Senators News: October 4th

-Ottawa opens its season against Buffalo tonight and here are the expected lineups: Michalek-Spezza-Ryan, MacArthur-Turris-Conacher,  Greening-Pageau-Condra, Smith-Da Costa-Neil; Methot-Karlsson, Cowen-Wiercioch, Phillips-Gryba; Anderson will get the start.

James Gordon did a Q&A with Paul MacLean and the only comment I wanted to reference was this one:

Our biggest enemy right now isn’t Toronto, Boston, Detroit or any other team in the game, it’s ourselves. We can be our own worst enemy, thinking that we get picked to be this team, picked to be that team, and now we start getting away from how we had to do things to be successful.

This is a little sanguine–quality of the roster does impact wins and loses–but I think it is better to be focussed on what you can control and that’s where MacLean’s attention is.

Nichols examines storylines to look forward to this season (including a reference to Melnyk’s CSI team, which I always enjoy) and because of how many he lists I’ll address those that interested me in point form:
-where will Ottawa’s overpaid fifth defenseman (Chris Phillips) will be next season – my guess is playing for a different team, but I thought that when he was re-signed last time as well, so take that for what it’s worth
-how will the Cowen-Wiercioch pairing work out – I think it will be fine in the long run, but I do anticipate frantic fans losing their shit if they have a bad game early in the season
-how healthy will the team be?  The injury-prone players (like Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek) will miss time–sorry poolies!
-what about Spezza‘s captaincy?  As I’ve said before it seems largely meaningless
-how much will Craig Anderson will regress – my guess is that he’ll return to his average numbers when he’s played a full season (I don’t like Nichols’ comparison to Dominic Hasek, since NHL scoring was much higher in 05/06 than it was last season)
-the Sens have great depth at center – true, although they lack anyone who could actually replace Spezza; I agree with him that Da Costa‘s days are numbered
-Nichols ponders what Cory Conacher‘s production will be like and I wonder too, but I expect it will reflect the second half of his season last year
-how long will Zibanejad remain in the minors and I agree with him that it won’t be long
-how will the Sens deal with greater expectations?  I think it’s less how it impacts the team and more how it impacts their opposition, but there are so many variables within a season I don’t think there’s a single, blanket answer
-finally he wonders about the relationship between the fans and the organisation and I think that’s a poorly way of framing it–I think the relationship between fans and the organisation is fine, it’s fans and ownership where the strain begins and as cost-related decisions begin to impact the roster more it will get very ugly

Ian Mendes has a similar column and the only difference worth mentioning is him openly wondering if Jean-Gabriel Pageau can live up to the hype.

-The boys at WTYKY make some amusing predictions.

-Binghamton made its first cuts yesterday sending AHL-contracts Danny Hobbs, Danny New, and Scott Greenham to Elmira.  The only ELC player to join them was Ludwig Karlsson.  This means the B-Sens have 25 players on their roster, which seems a bit bloated so I wouldn’t be surprised to see players like Ben Blood or Jakub Culek sent down at some point.

-Binghamton lines at practice ahead of tomorrow’s season opener: Puempel-Zibanejad-Stone; Prince-O’Brien-Petersson; Hoffman-Grant-Dziurzynski; Schneider-Hamilton-Cowick; Kramer-Culek-Robinson; Borowiecki-Ceci; Claesson-Rutkowski; Eckford-Wideman; Sdao-Blood.  It’s early for line combinations to remain steady so a lot could change, but my projections from the summer aren’t that far off (granting I didn’t foresee either O’Brien or Zibanejad in Binghamton).

Mika Zibanejad clocks in at #20 on Hockey’s Future top-50 prospect list (five behind now-Duck Jakob Silfverberg):

The Swedish center provided quality depth for the Senators in his first season as a full-time NHL player. Offensively, he finished with seven goals, 13 assists for 20 points and a plus-nine rating. Creative with the puck, he could find room to operate or drive through bodies towards the goal. Zibenajed’s swift skating also allows him to be effective at both ends of the ice. Opposing teams took note of the youngster’s commitment to getting back on defense, pestering the on-rushing player on the back-check. The offseason acquisition of Bobby Ryan could further enhance the 20-year-old’s development as a top-six forward in the organization, but that pairing will happen at a later date as Zibanejad will begin the 2013-14 season in the AHL.

ESPN polled players on various questions and most of the results aren’t particularly interesting, but Matt Cooke did win the dirtiest player vote by a very large margin.

-We already know fighting has no real impact on the game and that the “tradition” of a one-dimensional enforcer is not that old, but Eric Macramalla wonders if the NHL could be sued over injuries sustained from the practice.

Players today would have some obstacles to overcome if they wanted to be successful in court. First, the collective bargaining agreement, which is agreed upon by the players, provides that issues of player health and safety go to arbitration and not court. The final hurdle for player to overcome is something at law called causation. How does a player show that his brain damage was caused as a result of playing in the NHL? Very sadly, this is one limitation facing the Derek Boogaard lawsuit against the NHL. Boogaard fought for nine seasons in the WHL, ECHL and AHL before playing the NHL. It may not be clear where the damage was caused. While these hurdles may discourage a lawsuit, they don’t completely remove the risk of one materializing. Merits of a case aside, a player may still elect to sue the league if, for example, he believes that the league is responsible for brain trauma sustained while playing. And a lawsuit would bring with it negative publicity for the game. No business likes that, and the NHL is likely no different.

My theory is that once the CHL bans fighting the NHL will follow suit (unless a player dies on the ice first), but time will tell.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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