Kukla's Korner


Take Ottawa Hope With Grains, Shaker Of Salt

Ottawa needs to stop laundering its goalies, Alfie, Gonchar, and Kovalev aren’t the only ones with milestones for the season, update on demotions, promotions, and injuries, and update on Murray trade discussions, but first. . .

From the Ottawa Citizen (and OS), Ottawa reliving early franchise struggles, but without the hope,

Their 1-4-1 start is not the worst the Ottawa Senators have ever had.

It doesn’t even begin to approach the franchise’s first few years in the National Hockey League. Like 1992-93, when the Senators won their first game, but didn’t earn their second victory until game No. 23. Or like 1993-94, when they didn’t get their first win until game No. 7, or 1994-95, when they didn’t get their first win until game No. 9.

Even as a mature team over the past five years they’ve had some poor starts. Two seasons ago, they were only one win better after six games (2-3-1) and in 2006-07 — the season in which they went to the Stanley Cup final — they were just one point better (2-4-0).
“It’s like we’re one step behind and not going with our instincts,” Alfredsson said.

“We do that when the game is kind of out of hand, and start pushing them pretty good, and play really well, and it’s like ‘Where was this in the first period?’ It’s probably a mental thing more than anything.”

It’s not what you’ve done for me, it’s what you’re doing for me now. For the moment, not much at all, and reminiscing will do nothing to soften the blow.

The early years all had terrible starts, and considering none of those teams made the playoffs, the comparison should only bring frustration to the team. Being one win better two seasons ago marks the lone Senators absence from the playoffs any teenager could remember. 2-4-0, the Senators of 2006-07 did make the Cup Finals, but they also boasted a different roster, one in which the comparables aren’t as favourable: Heatley (Michalek), Vermette (Regin), Shaefer (Foligno), Corvo (Gonchar), Preissing (Karlsson), Redden (Kuba), Meszaros (Campoli), Volchenkov (Carkner), McAmmond (Winchester), Eaves (Shannon), Hamel (Ruutu), McGrattan (Smith), Emery (Leclaire), Elliott (Gerber).

Expecting from this team the peaks established by that one simply won’t happen. That those Senators were able to survive a time with Kelly as top line center, with Spezza, Fisher, and Vermette all injured for an overlapping stretch in early January, while the surgeries of Alfredsson, Kovalev, and Michalek have yet to show themselves as fully healed thus far, only highlights the resurgence that will not appear.

That team made it to the Finals because of the sum of its parts. For this team to achieve any real success, it will have to come by exceeding the sum of its players, and reaching beyond what any one of them thought possible by their own strength.

What does have to be crossing Murray’s mind at the moment is when it comes time to change the format of his trades thus far, in trading pure future (high draft picks) for pure short-term gain (rentals in the form of Cullen, Sutton, Commodore, Lapointe, Stillman). It will be time to evaluate trades that make more sense for the future again, assets coming in ensured of helping the team in the long run. There are far too many untouchables on the team, a sense of being too high above it all, exemplified by Heatley’s behaviour a year ago.

Watching the fans support their players, it is guys like Alfredsson and Volchenkov who seem to always get the support, always playing their hardest, even through injury, and putting anything on the line for the team. That kind of behaviour needs to be championed. But for it to work, it will likely take a form of retooling for the team, fast or full.

What better time to start than in the final two seasons before the CBA comes up for renegotiaion? Can you name the three worst teams in the League in the final pre-lockout season?

Let me know in June how you would feel about having been a fan of Chicago, Pittsburgh, or Washington.

From the Ottawa Citizen, on the victims of Ottawa’s poor play,

Goaltending has not been a major problem, although Pascal Leclaire’s physical breakdown, this time a groin tear, is symbolic of the hockey club’s inability to find stability at the position. Brian Elliott has poor numbers (4.62 goals-against average and .863 save percentage) while playing parts of three games, but by most accounts has been more of a victim than a cause of the struggles.

Elliott’s behaviour after getting pulled late in the second period against Pittsburgh was telling. He stomped into the dressing room and then returned, not with a ball cap on his head, but still wearing his mask while standing well back of the players bench; the effect was eerie, Halloween-like, and my reaction was, ‘good for him. He’s ticked. He’s really ticked. And he wants his teammates to know it.’

Rookie Robin Lehner finished the game and stopped all seven shots while the Penguins saved their artillery. Maybe this is how desperate the Senators are: They could ask a teenage goaltender to save the day. As someone said in an email, maybe he’ll be another Tom Barrasso, who came out of high school to win the Calder Trophy with Buffalo the year he turned 19. Best-case scenario, the team lets this goalie prospect develop slowly.

Because the Sabres are Ottawa’s next opponent, we might want to consider Elliott’s brilliant record against them: 8-0 lifetime with a 1.89 GAA and .937 save percentage.

Then again, given the comparison in logic and numbers for playing Elliott rather than Leclaire when facing Carolina, ultimately winding up with a shelved Leclaire, at times I wonder if the dismissal of logic and statistics isn’t as intense here as it is with the Canadian government’s idiotic removal of the long-form census. Regardless, whoever is in net needs to be treated less like a piece of laundry, hung out to dry.

