by SENShobo on 09/16/10 at 10:42 AM ET
Alfredsson’s All-Star memories, Lee’s (possibly) last shot, Kovalev’s career goal, and Michalek’s confident recovery, but first. . .
In addition to the all-star game on the final day, the four days of festivities will also include a young stars game — for rookies and second-year players — and a skills competition, both also at Scotiabank Place, an interactive showcase for fans at the soon-to-be-completed convention centre in downtown Ottawa, a “legends” game of shinny on the Rideau Canal and numerous other events tied into Winterlude.
He also said the city has a unique opportunity to put its own stamp on the all-star game by linking it to Winterlude, one of the world’s largest winter festivals, and he congratulated Melnyk and Leeder “for making such a compelling bid for what we believe is a marquee event.”
The event secure, only two potential points of contention arise.
Using Winterlude and the world’s largest ice rink to their full potential, especially in these days of outdoor game excitement, goes without question. Yet not only will it be the modern Senators franchise turning 20 during Ottawa’s All-Star Game,
but that birthday will be shared by the arena’s scoreboard
Scotiabank Place and its scoreboard will be turning 15. Going by the Penguins, Islanders, and Oilers, rinks can last 40-50 years, but scoreboards show their age far sooner. It’s not hard to see the difference between the displays in Ottawa and elsewhere in the League.
To listen out there, however, you will find some dissension. On one hand, the Ottawa Sun’s Garrioch suggests that Melnyk is saying that there won’t be a marquee scoreboard for the marquee event. On the other, Erin Nicks suggests that her source has Senators President Cyril Leeder saying that a new scoreboard was part of the deal with the League to land the event.
Scoreboards will run seven figures easily, no small chunk of change to toss around, but Ottawa’s is showing its age. Hopefully this is coming, and this isn’t a ploy on the Sun’s part to get frustrated readers and letters before an official announcement comes out.
The other concern, and interesting possibility, centers around the game itself.
In the past, the all-star game itself has earned its share of criticism because the action, with no hitting and little defence, bears little resemblance to an actual game. To some observers, the event has grown a tad stale.
Bettman allowed that the league could tinker with the current format before the 2012 game.
“We’ve changed it up over the years,” he said. “The introduction of the skills, the modification of the skills, the format of the all-star game itself, that’s something we continue to look at.
“I’m not going to predict today what it will look like in 2012. We still have 2011 in Carolina first, but people understand that the all-star game is not like a regular season or a playoff game. The events … are really a bringing together of the NHL family, along with our fans here and a celebration of our sport.”
I have said many times that the best way to achieve a more exciting game is through proper motivation, ideally through the AHL All-Star Game’s current format, pitting Canadian players against those from the rest of the world. That lays the foundation to tap into the rivalry of the Olympics and World Championships, but better motivation than the MVP of the game winning a sponsored car he’ll immediately donate to charity after the game is needed. Perhaps putting up a few Canadian and global cities as possible sites for pre-season or event Premiere Series regular season game(s) for the winning team or its MVP to choose from? Otherwise, the prime motivator will only ever be the hometown fans that pushed Kovalev to his MVP performance in Montreal.
From the Ottawa Senators website, on Alfredsson’s initial All-Star impression,
Speaking at a luncheon held earlier today at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Alfredsson smiled as he recalled his first of five NHL all-star game appearances. He was a quiet 23-year-old rookie from Sweden who arrived at the FleetCenter in Boston for the 1996 mid-season classic, not entirely comfortable with the native language spoken all around him.
Not only that, Alfredsson found himself sharing a dressing room with such NHL luminaries at Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Jaromir Jagr and Martin Brodeur, a who’s who of future Hall of Famers.
“That was the Daniel Alfredsson who didn’t speak very much,” he said. “I was very shy. It was my rookie year and most of the stars that were on the team were way up there in my estimation. My English was okay at the time but not great, so I didn’t speak very much. All in all, it was an eye-opening experience and I was able to bring my parents as well. I had a great time.”
There is a chance that this early encounter helped shape Alfredsson into the captain that Senators fans adore. That, if nothing else, is something that should be preserved.
The Senators’ most compelling story could come on defence. While Sergei Gonchar, Chris Phillips, Filip Kuba, Erik Karlsson, Chris Campoli and Matt Carkner are considered to be locks to start the season, there’s room for a newcomer or two to challenge for a spot. Clouston issued a not-so-subtle message to Brian Lee, the ninth player selected in the 2005 NHL entry draft, with prospects Jared Cowen, Patrick Wiercioch and Eric Gryba all pushing to make the team.
