-Ottawa played two games since my last post, choking away a game to Colorado in overtime (4-3), and then beating Nashville in a shootout (2-1). The Sens keep picking up points which irrespective of how they play is a good thing (and for those of you who don’t like the three-point games–it keeps the standings close and believe me, having grown up in the previous era, it’s a much better system).
-Travis Yost looks at Ottawa’s playoff chances and he sums it up this way:
The math’s [to make it is] still not good, but what Ottawa’s done in the last month or so has almost certainly given their fan base a reason to believe that they may have an inside track on a playoff berth — something I never would have suggested during those ugly November games.
I was a little more optimistic than Travis early in the season, but I’d almost given up before the Sens began to climb.
-The always engaging Amelia L offers some thoughts and I wanted to comment on two of them: Erik Karlsson‘s physical play (as evidenced in the Colorado game)–I think it’s easy to forget that before he came to Ottawa Karlsson threw big hits, but largely cut that out of his game in the NHL after getting hurt hitting Ryan Kesler in his rookie season. As a smaller player he has to pick his spots, but I’m not surprised to see it crop up in his game from time to time. Amelia also asks the pertinent question of whether or not Cody Ceci can keep playing at his current level given the sophomore jinx and how easily players (ala Jared Cowen) can slip early in their careers. It’s good food for thought.
-My favourite part of Tim Murray’s news conference after he was announced as Buffalo’s new GM was this:
And obviously ownership allows you to do your job. It allows you to spend money when the time is right, but that’s on the ice.
There’s only one interpretation of this: my previous owner (Melnyk) wasn’t allowing the organisation to spend money.
-The shakeup has Varada in a thoughtful mood:
With all the hand-wringing about money, and Melnyk’s propensity for playing with the sentiment of fans to pressure city council, I am not looking forward to a prolonged—years-long, potentially—debate with my city councillor, my mayor, my family, my boss, my girlfriend, my colleagues, James’ dog, etc. about the role of the sports franchise as a public institution and its right (or lack thereof) to public funding. Personally, I tend to fall on the side of “a few tax breaks” rather than “tens or hundreds of millions in public dollars,” but I think the latter is where we’re headed. That’s the precedent, and Melnyk will say “me too” when the time is right. Fair-weather fan Ottawa will slap on the chastity belt, and the debate will go on for-fucking-ever.
I’m with Varada in not wanting to open the public purse for the team, but a cash-strapped Melnyk is certainly going to push for that. On the plus side, it’s pretty clear that the NHL itself won’t allow his shenanigans to get too crazy (ala threatening to move the team), given the tenacity with which Bettman has shown in keeping franchises where they are no matter what. I don’t think there’s much public sentiment to fund Eugene’s plans, but the public has little to do with political decisions.
-Speaking of the organisation, an extension for Bryan Murray is all but done. There’s not much to say about it other than it is a good move for the franchise.
-Binghamton went 2-1 since I last wrote, beating Rochester (3-1) and Hershey (4-2) before losing to Adirondack (4-1) and losing Nathan Lawson to injury (again). At the end of the stretch Ludwig Karlsson was returned to Elmira (having not produced during his stay), which indicates there are enough healthy forwards in Binghamton to do so. In the meantime the team has recalled Scott Greenham to back-up Andrew Hammond; they have also summoned Troy Rutkowski after improved (albeit not productive) play in Elmira.
-Speaking of the Jackals, they are in the midst of a tailspin, losing three straight on the weekend and only scoring three goals. Jakub Culek did not play in the last two games and I may or may not be injured.
-Joy Lindsay writes about Fredrik Claesson and there’s a lot of good material, starting with comments from Luke Richardson:
But he’s a really good kid, he doesn’t get frustrated, he doesn’t get down on himself — even after a mistake. You show him the video, and he listens and he learns. This year, he came in with a little more confidence, and … every shift when I put him on the ice, I can count on him. Because of our younger defence this year, we rely on him more … he’s really taken the opportunity and run with it. Sometimes guys take a little longer and they feel their way in. He’s really made the step and jumped at it and really taken a hold of it in all situations and done really well.
Assistant coach Steve Stirling adds:
Even though he’s only a second-year pro, with the young defence that we have, we’re counting on him to be a veteran. Most nights, he’s playing with Mike Sdao or Benny Blood, and those are two really young kids who are right where Freddy was a year ago. He’s been a mainstay, and it’s helped those two progress, slowly but surely.
Digest that comment a little: two four-year college grads, one of whom (Blood) is in his second pro season, are learning from the younger Claesson. It’s a great compliment to Freddy, but an interesting one for his partners (especially Blood). It’s all good news for the Sens and the odds look good that they have a future safe, third-pairing blueliner in the making.
-Mark Volain takes a look at the Eastern Conference in the AHL and remarks upon Mike Hoffman‘s fantastic first half of the season (mostly summarizing).
-D. J. Powers looks at the NCAA scene through December and only comments on one Sens collegian, Ryan Dzingel:
Dzingel is quietly having a career year with the Buckeyes. In December, he posted two goals and six assists in Ohio State’s three games during the month. The Wheaton, IL native has been the driving force behind the Buckeyes offense this season. After finishing with 38 points last season, Dzingel is on pace to top the 40-point plateau this season. He has appeared in all 16 games for Ohio State so far and leads the team with 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists).
No analysis here, just a stats summary, but worth keeping in mind and is the kind of thing Pierre Dorion was referencing when he talked about NCAA prospects being ready for the pro game.
This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)