Kukla's Korner


Ottawa’s Starting Lines Still Unsettled

Forward line selections still up in the air, Senators taking stock of Gryba’s assets, and Dundas prepares to host the Senators and Sabres, but first. . .

From the Ottawa Citizen, on the growing confidence in Ottawa’s players,

Has captain Daniel Alfredsson bounced back from the hernia condition that slowed him down in the playoffs? CHECK.

Alfredsson was flying in his first preseason outing. No worries here, people. Move along.

Early signs of a new and improved power play with Sergei Gonchar, ex-Pittsburgh Penguin, dishing passes from the point? CHECK.

Gonchar conducts some sweet music on the point; so fluid, drifting in from the line, comfortable everywhere, including behind the opposition net, then flowing back again.

Without any warning flags being hoisted high into the sky, things could not be calmer, could they?

From the Ottawa Citizen, on the nebulous concept of line assignments,

After criticizing whoever happens to be in goal for the Senators on any particular night, the second favourite pastime of Ottawa hockey fans is deciding who should play on what line.
So who goes where? After the obvious first line of Michalek-Spezza-Alfredsson, it becomes difficult.

Do Regin and Kovalev stay together as Fisher’s wingers because of the chemistry they had last season, or does Foligno’s strong training camp make him a better candidate to finish off Kovalev’s passes?

Would Regin prosper or flounder on the third line with Kelly and Ruutu? Would Foligno, Kelly and Ruutu be anything more than a mayhem line?

Don’t forget that Neil has had a strong training camp, with two goals and two assists in two preseason games. Does he lose the numbers battle and get shuffled to the fourth line with Winchester and Shannon or Smith?

In reality, the picture is anything but clear. Outside of Spezza and Alfredsson, and the Ruutu-Kelly-Neil line, no chemistry is prominent enough to give the benefit of the doubt to.

Does Michalek truly have chemistry with Spezza and Alfredsson? While Alfredsson was second on the team with 36 even strength points, and Spezza fourth with 33, Michalek sat tied for 9th, with 20 even strength points, right alongside Foligno. Michalek held a 12 to 7 edge in goals, but Foligno had the edge in effectiveness, getting his points in 61 GP, compared to Michalek’s 66, and notching an even strength point for every 38:21 of even strength ice time, Michalek needing 44:44, and the difference a slighter hair in Michalek’s favour on the power play, Milan needing 14:53 with the extra man to notch a point, to Foligno’s 17:14.

If there is one truly egregious error that the Senators have often made in creating their lines, it has been in slotting players more often on the basis of seniority and paycheque, rather than role, with the most common evidence of this coming when Ottawa calls up any Binghamton top scorer or playmaker, only to slot them on the third or fourth line, to throw their body around with Neil, play positional defence with Kelly, or grind it out on the boards alongside the now-departed Donovan.

I’ve been saying it since the season began to appear on the horizon: line selection will be difficult this time around. You can say that it’s a good problem to have, but when you hear Clouston telling reporters that he wants one of his goalies to establish himself as the starter, you realize it’s not a gift to the team. Unlike the goalies, each line needs time to develop chemistry, as much as Foligno would have to shuffle his style around were he to wind up playing with Spezza on the top line, Fisher on a slightly more defensively responsible and slightly less skilled second line, or as an energy or checking forward to fit the de facto style of Ottawa’s bottom six.

Maybe the Detroit over-ripening model, forcing players to mature in the minors until they are fully prepared to cement their roles with the big club, isn’t so bad after all.

From the Ottawa Sun, on the physical force building up steam for Ottawa’s blue line,

Short on open-ice hitters at the NHL level, the Senators will at least be able to put their ear to the track and pick up a rumble coming from the upper New York state area.

It will be the E-Train.

While his ETA is still unknown, Eric Gryba is the type of blueliner Ottawa lost when Anton “A-Train” Volchenkov and Andy Sutton left via free agency over the summer. Along with playing a steady defensive game, the 6-foot-4, 222-pounder loves to throw his body at opposing forwards.
“My game really hasn’t changed,” said Gryba, a right-handed shot. “In college, I killed a lot of penalties, played a physical game, intimidating to the other team. Make the first pass, play solid defence, block shots, kill penalties ... nothing has really changed. The only difference now is there’s fighting. Which is fine.”

Six games of AHL experience won’t soon see Gryba grabbing all the headlines, but after sticking through four years of college, Gryba will now get a chance to focus on his on-ice acumen full-time. As he adjusts to the NHL pace and skilled offensive tricksters, his smooth skating will give him a good chance to bring his E-Train game up to diesel locomotive levels. Right now, it’s a train-like steady developmental pace that will serve Gryba best.

From The Hamilton Spectator, on the excitement in Dundas,

The longtime Canadiens fan[, Pacifici] brought his 21-month-old son, Nicholas, and nine-year-old nephew, Matteo, to the Dundas Driving Park yesterday afternoon to take a photograph with hockey’s top prize.

“It’s a dream come true to be able to touch the cup and just be near it,” Pacifici said. “You grow up every day playing hockey on the street and, you know, it’s always Game 7, overtime, whoever scores the next goal wins the Stanley Cup. So being here is very cool.”
The hockey fan joined more than a thousand people at the Dundas park yesterday as Kraft Hockeyville activities launched with NHL alumni signing autographs, photo opportunities and several skill challenges for young hockey lovers. [...] Event co-chair Barry Forth said yesterday’s event was to build “buzz” and start creating excitement in the Dundas community leading up to Tuesday’s pre-season game between the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres at the J.L. Grightmire Arena.

“I think something like what’s happening on Tuesday night in Dundas is something you would never expect to happen in Dundas,” Forth said. “We got a 980-seat arena that won’t ever host a game again. It’s just a great surprise and a great feeling to be able to have that.”

Fortunately for the rest of us, tomorrow’s game will be televised on TSN, hopefully featuring more than a few veterans, to give Dundas a good show. More fortunate would be if the NHL could see the value in continuing to reach out with pre-season games, in order to give excitement back to the communities that have provided the NHL with talent and support, and that bigger cities, vying for any expansion or Phoenix fallout, will be able to find themselves alongside the NHL Premiere series in hosting charged regular season action.

Sadly though, that remains a dream still.

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


Da lil Guy's avatar

It’s a bit of a shame that one of Foligno or Regin will probably end up busted down to the 4th line as a result of the forward situation (at least as long as injuries don’t play a role).

Of course, I’d sooner be in the position of choosing between two worthy players for the top 6 than choosing between the lesser of two evils - and I think Foligno’s strong camp has put us in the former situation. Still a number of games to go for both, and a little healthy competition never hurt anyone. I imagine that competition becomes increasingly direct as the Sens make their cuts, too.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 09/27/10 at 02:17 PM ET

Add a Comment

Please limit embedded image or media size to 575 pixels wide.

Add your own avatar by joining Kukla's Korner, or logging in and uploading one in your member control panel.

Captchas bug you? Join KK or log in and you won't have to bother.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Most Recent Blog Posts

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