Senators News: June 30th

Justin Schultz has made his decision and signed with the Edmonton Oilers.  It’s not much of a surprise given how thin the Oiler blueline is–there’s probably no other team that provides as much opportunity.

-Apparently Matt Carkner felt a one-year deal without a raise was something he could afford to reject.  Nichols rightly points out how Carkner‘s impact has decreased each year with the Sens with no sign of that changing.  His TOI has decreased, his penalty killing time has decreased, and “Moreover, he plays soft minutes against the opposition’s worst players. His Corsi relative quality of competion was the worst amongst the Senators’ d-corps regulars for each of the past two seasons.”  Nichols also points out that his salary is in line with similar players, but I do not share his hope of a happy compromise between Ottawa and Carkner.  It’s time to move on.

-Randy Lee talks about Jean-Gabriel Pageau and indicates he’s bound for either the AHL or ECHL, “He’s never going to be a huge player, but he’s better at the stuff we want him to be better at, like being able to contain bigger players, like battling. He’s such a skilled guy. In (Thursday’s) scrimmage he did a pretty good job against bigger guys, and we like that. The puck follows him and he does a really good job that way. But he’s got to be able to be an offensive guy in the AHL, so it’s going to be a challenge. The biggest thing we want to do with our players is put them in a position to succeed. There’s no use going to a level where they can’t play. If you’re an offensive guy, you have to play in offensive situations.”

-Talking about himself, Pageau said “I think I’m ready for that step. I know I have to be stronger and put on some weight. I’m not a big guy, so I have to be more powerful, so my training will be a big part of it. If I’m going to make the next step, I have to be ready mentally and physically.”  There are a lot of undersized forwards bound for Binghamton so it will be tough for Pageau to make space for himself in that lineup.

-Randy Lee also commented on Frederik Claesson in the same article, “We had a nice meeting at the hotel in Calgary, and he looked at me and said, ‘I need to play in the AHL next year. To make the transition, I need to play on that ice surface, I need to play that number of games, I need to play in that type of environment.’ Which was really refreshing to hear. A lot of guys say, ‘I’m just going to come when I can play pro.’ But you know what? You have to invest in yourself, and you’re going to be further along in the end if you take those steps along the way.”  Lee compared Claesson to Mark Borowiecki in terms of his competitiveness (high praise indeed).

Shane Prince talks about his prospects for the upcoming season, “After four years in the OHL, I think I’ve kind of grown out of that league a little bit and I’m looking to move my game on to the professional level and work my way up to the NHL. You always have to prove something. There are always guys coming into the system, different guys each year. You’ve always got to show yourself because there are guys ready to take your spot. I’m never going to take a session off and I’ve going to do everything I can to make team (in training camp). I’m definitely going to strive to make the (big-league) team. I’m not going to sell myself short, but if I do get sent down to Binghamton, I’m going to do my best to help that team win and give it everything I have to work my way up.”

-Here’s a look at the first four days of the development camp.

-Rob Brodie writes about Chris Driedger; there’s not much new here, other than the Sens had not talked to him before drafting him.

-Brodie also wrote about Francois Brassard, which, like the Driedger above, doesn’t contain anything new of substance.

Senators Development Camp (days one through four)

-This is the list of attendees and activities for the camp (with two apparent errors: Daniel New is not at the camp).  The on-ice session are open to the public.

-Here are the Sens prospects introducing themselves on Sens TV.  Not included is Mikael Wikstrand (who had not yet arrived from Sweden) and Jeff Costello (who may not yet have arrived).

-Here’s Sens TV’s look back on day oneday two, and day four of the camp.  For some reason there’s no video for day three posted yet.

-Wayne Scanlan writes about Randy Lee‘s long tenure with the organisation (going back to 1995) and it’s worth reading through to appreciate the man whose fingerprints are all over so many of the team’s players.

Senschirp writes about a Q&A with Dave Cameron and Steve Stirling and they mentioned the most NHL-ready prospects in Binghamton were Mark Borowiecki, Eric Gryba, Mike Hoffman, and Patrick Wiercioch.

Cody Ceci has been blogging throughout the camp and the most interesting comment thus far was “We spent a lot of time on stickhandling drills today. I’ve never done a full hour of stickhandling.”  This surprises me, given just how important puck control and puck management is at all levels of the game.

