Kukla's Korner


Hale Shows Where The Buck Stops

Campoli and Lee look to make the most of Kuba’s and Hale’s absences, Gonchar adapting to Senators’ style but is style starting to follow him?, Ottawa’s goalies have opportunities but not without consequences, Lehner will get a steady development, looking for a hot year from a calm Spezza, Alfie still doesn’t feel he is bowing out, and a former Senator takes to the papers, but first. . .

From the Ottawa Sun (and OC), on the logic behind Hale’s demotion yesterday,

The veteran defenceman was a victim of his two-way contract Tuesday, when the Senators — who are loathe to bury Brian Lee’s one-way, $875,000 cap hit in the minors — put Hale on waivers.
“We have six healthy defencemen to start the season and cap space to protect,” Senators GM Bryan Murray said in a statement.

With only $1.27 million left in cap space, Murray is trying to keep his options open before the start of the season. Hale makes $675,000 if he’s in the NHL and has a minor-league clause of $105,000.
This move might have been made to showcase Lee, whom the Senators considered dealing in the summer. Once the season begins and injuries take their toll, there could be teams looking for help on the back end.

A showcase for Lee, this might also be a small reminder of ownership’s aims.

Hale had definitely outplayed Lee in the pre-season, and his 302 games of NHL experience certainly put him miles ahead of Lee for experience. Indeed his demotion will save the Senators $675,000 of cap space. But had they demoted Lee, they would have saved $875,000, Lee’s salary. An additional $200,000 might not seem like much, but should it be preserved up until the trade deadline, it works out to an additional $930,000 of base contract value that the Senators could add, changing the overall deadline space of $5.948 million based on the $1.279 million in current space to $6.878 million.

The bigger number is the two-way aspect of Hale’s deal: making $105,000 in the AHL, this move will save Melnyk $570,000 over the course of a season. He has shown before his reluctance to bury contracts, waiting until near the end to bury Cheechoo to make room for deadline acquisitions in order to make the playoffs. But giving Lee the next three weeks, Kuba’s expected recovery time, to prove himself, this is value enough for now.

Lee still has yet to stake his claim in the capital, or to make any ears perk up when Murray drops it during a call with a fellow GM. They may only be third pairing minutes, but Lee should expect to see time in every situation, scant perhaps on the power play, but Lee has to know that this is his most pressing audition ever, given the new NHL we are in, seeing so many serviceable players already on the outs. He could soon be one of them.

From the Ottawa Citizen, Lee and Campoli calm and confident heading into hot blue line waters,

“Personally, last year I had my ups and downs. I finished strong, but I know I was capable of more, and I want to help our team,” [said Campoli.]

“I want a better year. So far I’m off to a good start, and hopefully I can keep it going because the opportunity’s there and it’s only going to help our club if I play well. [...] Yeah, there’s a chance there for me to play a little more. It looks like I’ll start the year with Sergei (Gonchar), so that’s a great opportunity for me personally and I’m excited about that.”
“I had a disappointing year last year, so I just wanted to come in and kind of reassert myself and play well and play hard and I think I did that,” Lee said. “Obviously I have to continue proving it everyday in practice and in games and continue to get better.”

Having bounced between the NHL and the AHL for the first three years of his pro career, Lee isn’t taking anything for granted, not even a good training camp.

“You’re never really ‘here,’ ” he said, using his fingers to put the quotation marks. “You can be here today and gone tomorrow.”

Stereotypical anecdotes? Sure. But they both know what’s on the line, and all the young talent knocking on the door, just looking to send them packing.

From the Ottawa Sun, Gonchar brings hope for a return to the Ottawa scoring days of old,

Right now, Gonchar is taking a chemistry lesson. He is trying to get used to the way the Senators work the power play and move the puck. He has spent a lot of time talking to sophomore blueliner Erik Karlsson.
“When you’re a little bit older and you’ve been around a system for a long time, it’s a matter of getting on the same page with the guys. We’re still at the beginning of the process and it’s not going to happen overnight. We just need a little bit more time.”

Gonchar is one of the best offensive defencemen in the NHL, with 202 goals and 684 assists for 842 points in 991 career games. He’s also the league’s top-scoring blueliner over the past decade — even ahead of prolific Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom.
“He’s going to play 40% of the game and when he’s out there, he’ll give us a different look and different threat,” said Clouston. “It gives us more options offensively and that’s what we need.”

Not to knock Gonchar’s skills or what happens when writers get tired, but the numbers need adjusting. According to NHL.com’s stats on Gonchar and Lidstrom, Gonchar’s career stats are not the 202G, 684A, 842P, and 991GP. They should read 202G, 482A, 684P, and 991GP, with 842PIM (the tip off, since 202 + 684 = 886). That, and from the 2000-01 season through the 2009-10 season, over the last decade, Lidstrom has 116-434—550, leaving Gonchar to come second with 128-372—500. You have to get that out of the way on KK.

That said, it’s an interesting point of daring to see Ottawa put so much stock in its veterans. Alfie, Gonchar, and Kovalev are all playing past their 35th birthday, and Phillips and Ruutu might join that club, too. Do you weigh in favour of them having the positive effect that Alfie has had on Karlsson, with the hope that Gonchar adds to his on-ice maturity? Do you feel safer in the opened up post-lockout game, now with a head shot rule, and find yourself confident that the test of time now has a better crib sheet?

