Kukla's Korner


Senators Defence Plans Put On Ice

Expectations high for Gonchar, the ice issues early on at the Bank, advantages of new glass and boards, Regin’s sophomore goals, Wick’s North American transition, Ottawa’s more tenured goaltending addition, and the Citizen’s blog transition, but first. . .

From the Ottawa Senators (and OC, OS, KK), on Kuba’s fractured start to the season,

“We’re real disappointed for Filip,” Murray said at the Bell Sensplex, where the Senators held Day 2 of training camp. “He looked great in the couple of days I came over (to the Bell Sensplex) and watched him skate. I know he’s frustrated that (the injury) would happen but I guess if it’s going to happen, it’s better to happen early and if he gets it out of the way, then he comes back and has a great season.
“He did get caught in a rut and all the weight, as he turned, was on one leg and he got a fracture because of it,” said Murray. “It’s just one of those things that happens sometimes. It’s certainly disappointing for a veteran player that had prepared himself to come back after surgery. And then for this to happen.”
“There are a couple of defencemen (for whom) it’s an opportunity we couldn’t have predicted,” said Clouston. “We’ve just got to make the best of it as a team so that when Filip is back, other guys have maybe had a better opportunity and allowed us to see what they can do.”

And so it begins. For a team not set in net and just as up in the air on the blue line, this might not even be the best time for the team to take this hit.

Before camp opened, the pairings seemed set in stone, with Phillips and Gonchar facing and feeding the top lines, Kuba mentoring Karlsson on a mobile second unit, and Carkner backing up Campoli’s confidence for the third string.

From the Ottawa Senators (and OS), on the high hopes for Gonchar,

“He brings a different dimension because he’s such a possession guy. He runs a great power play. He’s smooth back there and he’s got a shot ... he can pick corners and he gives the guys who are screening a great chance to tip pucks. But the power play isn’t the only place where he helps. He’s going to help us in a lot of different areas,” [said Spezza.]

Senators head coach Cory Clouston expects Gonchar to quickly establish himself as one of the team’s go-to guys — and not just on the ice.

“In our opinion, he’s a very solid two-way (player),” Clouston said of his newest blueliner. “He’s not just a one-dimensional defenceman. He killed a lot of penalties last year, played against top lines the last few years and he’s just really a good team guy. We expect him to be a leader in the dressing room, even though he is new to the team. Just with his type of character and personality, he’ll be a leader in there.”

Yet that will be out the window, at least to start. The chatter will be about having Cowen, Wiercioch, or Gryba attempt to grab the spot now opened up, but look for Lee to get the biggest chance to show that he belongs.

The only one on a one-way contract among the hopefuls, financials are not the only motivation behind giving Lee the bulk of the minutes Kuba will vacate until a dozen games into the season. Ever since Lee was taken in the same draft as Crosby, with Muckler passing on now-stars in Marc Staal and Anze Kopitar, he has failed to live up to his potential, even as others have gotten over the expectations placed on them (see Ryan, Bobby, taken right after Sidney Crosby).

With Kuba gone, only Phillips and Carkner remain as defence men respected for their work in their own end. Gonchar, too, has killed more than his fair share of penalties, but the crunching days of yore are gone, at least for the moment. Lee has yet to live up to the two-way play expected of him, but defensively he could still rank above the rookies, at least in tenure enough to play in the NHL, and feel less out of place with the gaping hole now present on the back end. That pressure will be the biggest element to the game of anyone looking to fill Kuba’s spot, not only for the shoes they seek to fill, but because defence is still anything but top heavy in Ottawa, and choosing between filling in or overworking to replace Kuba, now is not the time to start a domino train of injuries.

From Senators Extra, on the crack that broke the Kuba’s back,

Now that Filip Kuba has broken his right leg after catching a rut on the ice, the state of the ice surface is receiving plenty of criticism.

“The players mentioned and the coaches have mentioned that the ice was cut up pretty bad early,” said general manager Bryan Murray. “(Kuba) did get caught in a rut and all the weight was on the one leg. He got a fracture because of it. The ice, early in the year, nobody had skated on it and it gets cut up earlier than normal.

Maybe in the future, there is an opportunity to have someone like the 67’s take to the ice before the main camp, to trade the cost of having them there for the experience of skating in an NHL arena while having the ice ready for the Senators to regain their stride on, with the right feel from that very first glide.

From the Ottawa Sun, on the new surroundings for Scotiabank Place ice,

During the off-season, the building was given a facelift: The 15-year-old boards were replaced and seamless glass was installed along the sides of the rink to allow more “give” for the players.
“It’s going to help cut down on the injuries,” said defenceman Chris Phillips. “It’s got more ‘give’ to it. If you can save a shoulder, you can save a season and it can trickle right down to the (salary) cap.
The Senators are also looking at getting a new scoreboard. Leeder estimated the cost at $5-6 million, but he’s not sure if that will happen in time for the all-star game in January 2012.

“Right now, what we’re trying to do is investigate what we want,” said Leeder. “We want to get a new scoreboard, but I’m not sure if that’s going to be in the next one, two or three years.”

Look past the obvious fact that the arena cannot have a glaring liver spot in the form of its current scoreboard for the 2012 All-Star Game. The new boards can offer more than just a bigger bang for each young buck.