-I went to the scrimmage on Thursday evening, which was thoroughly entertaining.  The place was packed and the game was competitive.  There wasn’t much scoring (Mike Hoffman getting the lone goal).  Hoffman also hit Jordan Fransoo in the face–ouch!  It was the most physical scrimmage I’ve seen, but as expected the play was pretty scrambly.   Many bloggers were blogging during the game and while I don’t think much can be concluded about individual players from the session, I thought I’d collect some comments to provide a range of fan opinions.  Peter Raaymakers provides thoughts on twelve players in the game, praising Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Stefan Noesen, Darren Kramer, Corey Cowick, Mika Zibanejad, Cody Ceci, Mark Borowiecki; he had more mixed feelings about Trevor Van Riemsdyk and Cole Schneider.  Random thoughts of mine:
Brad Peltz – was cheating defensively and was impatient in the offensive zone
Michael Sdao – some poor first passes lead to turnovers; was strong along the boards
Darren Kramer – always gave an extra shot after he threw a hit
Chris Driedger and Francois Brassard – were solid except on the penalty shots

-Inspired by all the ink spilled about the Ottawa 67s connection between Shane Prince and Cody Ceci, I thought I’d spill some ink of my own on other connections between Sens prospects:
*Corey Cowick (08-10), Shane Prince (09-12), and Cody Ceci (09-12) all played for the Ottawa 67s
*Mark Borowiecki, Corey Cowick, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Cody Ceci, and Francois Brassard are all from the greater Ottawa area
*Ceci and Matt Puempel both played on Team Ontario’s U-17 team (09-10)
*Mike Hoffman (06-07) and Shane Prince (08-10) were both originally Kitchener Rangers, but not at the same time and under different coaches
*Hoffman (07-08) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (09-12) played for Gatineau, but again not at the same time and under different coaches
*Pageau (08-09) and Brassard (09-10) both played for the QMAAA L’Intrepide, but in different years
*Mark Stone and Chris Driedger are both from Winnipeg
*Stone (08-12) and Jordan Fransoo (09-12) both played for Brandon
*Darren Kramer (10-11) was a teammate of Jared Cowen‘s in Spokane
*Mike Zibanejad and Fredrik Claesson both played for Djurgarden throughout their junior and professional careers and were also teammates on this season’s WJC team
*Zibanejad and Mikael Wikstrand were teammates on Sweden’s U-18 team (10-11); Claesson played the year before (09-10) and Lehner the year before that (08-09)
*Lehner (07-08) was a teammate of Erik Karlsson‘s in Frolunda’s junior system
*Chris Wideman (07-08), Bryce Aneloski (07-10), and Jeff Costello (08-10) all played for Cedar Rapids in the USHL
*Max McCormick and Ryan Dzingel both play for Ohio in the NCAA; they also both played on the US U-19 team (10-11)
*Michael Sdao (07-09) and Ryan Dzingel (09-11) both played for Lincoln in the USHL and while not at the same time they were both coached by Jim McGroarty
*Ben Blood (07-08) and Robert Baillargeon (11-12) both played for Indiana in the USHL, but far apart and under different coaches

Senators News: June 29th

Darren Kramer talks about his approach to becoming a pro, “I want to come in with a positive attitude and try to make Ottawa. But as a realist I know I’m going to have to spend some a little bit of time in the minors to develop. I have to improve my strength and conditioning. But mostly it’s my foot speed and my skating, and if I can get that up to par, then I think I have a really good chance of one day being an Ottawa Senator. I’d like to contribute and be considered trustworthy to be on the ice in the defensive zone. Times are changing. Guys who can only fight are starting to get weeded out. And if you look at my (6-2, 210-pound) frame, I’m not a big 6-7 guy. I’m an average-size player, so I have to be able to contribute offensively and be trustworthy in the defensive zone.”  Randy Lee talked about him saying, “He wasn’t there [in Spokane] as a thug. He played in important situations. He knows he’s got to be quicker off the mark and he’s got to be a faster skater. But he’s a big strong kid and he’s got a Chris Neil-type work ethic. He cares, he’s a team guy. He doesn’t like to fight just for the sake of fighting. He does it to protect his teammates. Or if something needs to be taken care of, he’ll do that. He’s a project, for sure. “But he’s got enough tools that he’s hopefully going to evolve, but it may not be overnight.”

-Tim Murray spoke briefly about Michael Sdao, “He plays a hard, physical game, he’s hard to play against. Because those are the guys you win with.”  Sdao himself said, “We have a great coaching staff at Princeton. All three of our coaches played college hockey and then went on to play pro. I think I’m learning a lot from them. This is my last year at school and I’m going to take a leadership role on the team. I’m looking forward to that and having a good year. You always want to finish strong. I like to think that back in the day I could [fight]. But I’ve got to sharpen up on those skills, too.”  Sdao was considered one of the best fighters in his draft year (2009).

