Kukla's Korner


Last Chances All Around In Ottawa

Ottawa showing no favourites in battle for starting goaltender, Shannon battles for likely last shot with Sens, and Kleinendorst’s confidence in the AHL squad from Binghamton’s new beat reporter, but first. . .

From the Ottawa Citizen, on the silent rise of David Hale’s stock,

David Hale might as well have been invisible when the Ottawa Senators opened training camp. He wasn’t on anyone’s radar. He was just another one of those names destined for Binghamton.

Surprise, surprise,
“Solid, very solid,” said Clouston. “He kind of quietly goes about his business. He’s reliable. I didn’t know completely what to expect of him. I don’t want to say (he’s been) a pleasant surprise, because I don’t want to undermine him. I think in his mind he came to make the team. But he’s been good for us.

“David right now is trying to get into the group. He’s done all he can do. We’ll see how it all unfolds. But he’s made a pretty good statement here to at least stay until the start of the season.”

In all the excitement about youth, it’s the veteran who has made the statement, and reminded us what the Sens currently need.

On the back end, perhaps no contract has been as maligned as Kuba’s. Seen as a player who can’t light it up like a Gonchar, but who takes a massive 6’4 frame and, well, skates, hitting less than the I-can’t-believe-he’s-5’11 Karlsson. But he can handle himself at both ends, can man the power play as much as he can be depended upon to kill a penalty and tie up opponents. Talking about going both ways, no Senators defence man has done it better since Chara left, though Gonchar has been mentioned as having defensive sensibilities.

But at the moment, with a lineup featuring Gonchar, untested in Ottawa’s systems, along with Karlsson and Campoli, if you can’t have balance within the players, you need it within the ranks. For all the promise of Cowen, the hope in Wiercioch, and the why-not-now in Lee, none have the ready-right-now defensive counterpart needed for the offensive back end pieces not likely to be patrolling Ottawa’s blue line as much as the opponent’s. With over 300 NHL games under his belt, Hale has shown in the pre-season that he can display the calm needed to help bring this oft-defensively suspect group back into the right frame of mind. He may well get the chance, giving Wiercioch the chance he needs in the AHL to adjust to the new competition, giving Cowen the chance to make up for a less-than-impressive showing at last year’s WJC and perhaps to be a leader this time around, and giving Lee a chance to ease into a 6th/7th rotation with Hale, to either proove his worth, or at least improve his trade value.

Hale could be this season’s Matt Carkner. Though at least in Hale the team now has a first round pick defence man from New Jersey.

From the Ottawa Sun (and KK), on Ottawa’s wide open race to claim the crease,

The Senators are still looking out for a No. 1. While the Senators kick off the regular season next Friday against the Buffalo Sabres at Scotiabank Place, neither Pascal Leclaire nor Brian Elliott has stepped up to seize the top goalie job.
So, will whoever starts the first game against the Sabres be the club’s No. 1 goalie?

“I guess in the perfect world, yep,” said Clouston following a skate at Scotiabank Place. “But that’s not even for sure. There are injuries, there are slumps and there are a lot of different variables that go into it.

“I’m going to reiterate: Whichever goaltender steps up, we’ll go with. They both, at times last year, did it, but not consistently enough to start at camp and say, ‘This guy is our go-to-guy’ right off the bat. Both of them still have their best hockey ahead of them and we’ve seen a lot of positives.”

If it sounds like a familiar refrain in Ottawa, consider a few differences. Leclaire was a top selection, whereas Elliott has had to rise from late round stock, each with the different mental attitude that goes along with it. Surprisingly, that sees Elliott as the quiet and steady personality, and even after a shaky season Leclaire is still as much smiles and jokes as he was in his first Ottawa press conference, jokingly pandering for a St. Hubert sponsorship deal (if you’ve never been, you’ll forget all about Swiss Chalet).

Both are in contract years this time around, and both know that being a backup in Ottawa will hurt their chances of landing anywhere else, given the many notable departures and price-conscious signings of netminders this season. In Elliott, there is the steady and efficient play, while Leclaire has the highlight-reel unbelievable saves.

Both have a clean slate, and every opportunity to succeed, given that the exploits of Lehner can’t even get him in the door just yet. Both will have to show that they can indeed handle the pressure, and turn it on when needed, and know that if they loosen up the reins, there’s another hungry man ready to take their job, and put them in the unemployment line next spring. Now that would be a real #DanEllisProblems.

