Senators News: January 8th

-With the lockout over Sens news and speculation is flooding the interwebs, although it’s amusing to see some sites (like The Hockey News and TSN) simply regurgitate their pre-lockout predictions as “news”.

Bryan Murray talked about the upcoming training camp and season:

Yeah, I think the setup on our first couple of lines should be, we have good skill. Obviously we think with that, we have some goal scoring ability. On the next two lines, we have a little bit of size. We have a little bit of variety of players – penalty killers, hard-nosed, competitive guys. I think our forward group is good and on top of that, we have Noesen, who is playing in Plymouth. We’ve got (Mark) Stone and (Mike) Hoffman. We’ve got a good group of young forwards down in Binghamton that, if they have to come up and play some games for us, can contribute. I think that’s where we really have a good edge right now.

The key thing here is its depth at the forward position, not the blueline.  On Jakob Silfverberg:

Yeah, he’s got a (good) head and hands. When a player has that, and he can get up and down the ice somewhat, you know he can contribute. You’re right, Jakob started fairly slow down there. I think the smaller ice surface, the type of game in the American (Hockey) League was a bit of a factor for him but he made the adjustment. I’ve seen a few of his highlight goals on tape and I keep replaying them hoping that he’ll be able to do it up here. He shoots the puck a ton. He’s got a head around the net and he makes real quality plays, so whoever plays with him will benefit from that as well.

On the state of the team’s blueline:

Well, it’s interesting, over the last day and a half now, I’ve received a number of calls from free agents, veteran guys that we will look at. But, we do have… again, we have some kids that have played very well – (Mark) Borowiecki, (Andre) Benoit, (Patrick) Wiercioch and (Eric) Gryba… people of that nature. So we will take a look at them as well. But I’ve talked to a couple of GMs about some surplus that we might have to get what we need. It’s like a normal year there. We will try and take our time, be smart about it, add the right chemistry type of guy to our lineup and hopefully (defence) won’t be the weak spot. We’re short in numbers, there’s no question and it’s really terrible that we lost Jared the way we did. But hopefully it will work out to our benefit later on because of this; we get a kid playing that will learn a lot and be better in the long run. No, they’re hard to get and it’s hard to have enough depth there. As I say, we have some big, young kids that are playing there and playing very well. We know they’re well-schooled in Binghamton and I think the way that it looks now at any rate, we’ll probably start with our own group and if we have to make an adjustment as we go forward, we will do that.

There’s really no replacement for Cowen, but I have a hard time imagining the Sens signing a veteran as anything other than a short-term solution.  Murray suggested he may have to make a trade to Wayne Scanlan.  On the organisation’s goaltending:

Yeah, we’ve been very, very happy overall. The two kids in Binghamton have been outstanding. Robin Lehner has been really, a star. A lot of nights they get outshot badly and outplayed and they win the hockey game and only give up one goal. So we’re going to really have to take a hard look at the two young guys along with Craig (Anderson). Our depth, again I mention up front and in goal in particular, our depth is really good. And in a shortened season, goaltending is going to be a major, major factor. So we have to play the right guy to start off with and hopefully he’ll carry the ball, whoever it may be, will carry the ball and help us win some games early on in particular. Yeah, the one thing that has happened with Robin, he’s matured so much. His game is so much better. His approach is really good. I think he understands now, which is hard for young players sometimes, that it does take time to make it (to the NHL). But you hope when you make it, you stay for a long time. And I think Robin understands that totally, so we’re going to give him a great viewing here. We’re going to give him a great opportunity here and if he has to go back (to Bingo) and play, I know he’ll be terrific down there as well.

All of this points to Lehner remaining in Binghamton.  Finally, on team toughness:

Oh boy, if we’re not tough enough, I’ll get some advice from (Don Brennan) I’m sure and he’ll tell me who to go get. I think that’s the one issue… there’s no question that having Matt Carkner and (Zenon) Konopka last year was a nice ability to put into (the lineup) – like in Game 2 against the Rangers. I think we’re tough enough. I think we have competitive people. And if we’re not, we’ll have to address it. But I think again, with the shortened season, we’re going to see a lot more competitive hockey. You’ve got to stay on the ice and you’ve got to play hard. Recognizing that, there probably won’t be a luxury of carrying a tough-guy only.

I enjoy Murray tweaking Don Brennan’s nose for all his whinging for the departed tough guys (Don choose not to mention the matter in his own column).  Toughness is not going to be an issue for the Sens.

-Nichols makes my point about Jared Cowen even more vociferously than I did yesterday:

The Jared Cowen injury really buggers up the Senators depth chart and with the possibility of starting the season with three new defensive pairings, the potential lack of cohesion on the back end gives me cause for concern; especially if it necessitates playing Gonchar and Phillips together against decent competition for 20-plus minutes per game.