Stu Hackel looks at what teams in the Eastern Conference need and for Ottawa he says “It remains unclear if captain Daniel Alfredsson will return, but even if he does, the Senators will be in the hunt for a top-six forward (and they’ve been mentioned in conjunction with the Rick Nash sweepstakes). But with pending UFA Filip Kuba likely not returning, they’ll also be looking for an experienced defenseman, preferably a stay-at-home-type, perhaps to partner with Norris Trophy-winner Erik Karlsson (Kuba’s old gig), or a shutdown guy.”  So Hackel simply reiterates what we’ve heard before: stay-at-home blueliner and a top-six scoring (for the right price).  I still think it will only be one of the two via free agency and that will be the defenseman.

DaveYoung throws his two cents into the Justin Schultz sweepstakes (picking up on the Bob McKenzie Tweeted news that the Minnesota Wild are also on his list) and comes to the conclusion that Ottawa is the best fit for him.  While I disagree (he could play 30 minutes a night with Edmonton), he does remind us why the Schultz sweepstakes are different than Matt Gilroy, Fabian Brunnstrom, or Bobby Butler: “Schultz was drafted [#43], was identified early as being a player with a serious ceiling.”  This is exactly why teams wet themselves when they found out he was going to become a free agent.

-There have been a lot of bio’s of players at the development camp, but most have simply reiterated what’s been said before so I haven’t commented on them.  For those interested here’s Mark Stone, Mark Borowiecki, Mika Zibanejad and Matt Puempel.

-My first look at the development camp should come out today (including a look at last night’s scrimmage).  For those who didn’t attend or watch it being streamed it was a lot of fun and while there’s very little seating and the PA system is incomprehensible, fans should definitely check it out if they have the opportunity.

Senators News: June 28th

Bob McKenzie has Justin Schultz‘s final list of teams: Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, and the New York Rangers.  The two that make little sense to me are Vancouver and the Rangers.  While Schultz would get an opportunity with both those franchises it would be less than with the other three, as the Oilers, Leafs, and Senators can all offer him top-four minutes and top-pairing powerplay time.

Matt Carkner turned down a one-year deal from the Senators and is expected to test the free agent market.  This doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t re-sign with the Sens, but he will explore free agency.

-The boys at Welcome to Your Karlsson Years posted an interesting post-draft discussion.  Varada wonders if the Sens should have taken a forward (Teuvo Teravainen) instead of a defensemen given how difficult the latter are to project.  He is also as puzzled as I was that the Sens drafted two goaltenders.  I have to agree with James that “I’m not ready to buy into this 20 minute old theory of ‘don’t waste your first round pick on a defenseman’ that’s been going around lately.”  I think many of the misses with blueliners is due to poor scouting rather than an overall difficulty in figuring defensemen out.  James, incidentally, projects Mark Stone‘s post-draft stats as his draft stats.  Finally, there’s a comment on the page about how little fans really know about the players drafted because of how little information is provided for any but the top players.  For those interested in actual scouting reports on the Sens picks, go here.

-I’m hoping someone can explain Robbie Baillargeon‘s hilarious yet slightly enigmatic Tweet, “Went Rambo today in the fake hostage take down, got the mission accomplished by recusing Alfie.”

Peter Raaymakers channels his inner wishes when he writes about who he’s looking forward to watching, “and Michael Sdao (both turning pro after college careers)“.  While the Sens would have loved for Sdao to leave college early, I believe this is a typo for Ben Blood.

-The over inflated opinions of the Sens prospects makes for engaging reading (I’m still seeing Shane Prince being talked about like he’s a star in the making), but after going to these things for years and reading reports about them you have to take it all with a large grain of salt.  To my mind, what you should pay attention to are: 1) the player given the hardest worker award, 2) players who are invisible (not including first-time attendees–Mark Stone was invisible his first year), and 3) organisational comments about specific players.  Always keep in mind that marginal players can look good if they have the right linemates.  In Raaymakers link above he mentioned being impressed by Corey Cowick last year and that’s a great example of how an older prospect who can’t establish himself in the AHL can look good at this level.

-The folks at Senshot are taking forever to grade all the Ottawa Senators, but they are a generous bunch giving a “C” to free agent and Don Brennan BFF Zenon Konopka.  Who knew staged fights and warming the pressbox was so rewarding?

