Currently, it is inseparable from the Detroit Red Wings organization.
If you have watched some of the Ottawa Senators’ road to the draft videos, it is the reason that prospects don’t merely ride a bike at the combine until their insides want out; prospects are interviewed, invited to NHL cities, and even dine in the homes of NHL captains, all with the hopes of searching it out.
Despite being a most coveted quality for any player or organization to possess, it takes the longest development route, and it can disappear in a flash. With so much riding on it this week, can Ottawa handle this key organizational and roster asset well?
Alfredsson’s Ottawa address was a foregone conclusion, as much due to his cult status in the city to his current injury woes.
Given that exception, if you were to draw up a list of impossible trades that would never happen, Murray performing a coup de gras on the team’s leadership and community anchors, by shipping out Mike Fisher, would have been at the top of the list. But the man many thought might take up Alfredsson’s captaincy someday, leader enough to let Heatley have the ‘A’ before he departed, is indeed gone. There is much to like about Fisher’s game from Nashville’s perspective, and much to like about a first round pick whose conditional pick has never quite been explained properly (it’s a 2012 2nd round pick if Nashville wins two playoff series this year, but Ottawa hasn’t made it clear if it’s a 2012 3rd round pick if Nashville fails to win any rounds).
While Nashville will be the team talking more about intangibles when speaking of Fisher’s value to the team, you have to look at the intangibles Ottawa has further solidified in the act that sent Mike away.
At the beginning of December, I let it be known that I would be going through change with respect to my blogging. At first, I thought it might only be due to the fact that I was entering the charged and key final term of my mechanical engineering undergraduate career. The very career that opened me to my three great interests: engineering leading me to writing and editorial roles, and those roles leading me to hockey.
To complete this educational career phase, I thought that I should focus on my education to the near exclusion of the other two. Not long into that decision, however, hockey insisted that if I had to focus on engineering, it would complete the circle and insert itself right into the thick of all things engineering related.
My personal life would not likely interest many readers here, and so I seldom spoke of it. But those readers I have might wonder where I have been.
That, and there might be a pique of curiosity in those who wonder how engineering, university research, and composite hockey sticks fit into the discussion on Kukla’s Korner.
There may not be burning jerseys the way LeBron James inspired Cleveland, but if you look around Ottawa, Heatley’s return is definitely getting all kinds of rise out of the city.
How could it not? Usually people speak of Ottawa as the town without a tongue, voiceless government employees who seem to willingly give up their seats to transplanted Canadian divisional rivals’ fans, a small market team with small upside.
As players and coaches determine how best to play the game as much for the two points they need in the standings as for the irate fans in the stands and other matters currently less apparent, the reality of Ottawa’s passion — and the reason there is a need for it — is much different.
For those who read my blog, I thank you. I have been gone these past several days due to personal illness.
In that time, I have come to ponder this blog. While I do not have it in me to stop proselytizing about everything I see, change is needed.
Kuba’s return not all smiles, Elliott’s opportunity wide open, and condolences for the Richardson family, but first. . .
THE STORY: The Ottawa Senators’ challenging road trip got off on the right foot against the Boston Bruins Saturday night, but their next opponent is even tougher. The Philadelphia Flyers are feeling no ill effects from their long run through the playoffs last season and, interestingly, seem to be getting stronger with every passing game. Perhaps watching the Chicago Blackhawks pass the Stanley Cup around their rink last June is a motivating factor.
THE OPPONENT: Philadelphia has been dominant on both sides of the puck this season. Only the Washington Capitals score more goals per game (3.61 to 3.41) than the Flyers, and only four teams (Kings, Bruins. Habs and Blues) average fewer goals against. With a talented, young forward corps and a defence anchored by punishing elder statesman Chris Pronger, this is the team to beat in the East.
After a 2-0 blanking of Boston, it only makes sense to turn up the heat and see if the Senators can prove it’s not a fluke.
Notes on Fisher’s adjustments and a bad Ottawa omen, but first. . .
“In our first two shifts (of the third), we just didn’t break the puck out the way we should, the way we needed to,” Senators coach Cory Clouston said. “Three or four times we had the puck on our stick and made wrong decisions and they capitalized.”
Leclaire and the Senators wanted so much more, aiming to prove themselves against the Canucks, who have the look and the personnel of Stanley Cup contenders. While Leclaire wasn’t terrible — Clouston said the Senators “didn’t give him any support” — the loss certainly isn’t going to help him steal playing time from fellow goaltender Brian Elliott. It’s also not going to provide the Senators with much confidence when playing against the league’s elite teams.
