Senators News: September 29th

-Today’s split squad game expected lineups are out.  Ottawa: Bobby Ryan, Milan Michalek, Shane Prince, Erik Condra, Stephane Da Costa, Curtis Lazar, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Danny Hobbs, Corey Cowick, David Dziurzynski, Mike Hoffman, Mika Zibanejad; Marc Methot, Erik Karlsson, Chris Phillips, Cody Ceci, Michael Sdao, Eric Gryba; Craig Anderson, Nathan Lawson.  Barrie: Kyle Turris, Colin Greening, Zack Smith, Clarke MacArthur, Jim O’Brien, Chris Neil, Matt Puempel, Matt Kassian, Buddy Robinson, Derek Grant, Mark Stone, Cory Conacher; Jared Cowen, Chris Wideman, Patrick Wiercioch, Ben Blood, Mark Borowiecki, Joe Corvo; Robin Lehner, Andrew Hammond.  Amusing (to me) is the absence of Jakub Culek, who even in these circumstances can’t get a game.

-The waiver process continues as the Sens put Mike Hoffman and David Dziurzynski on the wire yesterday for the purpose of getting them to Binghamton (I expect both to make it through).  The move puts the final nail in the coffin of speculation that Hoffman might land a spot on the Sens roster (something Jeremy Milks at last accepts along with the obvious conclusion that Cory Conacher is going to make the team).

Paul MacLean made an interesting comment about Stephane Da Costa:

We believe now he can play in the NHL at any position, whether it’s a top-six role or bottom six. We’ve asked him to have a better fitness level, a better competition level, and play better defensively. And he’s done all those things. And if people are doing things that you ask them to do, I think you have to acknowledge that and then give them the opportunity. He’s made those things and he’s making it difficult for us to make decisions, which is what we like. He’d be one of (camp’s surprises). For Stephane, it was good to see he took direction and brought it, but we knew he’d come in and be ready to compete for a job. So it didn’t surprise me, no.

MacLean also offered comments on other players:

For me, I had never seen Mike Sdao play, I’d never seen Buddy Robinson play. Those guys to me, we were excited to see them play, and they were surprises because you didn’t know what they were.

The implication is that the coach was happy with both players.  Don Brennan (whose article I’m quoting) implicitly links Jason Spezza‘s groin injury with Da Costa‘s presence, but that seems to be his inference as opposed to some insider knowledge via the team.  Is there a long-term plan to keep Da Costa with the Sens?  I have my doubts–without a trade the roster will be bursting.

Amelia L ponders the expectations for Craig Anderson and concludes he only needs to be good this season for the Sens to do well because of their roster improvements (she points out that Anderson‘s career numbers over a full season of play have been around the league average).

Jared Crozier explores the possibilities for Jim O’Brien now that he’s cleared waivers, but I have to agree with his colleague Jeff Ulmer that the obvious solution (Binghamton) is the only one for now.  The Sens would love to move him anywhere else, but there aren’t any dance partners for JOB.

Allan Muir looks at the Atlantic Division and offers these thoughts on Ottawa:

The abrupt departure of Daniel Alfredsson and bold acquisition of Bobby Ryan won’t define Ottawa’s season. The ability to stay healthy will. The Sens were decimated by injuries in 2013, as Jason Spezza (50 games), Erik Karlsson (31) and Milan Michalek (25) each spent lengthy stretches on the shelf,  leaving a shell of an offense that struggled to find the net. Fully loaded this time around with the addition of Ryan, the four-time 30-goal scorer from Anaheim, the feisty MacArthur on the second line, and some gritty, tenacious  kids in depth roles, Ottawa won’t finish 27th overall in goals-per-game again. The trick for the Sens will be to replicate their defensive success. They finished second in the league in goals-against last season, primarily on the strength of their goaltending. Craig Anderson, who missed 18 games himself, was brilliant, posting a 1.69 GAA and .941 save percentage. Given his career averages, those will be hard numbers to match, but if he falters, the 22-year-old Robin Lehner ranks as one of the game’s top backups. There’s some mixing and matching to do on the back end, especially as the Sens try to account for the loss of Sergei Gonchar on the power play, but coach Paul MacLean has  pieces to work with. After seeing what he did last season with much, much less, the Sens are a legitimate threat to capture the East.