Seamless glass should not only help to prevent an NHL version of the Liambas hit, but with Gonchar and a focus on puck moving, it can help with both clearing attempts along the glass as much as shoot-ins. A bit below, new boards and (possibly) new kickers could help the higher frequency of shots likely to come from the back end. A popular strategy in the Joe Louis arena, the Senators can now experiment with intentional missed shots, hoping to get a bigger bounce back, and more opportunity to reward players like Michalek and Foligno for parking themselves in front of the net.

From the Ottawa Sun (and OC), on Regin’s consistent aims for his sophomore season,

Regin, a 24-year-old Dane who made the squad out of camp last September, filled in admirably on the team’s top line when Michalek suffered a season-ending knee injury. Tabbed by coach Cory Clouston as a versatile player who can be used in different roles, Regin is naturally interested in holding this spot on the depth chart.

“As a forward, you always want to score points and score goals,” he said Sunday. “That’s a lot of fun. But at the same time, I have a lot of pride in defending and playing the two-way game.

“I think I can play in almost every position. I think if I get the chance on the first or second line, I can put up points. And if I have to play on the third or fourth line, I think I can play responsible and play defensively, too. It’s up to the coach, but you always want to play as much as possible and that’s usually on one of the two first lines.

Familiarity with Fisher and Kovalev will go along with NHL experience to give Regin the best shot at rounding out the top lines, but he’ll need to continue responsible play of his own accord to keep Foligno off them, as well as to keep Binghamton’s roster filled with Butler, as well as another new European face.

From the Ottawa Citizen (and OS), on the all-but-fan-forgotten Roman Wick’s hopes in crossing to North America,

Wick looks bigger than his listed size of 6-2 and 192 pounds. He has put together four decent seasons with Kloten of the Swiss-A League. Last season, he had 15 goals and 31 points in 37 games.
“I had a great Olympics, obviously. That was a sign for me that I could keep up with the best guys. And I told myself, ‘Why not try it again here in Ottawa?’ I really liked it before and I feel comfortable so far.”

Wick believes his style of game is suited for the NHL.

“Everybody has to think quicker and make quicker plays. I don’t like how they hold the puck so long in Europe. Here, the puck moves quicker and you can always shoot from anywhere. That’s always good,” he said.

“I know I can make plays, I know I can score. I will try to do the same here. That’s the reason they’ve got me here. I don’t think they want me to run around and kill guys, I’m pretty sure. They know my purpose here.”

Karlsson spent time in the AHL even as he was in Ottawa for most of his rookie season, and he had the talent to stick with the big club the very season after being drafted, meaning that half a decade later, Roman Wick will be hard-pressed to avoid some seasoning time in the AHL. Like Hoffman, Cowen, and Gryba, showing himself to be more than a one-end player on the rink could go a long way to determining the final shake-up on the depth chart. Maybe by not putting Kaigorodov or Bochenski level pressure on the forward, there might be a better development. We have waited five years so far, anyway, why not be sure before deciding he can’t benefit from one more?

From the Ottawa Citizen, on the new goaltending mentor in Ottawa,

Wamsley, a veteran of 14 NHL seasons with the Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs and an NHL and AHL coach for the past 17 years, is the latest expert charged with finding answers to the Senators’ perpetual problem of inconsistent goaltending.
A major factor in the choice was Wamsley’s background with Leclaire. He was goaltending coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2007-08, when Leclaire posted a 24-17-6 record, with a goals-against average of 2.25 and an impressive nine shutouts.

“I’ve known Rick for a while,” Leclaire said. “It’s a good thing, just knowing each other and knowing what to expect. He’s a good guy. He’s a good teacher and we’re lucky to have him. I’ve always had good seasons with him. He has played the game. He has got a lot of experience. You can relate to the guy. He knows what you’re going through on a day-to-day basis, so that’s a big advantage for me and Brian and all the other guys in the organization.”
“[Leclaire and Elliott are] totally different,” Wamsley said. “They have a different makeup, skill-wise and size-wise, but they play the same position. It’s my job to figure out what their assets are. When they play well, it’s to find out why, so if there are speed bumps during the year, or if they’re having a particular problem at a certain time, it’s an easier fix. There are fundamentals, no matter how you play, that have to be adhered to, but you can’t put square pegs into round holes.”

Before anyone jumps on this and cries Emery and Eli Wilson, the NHL playing and coaching success have to give Wamsley and the team’s decision to choose him time to play out. Wamsley does not owe his place in the NHL to Leclaire, nor has he floundered without Leclaire to work under his tutelage. It will be an interesting development to watch for, but it must be watched before crying foul.

From Hockey Capital, one “final” post,

Exactly three years and one month ago today, I made my first post on the Hockey Capital blog. That introduction kicked off the most enjoyable run I’ve had in journalism and fulfilled a lifelong goal of one day covering the National Hockey League. While that run continues, this blog won’t. With the launch of our new, more interactive Senators superblog (Wayne Scanlan, Ken Warren and Allen Panzeri will all be contributing as well), I’ll be shuttering Hockey Capital for good.

It’s been a good run for James Gordon, giving a great mix of Senators entries, both serious and lighthearted. Bringing blogs together for the Citizen might help to bounce ideas off the diverse writing stable, and give fans another sure-fire website to refresh daily, and hopefully will not grind away the good work of these men.

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