From the Ottawa Citizen (and OS, SENS), Shannon looks forward to putting injuries behind him,

The good news for Ryan Shannon is that he’ll be back in the lineup Friday night when the Ottawa Senators play the Rangers in New York. The bad news for Shannon is that he may have already lost his chance to make the team this NHL season.

Professional hockey can be a cruel business, especially during training camp when the competition is fierce for spots on the team. If someone is unable to play because of an injury, that’s bad luck.
“Experience has to come into it a little bit and knowing that you can’t really control what happens outside of your own attitude and the way that you approach the game,” [Shannon] said.

“If this had happened to me two years ago, I probably would have felt not prepared to play right now. I would have felt rushed and had a lot of anxiety going into the game,” he added.

“I don’t think there’s luck involved. I got hit, I recovered, and now I’m focused to play. I know all I have to do is bring what I can bring and show the training staff, the coaches, the management, and all the fans what I can do.”

Few players in Ottawa have dealt with as many setbacks as Shannon, and his chances of sticking with the team in a useful role are limping along at best. His (lack of) size and speed should see him playing for a top six role with a chance to make a difference on the scoresheet, but he will be on the fourth line, trying to hold the scoresheet at a standstill. He’s no St. Louis, but in this League he needs to offer up more than he has, and more than the barriers he’ll face will give him a chance to.

From Blogging the B-Sens (and SENS), on confidence in the Binghamton squad following a 3-0 loss to Hamilton on The Rock,

“We’re still putting our systems into place. We’ll stay the course leading up to opening night. We don’t like to lose - we love to win - but this is still a process. It’s not time to push the panic button yet. We just have to keep guys working hard.”

“Our best line tonight was (Colin) Greening-(Jim) O’Brien-(Erik) Condra. They put together the most scoring chances, and they didn’t take a shift off. That could be a line that we may use when the season starts. Back at the line, (Andre) Benoit had a great game, (Eric) Gryba played well… I saw a lot of positives. It was just one of those nights we couldn’t buy a goal.”
“Both (goalies) played well. Mike had some nagging injuries during training camp (in Ottawa), so this was his first game action. With two deflections, it’s hard to fault him for those goals. Barry did a great job. He allowed a late goal, but I think both goalies gave us a chance to win. They were definitely two bright spots.”

A hearty welcome to the new Binghamton Senators reporter Joy Lindsay, who takes over the job after the departure of Michael Sharp. Already she seems to be keeping the excitement and drive for information alive and well. Considering all the talent Ottawa has down in Binghamton, from big names to small, it should be an interesting season to follow, perhaps to see Binghamton finally keep pace with Ottawa in the playoff drive, and might be worth checking out when they come to Ottawa, show up once on CBC, or to order a single game from the AHL’s streaming service.

Now if only the real games would start.

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


Da lil Guy's avatar

Cowen has shown a few flashes - but I think the bulk of the evidence suggests that junior is where he belongs for the time being. In my opinion, he’s been well behind Lee, Hale, Weircioch, and even Gryba in terms of apparent readiness for a pro-career.

This shouldn’t really shock anyone - he’s younger and less experienced than any of those players.

While I’m sure Murray would love to have a 9 game tryout, the decision as to whether he can be played certainly belongs to Clouston. It would seem that Clouston’s opinion is that the kid isn’t ready for a regular NHL shift when games matter - and I think anyone who watched the pre-season games thus far would have to agree that’s not an unreasonable assessment.

Hale is a bubble defenceman who’s probably topped out (or at least come close) at this point in his career but from what I’ve seen I’m okay with him as a 7th defenceman.  Or even 6/7 in the event that Lee struggles (though I think he’s been as strong as he’s ever been in this camp).

I think we can still hope Cowen moves up the depth chart quickly, but I don’t think he’s at the point right now where he’s learned everything he can in Junior.

As for the B-Sens, I think the Murray’s may have finally answered the prayers of the fans down there and may have provided the best team in a while. They have prospects with legit upside down there as well as some who have proven themselves at the AHL level. The Sens have kept a fairly good bit of what figures to be the B-sens roster up for the time being as well, so the team that lost to Hamilton probably doesn’t represent what they’ll be putting on the ice quite yet.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 10/01/10 at 02:07 PM ET

Da lil Guy's avatar

That said, I’m sure there will be some grumbling B-Sens fans if the Sens deprive them of Hale - who was more or less picked up to be a key defensive player for them.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 10/01/10 at 02:08 PM ET

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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