Luke Richardson did a Q&A with Matt Weinstein and here are a few of his comments:

The most important is to pass on the wealth of experience in 20-plus years of pro hockey. I like to be approachable to players, make them comfortable to come to me with problems. Share things they’re feeling and help them with their journey. The Xs and Os just fall into place. More importantly, it’s about communication. Sometimes the players feel like just a number, so you try and relate on a personable level. I believe in myself and our whole coaching staff. Steve Stirling is a wealth of knowledge, and we also brought in a new video coach, Tim Marks. He’s a smart guy, played in the AHL and worked at Princeton. I really am happy and confident in my staff, and we will be supplied with a great number of prospects again. I think I’m always learning. I want to push the guys hard so they learn to push themselves. Try to empower them to control the locker room. It’s a bit of a teacher’s mentality but I want the players to feel like they are in control of their own destiny. I always have advice, but really I want to empower them and make them feel confident.

That’s one of the biggest things you have to deal with [players who think they should be in the NHL]. I think for me, I try to take pride in being honest. Sometimes those conversations are tough and you try to help the players through that. I’ve seen young players go through it. You just pass on that support. Help them and ask them what I can do to help them to get through this tough part and play great hockey. That’s my approach — just try to help the individual player in about 20 different ways. Everybody is treated and talked to the same, and relationships now have expanded since we see these guys practically all year. Our goal is to help them to get what they want to achieve.

The most rewarding thing is to tell a player he’s going to the NHL. To take it one step further, not only watch guys go up but then to have success when they do go up. Jean-Gabriel Pageau is a great example of that. He was a guy who worked hard since AHL training camp, got an opportunity with Ottawa toward the end of the year and contributed at the end of the regular season and in the playoffs, even getting a hat trick. We were high-fiving each other after watching his success. The players we had last year was a special group to me — what they sacrificed for their teammates. I’ll never forget that first team, even though it was like two teams with all the injuries. To see those players go up and do well, that is the key for me.

These sentiments here aren’t necessarily new, but surely Richardson’s approach makes him a popular coach for the players.

Eugene Melnyk continues to flap his gums and Nichols provides a transcript along with his thoughts on it.  As is typically the case when Melnyk opens his mouth, Nichols has a hard time making sense of what he’s saying:

The Senators are already over budget on the money allocated for paying player salaries? To put this in perspective, the team has the 28th lowest salary cap payroll and the 27th lowest real money being spent. Although they’re not a cap floor team per se (note: the salary floor is set at $44 million), relative to their peers, they are definitely on the low-end of the scale. Whether it’s been management or the owner, the organization has repeatedly said that it can spend and add to payroll if it sees fit. However, what are they going to say otherwise? Every time Melnyk opens his mouth, it turns into a mild PR disaster and it’s not like the organization is going to send a message to its fan base that it’s unwilling to spend the money necessary to build this once-rebuilding franchise into a contender.

I agree with Nichols that:

As justified as Melnyk’s vitriol towards City Council’s decision to single source the casino bidding process has been, I reserve some skepticism whether the Senators owner would reinvest the revenue generated by a casino back into his hockey team’s payroll. The greatest fear in all of this is isn’t that the Senators aren’t financially viable and are destined to move. They simply won’t. Moving the team won’t happen because Gary Bettman won’t let it happen.

And I agree with this:

At the time that Hockey Central broke news that Melnyk was looking at possibly selling some stake of team and Bruce Garrioch reiterated to Hockey Central’s panel that Melnyk told him that ‘He’s not that kind of guy (to take on a partner).’ So far, everything that Hockey Central said back in October of 2012 has checked out, so why should we believe Melnyk when he says that no one has shown interest in coming on board as a minority owner now? Even at the time, Melnyk may have been the last one standing but he was far from the only one who showed interest. He may continue to try and build up equity in the fan base by portraying himself as the white knight who saved the franchise, but we can’t pretend like he was the only one who was interested. Nelson Peltz, described as a notorious tire-kicker by Elliotte Friedman, was another prospective buyer. Having attended a Senators game during the preliminary process, Bettman said of Peltz at the time, “This doesn’t mean anything is imminent and I really don’t want you to think something is going to happen just because he’s here. He’s taking a look at (the Senators), but he’s not the only one.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)