From the Ottawa Sun, on Ottawa’s behind-the-bench milestone,

Everyone knew all about three of the significant career milestones Senators are to hit early this season — the 1,000-point plateau that awaits Daniel Alfredsson and Alex Kovalev, the 1,000-game mark Sergei Gonchar will reach Oct. 26 at Scotiabank Place — but ever so quietly those were to be preceded by a fourth involving one of the key individuals who work behind the scenes.

In his 1,499th professional game, Scott Allegrino probably had a rare mention on a TV broadcast when Robin Lehner became the youngest Swedish to tend goal in an NHL game. Lehner was called upon to start the third period Saturday in Montreal when starter Brian Elliott’s skate broke as was heading out of the dressing room.

Equipment malfunction shines a light on the equipment manager. Even if in this case, Allegrino’s hands were tied.

“I was like, oh please ... although there was nothing that could be done,” Allegrino, who had fortunately brought another pair for Elliott on the road trip, said a couple of days later. “The sole just ripped right of his skate, so there was no way to fix it. It wasn’t the skate, the cowling or the blade. It was the boot itself. The sole was rotting and it just came right through.”
Meanwhile, Allegrino worked game No. 1,500 without incident Monday in Pittsburgh. Atop the games worked of active equipment mangers sits Buffalo’s legendary Rip Simonick, a 60-year-old who joined the Sabres in 1969. Thrashers equipment manager Bobby Stewart has been in the NHL since 1973.

Given that the equipment manager can be the hardest working member of the staff, and the one most responsible for the needs of non-injured players (and sometimes even those players, too), achievements like this deserve note, and hopefully it will be far from Allegrino’s final game as an equipment manager, with the Senators or otherwise.

Update - 11:10 a.m. - According to the Ottawa beat guys,

ScottMacArthur Filip #Kuba is out in his track gear having a twirl before #Sens practice. Good sight as he recovers from broken leg. #NHL

TSN_Wally Zach smith not skating this morning expect him to be sent down to Bingo today

SeguinSports Sergei Gonchar leaves #Sens practice ice with foot injury

ian_mendes Good news for Sens fans: Gonchar back on the ice.

ScottMacArthur #Sens Gonchar returns to practice after blocking Kovalev wrist shot with foot. #NHL

Considering Kuba’s injury is from his skate getting caught in a rut, being able to skate again, even without gear or contact, is a key step.

Smith still hasn’t been able to stick, and given his two-way deal he is the logical demotion, especially if Murray now (or later) wants to make a move to help the club and needs the space to do so.

Gonchar might not be used to hearing such large gasps from fans; someone should probably get word to Murray, make sure he has not had a heart attack; and Kovalev should hire a bodyguard if he’s not careful.

Update - 11:45 a.m. - More from the beat,

ian_mendes Bryan Murray: Biggest problem with this team has been on the blue line. Defensemen have been most disappointing group.

ScottMacArthur #Sens GM Murray: “Everybody panics because they believe they’re supposed to.” Z. Smith sent down. Hale brought up. #NHL

HockeyScanner Murray; Kovalev not skating to level he did last season prior to knee surgery.

Says a lot when $17 million of defence men needs David Hale to come up, who (with Smith’s demotion) will cost Ottawa $92K in cap space.

Is there anyone left to call Kovalev out at this point? Or anyone who can reach him, so he will play to his potential, even admitting that it’s not potential like it used to be?

More notes are that Spezza took a maintenance day and will practice tomorrow, and that Leclaire could be on the ice tomorrow, evaluated next week.

Update - 12:20 p.m. - From Senators Extra,

Bryan Murray announced the team sent centre Zack Smith down to AHL Binghamton and called up David Hale to stabilize a jittery defence corps, adding he’s in talks with other managers about possible deals.

“It’s up to all of us (to improve things), this is a team,” Murray said. “It’s not the coaches or players only, it’s me doing anything I can.

“I’ve talked to a number of people, as I said,” he went on. “I talked to (Minnesota Wild general manager) Chuck Fletcher for a long time yesterday and said, ‘can I help you, you help me’ type of thing, so we’re talking to management of other teams, trying to find if there is a need and possibility of making a move.”

Very interesting. Could mean Smith’s demotion is about more than cap space. Sens now have one extra defence man, no extra forwards. If it’s a defence man coming back, as Murray feels that’s where Ottawa has been most lacking, don’t think Zidlicky, Schultz, or Burns: more likely I’d expect a smaller name trade for the older Zanon or the overpaid Barker. Interesting either way, if the Senators have their homes to play for now.

Then again,

Russostrib Re: Bryan Murray’s comments on talking to Chuck Fletcher. Fletch talks to GM’s everyday; just 1 conversation. Don’t think anything’s brewing

I’ll still take talking over not talking, and the players knowing it’s going on.

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


Da lil Guy's avatar

Don’t know why he singles out Fletcher if it’s just talk - Brian Lee has been linked to the Wild due to his roots in the past.

Hard to believe they’d want Lee now, thought, with Cuma and Scandella both on their chart.

Posted by Da lil Guy from Guelph, Ontario on 10/20/10 at 03:41 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

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