Kukla's Korner


Ottawa’s exhibition begins

Young and old roster jostling, the pre-season begins, jersey number hidden meaning, and Alfie’s camp preferences, but first. . .

From the Ottawa Sun (and SENS), on what glue the rookies will need to stick with the club,

Cowen, the Senators’ first pick in 2009, says his camp has been “okay” thus far. Others think maybe a notch below.

“For sure, there’s lots of distractions, lots of little comments from people that kind of get in your head sometimes,” said the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder. “The biggest thing is just to get out there and play the way I usually play.”

“Obviously the goal is to make the team. I think you come here and have anything less, you’re not going to play at all. If I do get sent back, I understand. It’s the National Hockey League. It’s obviously not easy to make. I expect it be nothing less than hard. Whatever happens, happens, I guess.”

Wiercioch was the team’s best defenceman at the rookie tournament. His strength is the transition game, moving the puck, but the Senators would like to see him start executing quicker.
“I’m an offensive-minded defenceman, but I need to prove I can hold my own in my own end. Do the best I can do with that, and possibly chip in here and there offensively.”

Aside from the crowd on the blue line, there is a more obvious reason for the rookies to try to shine in their own end.

From the Ottawa Sun, on David Hale’s roster leg up on the rookies,

David Hale has a little something on the rookies with whom he’s battling for a suddenly available defenceman’s job in Ottawa.

It’s called 302 games of NHL experience.

All things equal in performance, the Senators would likely keep Hale over top prospects like Patrick Wiercioch and Jared Cowen among the seven blueliners they take into the regular season next month. They signed the 29-year-old Hale to a two-way contract in the summer just in case of an injury like the broken leg that will keep Filip Kuba out of action until November.

“It’s extremely exciting,” Hale said of making his Senators debut Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre. “I know there’s an opportunity there. I just need to go out and showcase my skills.”

It took an awfully good showing, and Karlsson still could not spend the entire season in the NHL; Cowen and Wiercioch will need even more to beat out a guy like Hale. The Senators have been leaning more and more towards the Detroit “over-ripening” method of prospect development for all but the brightest stars, and even having to return Cowen to the WHL would seem to play better into Ottawa’s plans than keeping him should he be unready.

Given that Ottawa will lack Kuba for the next month and change, and has only Phillips and Carkner as its top two defensive defenders, the style of Hale — where you would not get even seven points out of him over a full season, with a little more than a hit per game and a little less than a blocked shot per game — seems better paired for Ottawa. Since the departures of Redden, Corvo, Meszaros, Preissing, and Chara, the Sens have yet to go for a run and gun group on the ice akin to the Capitals’ style, for all the differing assets of the two teams.

It will take good minutes in all situations for the pair to work their way into the equation past the pre-season, along with some reliable work for a few other guys.

From the Ottawa Sun (and OC), on tonight’s pre-season roster situation,

The three goalies going to Toronto are Brian Elliott, Robin Lehner and Mike Brodeur. Clouston said two of them will play half a game while the other will play two halves.

Leclaire and Elliott, who will be the Senators two goalies to start the season barring injury, will each play at least two full games before the season starts.
As for his battle with Elliott for the No. 1 job, Leclaire said: “We’re good buddies. We both want to play and we’ll keep pushing each other.”

Michalek, Spezza, Alfredsson, Fisher, Kovalev, and Gonchar will also save their energy for further injury recuperation or to dazzle hometown fans. If, like me, you are not a hometown fan, you might be able to catch tonight’s game on the internet, courtesy the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The surprise I expect from goaltending this season? That for once, Ottawa will have legitimate men back in net. It will not be the story of Elliott outshining Leclaire, or Pascal being lifted over Brian by Wamsley. There will be no articles about an Ottawa goaltender speeding down the highway, cutting someone off, or being late for practice or plane. We will not be robbed of confidence in the crease thanks to a freak Olympic injury.

Give it time, at least. A few games, weeks; maybe by Christmas? It’s not the most blown away you have been by Ottawa’s goaltending, but it should rank near the top for overall competence and confidence. Besides, look what double contract expiration did for Montreal.

From Senators Extra, on potential meaning behind jersey number switches,

Should Senators fans read anything into the fact that pesky, hard-working centre/winger Zack Smith was allowed to wear 15 during training camp, dropping the 45 he draped over his shoulders last season? Beyond the fact it’s Dany Heatley’s old sweater — insert joke of choice here about Heatley being replaced by a guy who always forechecks and backchecks as hard as possible — it seems like a fairly strong indication Smith figures in the Senators plans from the outset.

Guys wearing numbers in the 40’s during training camp typically have to work their way onto the roster by outshining someone else. In that same vein, Peter Regin is also sporting 13, not the 43 of a year ago when he entered training camp as an outsider looking in.

Realistically, this shouldn’t be an issue. The numbers taken by returning players would never have been in question, and there is no need to put another thing in a player’s head to think about or feel snubbed because of. If the Senators had been open to the requests for tryouts from Robert Lang or Bill Guerin, perhaps you would have kept favourite numbers open, just in case, should seniority win out over time within the Senators organization.

Really though, who needs another headache, however seemingly trivial?

From the Ottawa Citizen (and KK), on Alfie’s feelings towards training camp after all these years,

“I think I dreaded training more in the past when it was longer, coaches had more time to really bag skate you,” he says, at 37, wiser himself about conservation issues.
“Now it seems we come in and we’re on the ice an hour and 15 minutes in training camp, hit the gym for 45 minutes and the day is over.”
While Alfredsson will stop short of showing up at Scotiabank Place in his dotage, he thinks group fitness is the way to go.

“I find this a more fun setting than just working out on your own,” Alfredsson says. “I love the game, I love being on the ice. You don’t have the bag skates you used to have. As a veteran, that would be harder on your body.

“I think coaches run a great camp. It’s motivating. A good mix between tactical and technical drills … fun at the same time.”

If having Karlsson live in Alfredsson’s house was good for his transition to the North American life, sharing the most mundane of workout habits should be a good way for the team members to pool their physical experience, stay motivated, and make it that much harder for the act or result of any kind of steroid use to stay hidden. Hopefully Justin Bourne won’t have to be the only one acknowledging that more needs to be done for much longer.

Filed in: NHL News, NHL Teams, Ottawa Senators, | SENShobo | Permalink


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About SENShobo

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 talkingstick@petshark.net