It does make one wonder about Ottawa’s choices. Their top youngsters now include guys like Karlsson, Wiercioch, Rundblad, (at one point another offensively gifted blue liner, the now-departed-to-Europe Mattias Karlsson), Butler, Hoffman, Wick, and Petersson, all known for their point production and not their resemblance to Chris Kelly. Is this a comment on it being easier to find a Chris Kelly or Matt Carkner through trades or free agency? Or might we finally be harkening back to the more dynamic style of the pre-lockout Senators?

From the Ottawa Sun (and SE), Murray lays it out for Ottawa’s goalies,

“I hardly knew that was the question,” said Murray when asked about the goalies. “We’ll see at the start of the year if I have to be worried. I didn’t like the number of goals we gave up in the last couple of games by either one of them.

“But we played (those two games) like they were pre-season games and let’s get them over with and get serious about playing. I thought we were quite careless in our end.

“The goaltenders have to be better. There’s no question. We know to be a contending team you have to have good goaltending. I believe they are both capable of that. They have to go do it now.”

Who do you believe? Murray, in saying that the games were treated as pre-season matchups, and not real tests? Or the numbers, which leave both goalies looking at times as useful as half a brick wall, and ones that occasionally move out of the way?

For what it’s worth, the pre-season is always about experimentation. Even with full lineups, players need to redevelop their timing and speed, that hardest element to keep up in the off-season. Even if you pledge your body to Gary Roberts’ insane and effective programs. More than any other player, goalies require that players know their roles defensively, and pay the price for anyone trying to cheat to gain points for offensive spurts, for anyone looking to develop chemistry with new linemates, and for any new strategies that the coach tries to introduce or refresh.

But it won’t fly come Friday.

From the Ottawa Sun, on Lehner’s path to the NHL,

For once again, the Senators appear to have a solid group of forwards, a decent defence and a big ol’ question mark between the pipes.

Is Lehner, who had a strong training camp, ready to be the answer?

“I say this to young kids all the time: It’s their job to plant the seed that they can play, it’s management’s job to grow the plant, and then we weed the garden at the right time,” said Senators goalie coach Rick Wamsley.

“He’s planted the seed that he can play. He needs to get more pro experience. So let’s see how fast the plant grows.”

A good refresher on all that’s riding on one of Elliott or Leclaire to step up this season. We only need one. But we need one, because Lehner needs to be brought along properly. What we don’t need is the situation in Columbus, where Leclaire shone and then wilted and wound up here, wound up here because Mason looked so good, and then he too wilted. Cowen should be just the start of Ottawa’s commitment to proper prospect seasoning.

From the Ottawa Sun, Spezza looking more stoic,

Spezza has matured, they say. He’s more of a team player, more of a leader. He’s better prepared to take the next step in his career, and that should be of great benefit to the Senators.

“My goals this year are a little bit different,” Spezza said when asked about hitting the triple-digit mark.

“I’m not really setting personal goals. I’m just trying to work on different aspects of my game. The numbers will come. I’m not really setting any specific numerical goals.”

Spezza has his reasons for becoming withdrawn, more businesslike.

If you worry as much about Ottawa’s pre-season goaltending numbers, then Spezza’s 4-4—8 in 4GP should be just as uplifting. After the trade rumours this summer, it’s important to remember that this is a Senator who actually sleeps each night in the city, not out in the woods as Scotiabank Place makes it so easy to do, that even as trade came up in talks, it was Spezza letting Murray know he only wanted to be ready to do whatever it took to better the team.

Ottawa will be better for that this season.

From the Ottawa Sun, Alfredsson still feels he can be steady for the Sens,

The clock is ticking on Daniel Alfredsson’s career.

But the 37-year-old Senators star, the NHL’s longest-serving captain, is back for his 15th season and still wants to hang around for a bit. Ready to suit up for Game No. 1,003 of his career, Alfredsson is only eight points shy of 1,000.

With three years left on his contract, he said he intends “to play a few more years.”

“I know that I don’t have 10 years left here,” Alfredsson said. “I know that my career is winding down. I’m fine with that. I’m very happy with who I am and the way I feel. Being with this team — and in this city — and playing this game, I’m really enjoying it and I just want to try to push myself and see what’s left in the tank.”

With his sports hernia surgery complete, and a pre-season that saw him looking more spry than during the playoffs, the captain should be back in form. Time is winding down, and he does not have Chelios in him, but he will make the players on his line better, the men in his locker room better, and continue to bring in the fans who will never forget what he has been to this franchise.

From the Ottawa Sun, Jason York takes to the paper after his playing days and radio seasoning,

Friday night, the Senators will be playing their first game of the year and this season I will be bringing my unique perspective to the Ottawa Sun every Saturday. I will talk about the NHL, but mostly about the Senators.

The modern NHL, with the salary cap, has changed the landscape dramatically. Almost any team can win the Stanley Cup. The Eastern Conference, in particular, is wide open.

The Senators come into this season with a lot of hope on the horizon and some questions that will be answered as the season progresses.
This is what a new season brings, though — a clean slate for everyone, goaltenders included.

It’s a big year for the Senators because in the new NHL, all you need to do is get yourself into the playoffs and anything is possible after that.

A calm foray for a former player, but I look forward to seeing how many parts pussycat and how many parts Peca that Jason York can be in the papers.

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