“We want to have a good look at a couple of the young guys and I think you have to include Brian Lee in that scenario,” the coach said. “Obviously, it wasn’t the season Brian wanted last season, but we still have a lot of confidence in him and we feel he’s going to be a big part of our team in the future.”
There would appear to be little room for new arrivals at forward, considering that 12 returning players have guaranteed NHL salaries. Yet it’s no secret the Senators like Zack Smith, because of his combination of speed and grit, for a possible fourth-line role.
With all the talk about Cowen and Wiercioch from the rookie tournament, hearing Brian Lee’s name pop up might come as a surprise to some. It shows that Clouston is taking the right approach, never giving up on a player that management has deemed fit to be a part of the organization, and never considering giving a roster spot to someone who has not earned it over the competition.
Of the top-heavy 2005 draft, only Skille (with Chicago) has played fewer games than Lee, but he will get a shot at the cap-depleted Chicago roster in a way Lee could only hope for. Perhaps that, combined with pressure from Cowen and Wiercioch, or from the contracts of the two men selected after Lee (Kopitar and Marc Staal) might add to the urgency. His finally one-way contract shows that he does not have the patience of a Jimmy Howard, but unless he pushes hard enough to fill whichever role Clouston asks of him, he may finally wear out his time with the Senators.
From the Ottawa Sun, on Kovalev’s thoughts heading into main camp,
“It really bothered me last year to shoot,” said Kovalev, who is just 10 points shy of becoming the 75th player in history to reach the 1,000 plateau. “I don’t know where that came from. Maybe I did too much shooting (last) summer. I just kind of struggled (with it). It was up and down. It’d get to the point where it was hard to handle the puck sometimes.
“We tried all kinds of things. Sometimes it would feel fine for a little while, then it would come back again. I didn’t want to go into surgery and miss the games. I was capable to play and everything. But you want to play a game with a clear mind, instead of thinking about this is bothering me or that is bothering me, how can I play around it?”
“It happened to me in Montreal, the first year, where the team had to adjust ... there’s certain things the coach liked to do. Same thing. I’m a new player on this team. They have to find use for me, playing different positions.
“You know, overall, I liked everything about it. Maybe I didn’t produce as I’d like to produce, but I thought that I had enough chances to score 25, 27 goals, and I just didn’t. You’ve just kind of got to move on, every year.”
Plenty of other good notes on Kovalev in the article, but as I have mentioned before, Kovalev was as productive as he has ever been at even strength last season, based on how much Clouston used him. Saying that his contract year will not change his play, and allowing that there is little chance he can improve on his top even strength production, it is only the lagging powerplay production that could help.
That is where Gonchar comes in, alongside a healthy Kuba, a less-green Karlsson, and a motivated Campoli. Or, another reason to think about trying the three scoring line approach I mentioned yesterday, taking more pressure off of Kovalev. Even without serious roster battles, it is still an interesting pre-season to watch.
From the Ottawa Sun, on Michalek’s readiness for the season ahead,
“It would be great, to have the same start, but to keep it going for the whole year would be great,” the 25-year-old Senators left winger said Wednesday, when he and Alex Kovalev became the final regulars to join their teammates for the last game of the summer hockey season. “We’ll see. I just want to stay healthy. That’s the main goal now.”
Michalek’s fortunes started going south Jan. 7, when he went down with a shoulder injury that sidelined him for seven games. And while he finished the season at a much slower scoring pace with 22 goals, his luck around the net was worst March 18, when he wrapped his left knee around a goal post in Atlanta.
A couple of comeback attempts, including one in the playoffs, proved fruitless. Michalek had torn the ACL in his left knee six years after suffering a similar injury in his right one.
“The ACL is one of the hardest (to rehab) I think, but I had it before, so I knew what to do and everything,” he said. “That made it easier for me. But still, it’s a lot of hard work everyday. I got into great shape. So hopefully, it’s going to be good.”
That early production definitely entices, and with some health on his part gives Ottawa a better chance at looking for a solid top two scoring lines, or a better chance at a balanced and productive three. As with Alfredsson, Kuba, and Kovalev, a healthy body alone will be a boost. Tuesday can’t come fast enough.
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