“I thought it was a pretty good game for two periods,” Leclaire said. “I thought we were playing pretty well and it was a good up and down game. Then we had a couple of turnovers and they made us pay for it and they got a few bounces and things were going their way. It was just boom, boom, boom and it was hard to come back.”
The third-period blowout took away from what had been two spirited, evenly played periods. It was a bit of a coach’s nightmare, with odd-man rushes, countless turnovers and bouncing pucks around both Leclaire and Luongo, but it made for great entertainment.
Scoring and chances matched for two thirds of the game, and then things got out of hand. Or right where you’d expect them to be.
Notes on Ottawa’s improving defence, Kuba’s decision on his return, a nagging problem with Elliott, updates from the morning skate, the challenging games ahead, Spezza’s all around ambitions, and Butler’s progress on the farm, but first. . .
THE STORY: The Ottawa Senators are rolling with four straight wins, but they have a major barrier to navigate around on Thursday night. His name is Roberto Luongo and he’s backed by a team many are picking to win the Stanley Cup this season. You could look at the Canucks’ 2-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday one of two ways: As a harbinger of a lousy road trip, or major motivation to pop in a bunch of goals against their next opponent.
THE SUBPLOTS: Could Pascal Leclaire make his first start since mid-October in this contest? If Brian Elliott hadn’t missed practice with a mystery tweak Wednesday, the answer would almost certainly be no. Leclaire just might get the opportunity to turn the tables on his puck-stopping colleague, however, who took advantage of an injury to swipe the No. 1 job and hold it. If Leclaire does start and manages to pick up a big win against a Western Conference powerhouse, coach Cory Clouston would have a tough call to make Saturday.
At long last, the real test begins.
Leclaire’s turn won’t come easily, and Ottawa still slacking in seat support, but first. . .
The Senators were again led by centre Jason Spezza, who had two goals and one assist and seems to be following a odd pattern of inconsistency since returning five games ago from a groin injury. It’s all or nothing.
In two of those five games, he has had multiple points, a total of three goals and four assists. In three other games, he has had nothing. That’s production coach Cory Clouston would like Spezza to even out. For his part, Spezza said he was starting to feel normal after his return to the Senators’ lineup.
“I felt good in the preseason, worked hard during the summer, and got off to a bad start because of injuries,” he said.
“But I’m feeling better now and excited to get playing. Our line’s starting to get some chemistry. (Winger Alex Kovalev) is playing real well, and we hope to build off it.”
“It has been a process,” Clouston said.
“It didn’t just happen automatically. It was almost like we were playing to not lose instead of playing to win. But in the last little while we’ve been able to put more of a complete game together. Most of that is confidence and not having that 0-2 start, that tough record, in the back of your mind.”
Despite the healthy 5-2 score, the Senators managed to put on display their range of talents and show where they still have yet to measure up to their standards.
Michalek and Kuba stagger their returns, Regin rises as Foligno falls, and Leclaire needs to play, but first. . .
THE STORY: Well, it’s official: The streaky Sens are back. Both general manager Bryan Murray and coach Cory Clouston said prior to the start of the season that they were hoping for a little more consistency from their group this year. As long as the Senators’ winning streaks are consistently longer than their losing streaks, I’m sure they can live with a few ups and downs. Ottawa has picked up five victories in its last six games to climb back into a virtual tie for fifth in the Eastern Conference. The fact they’re tied with four other teams (including tonight’s opponent — Atlanta), illustrates just how close they are to falling back again. If they’re to make the playoffs, it’ll likely be at the Thrashers’ expense.
THE OPPONENT: Is it possible that the Atlanta Thrashers are a better team without perennial 30-40 goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk? Just ask the New Jersey Devils. While they’re dead last in the NHL after the splashy in-season trade and controversial summer signing, the Thrashers are rolling right along. Exciting youngster Niclas Bergfors has actually outscored Kovalchuk so far this season (nine points to eight) after coming over from New Jersey, which also shipped solid defenceman Johnny Oduya, a first rounder and a prospect to Georgia in the Kovalchuk deal. Yep, Atlanta probably thinks that deal worked out just peachy.
You would think that with Vancouver, Boston, Philadelphia, and St. Louis all in the next ten days, Atlanta should be the easy bet for a few points along the way. You would think.
Native of Northern California. Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.
I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle. I watch, I react, I write it down.
My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked. I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind. When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom. It hasn't, I don't think it will. At all.
Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.
I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.
I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org