skilled" identity that the Senators have depended on for years.

    I completely agree with you that these new-schoolers are not going to bring that gritty flavour that the team has been searching for. And your observation regarding the rest of the team picking up the slack is dead-on as well -- hence the reason why I wrote about it this past Sunday.

    The Universal Cynic

  3. I missed your column on Sunday. Going over it now, my comments seem pretty redundant.

    I thought about including Havlat in my post, but since he was barely on the scene last year, I wondered if he might be a case of, "we hardly knew ye" kind of thing.

    I haven't seen Wendel in any commercial. Here is a hilarious tribute to him though. I can't believe he submitted to doing this!




  4. Wendel's commercial is for Shoeless Joe's. You can check the ad out here: http://shoelessjoes.ca. The awkward posing reminds me of a Sears catalogue ad.

    The Universal Cynic