Senators News: June 27th

-Despite his reputation as a temperamental guy, Robin Lehner has learned to answer media questions when it comes to his future.  “I’m trying to prepare myself as good as I can now, to get a spot. You never know. You go for it and see what happens. I’m feeling good. I’m looking forward to (camp) and I’m excited. They’re doing the best they think, for me. They’re not trying to go against me. They’re trying to develop me as good as they want. I’m an asset to them. They want me to do as good as possible. You’ve got to trust them, too. They’ve got a lot of hockey experience in this organization. I’m 20, going on 21. I don’t know that much. I’m just eager to play, eager to show myself. When I’m in Sweden during the summer, of course you’re trying to see what happens. But I’m confident, I’m not too nervous. I really like this organization. I don’t want to leave this organization. Whatever it takes. I don’t think it’s going to happen. That’s my gut feeling. I don’t see it happening. If it would, it would. I’m an asset and they’re going to use me as best they can.

James Gordon floats the idea of signing Jordan Tootoo.  It’s not a preposterous idea, but I don’t see the Sens signing any FA other than a defenceman.

ISS (Ross MacLean) looks at the best draft picks by round and gives the Sens the nod for the third round, saying “The third round had several great picks, but Ottawa made my two favorite selections of the entire draft with goaltender Chris Driedger at 76 and Jarrod Maidens at 82. Driedger has great potential and brings a tremendous attitude and never-quit passion to the crease, while Maidens would have been a first-rounder if he hadn’t missed most of the OHL season due to injury. While Maidens’ long-term health status remains in the air, his upside is tremendous.

Ken Warren doesn’t like the fact that Justin Schultz is getting to pick the team he plays on.  Warren’s argument is that because the Ducks picked him and invested in him as an asset, he owes it to Anaheim to play for them.  He suggests that this kind of behaviour violates the spirit of the draft.  It’s an absurd argument.  Any team that drafted Schultz would have put the same effort into developing him–all drafted players are assets that teams develop.  The Ducks could have tried to salvage something from losing him by trading his rights, but declined to do so.  Warren is right that the draft is designed to add balance to the league, but here I’d say the fault is Anaheim’s for not making their organisation appealing enough to Schultz.   Finally,  Schultz is fully within his rights to do exactly what he is doing.  If the Ducks don’t like it, they can blame the league and try to negotiate a way to prevent it in the next CBA, but I doubt anything will change.  Almost all the power within the league is with the teams and I have no issue with a player using a loophole available to him.

Senators News: June 26th

Tim Murray was on The Team 1200 and Nichols has transcribed the conversation which is worth reading in full.  Murray talked about the team’s development camp, “I don’t have a lot to do with it, so I can’t take any credit for it. But I think that Randy (Lee) and his team, you know, Randy has been through this 100 times. He has had people who have left this organization long before I got here and asked these people if he could help them set up their development camp wherever they have gone. He’s a pro at this and then you add our strength people – Chris (Schwartz) and our skating people and everybody. I’m not naming names but they’ve been around a lot and they’ve fine-tuned it, if you will. There have been mistakes made in the last ten years but I think on every mistake, we’ve tried to learn by that and develop something better. And you’re right, it’s the off-ice stuff as much as the on-ice stuff. We bring in a sleep expert in and some nights, I need that. But we give them all the information and again, when we talk about Cody, it’s what they do with it. We can’t force feed them. We can give them the information. We try to draft the player who will take and use the information, but it’s up to them.”  He also talked about the Sens interest in college free agent Justin Schultz who essentially can pick where he wants to go.  Murray described him this way, “Not many kids do this but you have a Canadian kid who on the surface, it looks to me like he wants to play in Canada and I think he can play now. That’s the message that we’ll be sending to him. He’s an offensive defenceman. He’s a puck-mover. His transition game is outstanding. He’s similar to somebody that we already have and I’m not comparing him to him but he’s just similar to him in style. And how far he gets with that style, we’ll find out.”  Murray says the team has a chance to land him, saying it’s between 3-5 teams and Ottawa is on that list.  Given that salary isn’t an issue (Schultz has to sign an ELC) presumably he wants guarantees that he’ll play on the NHL roster.