Varada is back with the hockey season and within his lengthy post offers the following:

I think we [the Senators] have some regression in store, helped along by the lack of mister 20-minutes-a-night Kuba, Cowen and Lundin’s injuries, Phillips, Gonchar and Alfie all being one year older, Michalek’s shooting percentage coming back down to earth, Karlsson probably not leading all defencemen in scoring by 20 points, and that we pretty much lucked out in not missing Spezza or Michalek or Alfie to injuries that much last year. I don’t think we’ll see a bottoming out, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find us just on the outside of the bubble looking in. I wrote earlier how if there was a year that the Sens were going to go futile on us, it may as well be this one, when I’m used to no hockey and we’d only have to live with about 50 games of sucking. Then again, wackier things have happened in a shortened season.

This is certainly a possibility (and a better elucidated version of a downturn than Mark Parisi offers below).  On the surface it all boils down to the blueline and whether it can hold up given the issues it has.  James (who offers his opinions in the same link) is more positive, but (like me) also has the blueline as his primary concern.  Varada continues:

I feel like Turris is the natural answer to the breakout player question, though I’ve never been a huge champion of the kid and I’m skeptical still. I think he’ll do just fine as a 2nd line center, but breaking out, turning heads, stealing hearts? I dunno. Maybe. I think I’ll go with Jakub [Jakob] Silfverberg, who I think may be a part of the Calder conversation, thus increasing the “Is Jakub the reincarnation of the not-yet-dead-Alfie?’ chatter. As for the player in the doghouse, I’d say either Phillips or Neil, both of whom I think should have moved on a couple of seasons ago during the purge. Phillips is a serviceable second pairing guy, and obviously he’s a veteran with a great history in the city, but at $3MM per I don’t know if having both he and Marc Methot around battling for the not-quite-good-enough-to-play-with-Karlsson spot sets my world on fire. Neil gets a bit of a pass because Carkner and Konoptka are gone and as hockey savant Don Brennan will tell you, you need someone on your team who if he wasn’t playing hockey would probably be in jail. Neil will fight people, so…we need him? Veteran, pump-up guy, history in the city, blah blah blah. But his possession numbers are brutal. He also takes more penalties than he draws, making the whole ‘pest’ element a bit of a wash. I don’t know if I care much for yet another season of Neil scoring, what, 20 points? Holy shit, I completely forgot that this team signed Peter Regin. He might pleasantly surprise.

Safe picks for a breakout player, although Turris doesn’t qualify for me (or James) unless he runs at a point-per-game pace or something (the guy was the third overall pick in 2007, so a good to great season shouldn’t be a surprise).  Silfverberg will be that player if he has a productive season; no one else really springs to mind unless Regin really is healthy and can produce.  As for the doghouse I think Varada is spot on, although both those players are largely immune to criticism in the media here so another scapegoat would be found.  James defends Phillips, but he’s watched the Big Rig’s play decline over the years…it may get ugly this season.

Mark Parisi offers up his five burning questions for the Sens:
5. Did the Sens over achieve last season?
Parisi doesn’t offer an answer, but it’s a valid question that’s hard to answer–I think they did, but this season and last form their own distinctive entities
4. Did the team lose too much toughness?
No.  I don’t see this as a serious question
3. What, if anything, should be done about the goaltending logjam?
I think the organisation has already made this decision, so it’s really only a question for fans who disagree with an Anderson/Bishop pairing
2. Where will the goals come from?
Given that Ottawa didn’t lose many goals to free agency in the summer, this question only makes sense if we can know players are going to have down seasons (an assumption that would need some backing methinks)
1. Who will replace Jared Cowen?
No one directly–there’s no trade or free agent who can provide what Cowen does.  I think the team will try internally first and then externally if that doesn’t work

-Sens prospect Cody Ceci was traded from the 67s to Owen Sound yesterday.  Ceci will be invited to the Sens camp, but it’s clear from Bryan Murray’s comments (above) that there’s no chance of him making the NHL roster.

Jeremy Milks makes the odd prediction that Zack Smith will be Ottawa’s comeback player…coming back from what?  I’m not sure what heights Jeremy thinks he’ll be returning too.

Pierre LeBrun goes through some of the CBA nuances, the most interesting of which is retaining salary via trade.  As LeBrun writes:

Here are the main parameters of the rule: A club cannot absorb more than 50 percent of the players’ annual cap hit/salary in any trade. Any NHL club can only have up to three contracts on their payroll in which the contract was traded away under the retaining salary proviso. Also, only up to 15 percent of your upper limit cap amount can be used up by the money you have retained in trades.  For example, let’s say the Maple Leafs want to trade little-used blueliner Mike Komisarek and his $4.5-million cap hit ($3.5 million salary this year) to the New York Islanders  (hypothetically). The Leafs could retain half the cap hit — $2.25 million — and half the salary — $1.75 million — in order to facilitate the deal. The Islanders would pay him the other half. This should facilitate more trades around the league, no question.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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3 Comments

  1. Short season, only playing in the division should be good for the Sens.

  2. […] Senators News: January 8th […]

  3. […] Senators News: January 8th […]


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