Steffe G:Son writes an excellent article on new Sens prospect Mikael Wikstrand.  The article is worth reading in full, but Steffe says of him “Even  though he didn’t get to show much of his offensive flare and the power play abilities that produced some points at the junior levels in Sweden,  he definitely didn’t look out of place at the senior level. He’s a good bet to make the Swedish WJC team for the tournament in Ufa this winter, and was one of 10 defensemen invited to the summer camp that’s the start of the U20 team’s season, with a camp in Sweden late July followed up by a tournament in Lake Placid. Wikstrand, who likes his name spelled with a “W” despite the passport saying “Vikstrand”, is a decently sized, mobile defenseman that can transport the puck with his skating and easy-solution, crisp passes. As a young  player in a men’s league, he would often opt for the simple play, as we’ve seen so many times with other young defensemen. Smart decisions defensively and while he’s not a physical force by no means, doesn’t shy away from contact and is fairly strong on his skates.”  He’ll play another season with Mora in Sweden and then possibly make the jump to the SEL or perhaps be brought over to play in the AHL (depending on his development).

Ken Warren reports that the Sens are still in talks with Matt Carkner and Jesse Winchester, but not with Zenon Konopka.  I wonder if the Sens are offering the pair two-way deals with a high AHL salary (that’s the only way I’d keep them), but Warren has no specifics to offer about the negotiation specifics.

Andy Strickland reports that Ottawa is negotiating for an extension with Chris Neil.  I agree with Nichols that Neil‘s best years are behind him.  There’s a lot of wear and tear on that body and I wonder what kind of extension it would be.

-UFA Corey Locke has signed in Finland.

Senators News: June 25th

-The Sens have announced their development camp roster: Forwards: Robert Baillargeon, Jeff Costello, Corey Cowick, Jakub Culek, Cameron Darcy*, Ryan Dzingel, David Dziurzynski, Wacey Hamilton, Mike Hoffman, Darren Kramer, Jarrod Maidens, Max McCormick, Stefan Noesen, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Brad Peltz, Shane Prince, Matt Puempel, Cole Schneider, Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad; Defencemen: Bryce Aneloski, Ben Blood, Mark Borowiecki, Timothy Boyle, Cody Ceci, Fredrik Claesson, Jordan Fransoo, Daniel New*, Michael Sdao, Trevor Van Riemsdyk*, Chris Wideman, Mikael Wikstrand; Goalies: Francois Brassard, Chris Driedger, Robin Lehner.  Those marked with an asterix are FA attendees.  Robert Baillargeon is incorrectly listed as a blueliner.  Daniel New attended the Sens camp a couple of years ago (2010) (this is apparently an error).  Eligible prospects not included are Jakob Silfverberg, Derek Grant, Andre Petersson, Patrick Wiercioch and Louie Caporusso.  Stats for FA’s:
Darcy Cameron (RW, 6’0, DOB 1994, USHL 24-4-2-6)
Daniel New (DL, 6’1, DOB 1989, NCAA 36-2-12-14)
Trevor Van Riemsdyk (DR, 6’2, DOB 1991, NCAA 37-4-15-19)

Peter Raaymakers collects all the video related to the players drafted and the comments about them (most of which are available on Sens TV), which I reference simply for this comment “Some of Ottawa’s best reporters scrummed around Ceci after the draft, asking him such deep-probing questions as, “Do you live with your parents?” and “What highway exit do you take to get home?”  Gord Wilson should be singled out for inane questions given that he interviews everyone for Sens TV.

Sam Cosentino gives Ottawa’s draft a B+, saying “Bryan Murray and his staff had a strong draft.  When everyone thought Murray was dead-to-rights in Ottawa, he rebounded with a Calder Cup championship last season, a playoff appearance this season for the big club and an excellent 2012 draft. Cody Ceci is a gem at No. 15. Third-round pick Chris Driedger showed signs of brilliance in the second half of the season between the pipes with the Calgary Hitmen.  Due to concussion issues, Jarrod Maidens slipped to middle of Round 3.  Had he been healthy, he was a surefire first-round pick. Timothy Boyle is the younger brother of the Rangers’ Brian Boyle and will get an extended look playing college hockey at Union. Robert Baillargeon slipped to the fifth round, while the Sens stole goalie Francois Brassard in the sixth. Mikael Wikstrand was ranked 23rd by the European division of NHL Central Scouting.  He slipped all the way to the 196th overall pick in Round 7.  There’s home run potential if Maidens can recover.”

Craig Schira, the lone RFA released by the Sens, has signed in Norway (following in the footsteps of former Binghamton teammate Mat Robinson who now plays in the SEL).