Thomas
DeChastelain
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SensWatch Blog Archives 2006


Aug 29, 2006 -- Well my first attempt at video highlights is now available. No big surprise in that it deals with the 2005/2006 season of Antoine Vermette, in magnus opus fashion.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Aug 28, 2006 -- Will somebody please shoot this guy before he makes a trade. It seems Muckler has the hots for P.J. Axelson. Only God knows why? He scored 10 goals last year, which what he has averaged for the nine years he has been in the league. This guy's book has been written...he is going to score 10-15 goals a year until he retires...there is nothing here that we want or need.

On the Sensnation board they were quoting sources saying that the Bruins were demanding a top 4 defenceman and an "NHL" forward. By "NHL" they were speculating Vermette or Eaves, two players who have already hit the 20 goal plateau, in their second and rookie years respectively.

Both of these players in my mind are more than capable of scoring 30 goals this year. For Eaves it is a matter of math...a full season gives him 27 ...add a bit for experience. For Vermette it is a matter of actually playing a whole season with two decent forwards.

Anyways again the fact that the Bruins are "demanding" this confirms to me that the other GM's hold Muckler in complete contempt. It is not just what they are demanding...according to this Brownescombe blog post
Muckler is offering ... offering Volchenkov and Kelly.

I would not even trade either of these guys one for one for Axelson. Next to Vermette, Kelly is probably the most underrated, misunderstood player on the Sens. People forget that Kelly got over 30 points last year, almost as many as Eaves and Vermette and more than what Axelson got.

He may not be as flashy as Vermette but his overall hockey skills, and skating, is equal, if not better, than that Eaves. Unlike Eaves, but like Vermette, he barely played any games where he had two good line mates to work with. He is arguably one of the best pure passers on the team. Again the only problem here was that Vermette was the only guy he could pass to, that could actually do anything with the puck. Do you think McGrattan or Varada could streak behind lead-footed defenders and catch passes at full throttle? Might as well pass the puck to the Zamboni.

Put Kelly with two decent forwards....and please not fucking Heatley who can't play with anybody else but Alfie and Spezz, but any other two forwards...like Vermette and Eaves, then his point totals would double at least He certainly would score 20 goals faster than Axelson would. And then there is the obvious... trading Kelly away breaks up one the most lethal PK units in the league.

And Volchenkov? Look the days of Ottawa having depth on defence are gone, finito...Muckler has pissed it away. This year our depth consists of Schubert, who quite frankly, is much more impressive as a forward that at D. If last year's call ups from Binghampton are any indication ,then the Senators have no safety net in that regards. To give up, what on any other team, is a top 4 defenceman for a perennial 30 point forward is just ludicrous.

With Chara gone we will need Volchenkov's ability to deliver bone crushing, momentum shifting, A-trains more than ever.

Could we use another forward? Sure...but unless this guy can score 30 goals in his sleep, then whoever we get is not going to be worth what we would have to give up.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Aug 28, 2006 -- Ottawa Senators scoring highlights of Mike Fisher, 2005-2006 season.


-- SensWatch


Aug 24, 2006 -- A reader sent in the following link on Alexei Kaigorodov from a site that covers Russian prospects.

Quite a detailed look and analysis and a complete set of statistics. He sounds to have a little bit of Spezza in him, or at the least, that is the impression I get.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Aug 24, 2006 -- There is strong indication that Kaigorodov (click for scouting report) will be making the trip to Ottawa this year. At least that is what is being reported at EuroHockey.net

This is nothing short of fantastic news! I am sure that any of you who have been doodling with prospective line combinations will understand the significance and impact of this.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Aug 19, 2006 -- In preparation for the upcoming season I have been spending some spare time doodling with potential line combinations. At this stage of course there are all kinds of options and possibilities. Keeping the Big Line together gives one main branch of possibilities. Breaking them up gives another basket of possibilities. The other big unknown will be the recent acquisition of Dean McCammond, signed to a one year deal at .725 million dollars.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Aug 17, 2006 -- Now that the roster is all but finalized one can start to look at potential line combinations. Next to actually qualifying for the playoffs the most important aspect of the regular season is to find those line combinations that bring out the best that the team has to offer. It is the time in which one finds out which combinations work, and which do not. In that regards Ottawa's last season was a complete waste of time. We went into the playoffs with four lines that had, at best, a total of two or three, regular season games together. We might as well have just exited training camp.

One of the key questions that I look forward to being answered is whether we will go back to using the Big Line of Alfredsson-Spezza-Heatley?


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Aug 13, 2006 -- I have updated the work sheet to include McCammond. The total cap hit comes to just shy of $43 million so I cannot see any dramatic additions before the season. At this point it is better to let them play and see where we will need extra help for a playoff run and then go for that come trade deadline.

It is disappointing not getting that top six forward as well as not getting to see Kaigorodov who may have been the one to fill that hole.

My overall impression however is that we still have a very good team that will have a lot of speed and thus will be enjoyable to watch. If we can get the line combinations right then we should have no problems scoring goals. It is not partisan optimism to say we could have at least six, if not more, players who will score 30 goals or more this year


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Aug 2, 2006 -- From James Mirtle who again does great work we get the following list of forwards who are still available as UFA's

V. Kozlov - Allison - Sykora
Daze - Perreault - Carter
Bondra - Hrdina - Dvorak
Rucinsky - Daigle - Kvasha
G. Johnson

So is there anybody here that can fill our need for a top six forward? In my mind whomever we get has to be a 30 goal scorer, otherwise we might as well have kept Smolinski


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Aug 1, 2006 -- Now that the foundation of the team for this coming season is basically set it is time for Melnyk to make those changes that are necessary for Ottawa's continued success. So what I am talking about is the firing of Muckler and Murray.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 31, 2006 -- Came across a link to some sites which cover NHL team salaries.

NHL Team Salaries, and

NHL Analysis.com

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 29, 2006 -- Below is an updated salary worksheet. As you may know the salary that a player gets is not necessarily the same as the cap hit. The latter, I believe is calculated as the average salary over the length of the contract. So although Schaefer will get paid 1.7 million this year, his cap hit is 2.1 million. I am not sure if I have all the nuances involved and just haven't had the time to nail it down.

Kaigorodov is still a big question mark. My projected salary here really is in the realm of a wild-assed guess. How much will he cost? Will we even sign him? If we do, can he actually be the number 2 center some people hope?


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 28, 2006 -- Schaeffer has been signed for $8.4 million over four years giving an average "cap hit" of 2.1 million dollars a year. This is fairly close to the 2.2 million I projected for a longer term contract. A good signing. I will do up the revised worksheet sometime this weekend. We still need that top six forward.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 27, 2006 -- I am waiting for the Schaefer arbitration hearing to be concluded before putting up the revised salary worksheet. As you know Kelly has been signed (only one year) for .75 million while Chris Neil was signed for 3 years at 1.1 million a year. It doesn't really change the bottom lines from my projections (I had them both at .942 million).

I think Kelly is being undervalued at .75 million and if they had offered him close to a million, he would have signed for longer. A key guy on the PK and someone in my pre-season line up that I have playing as a third line winger with Vermette and Eaves. I would project him as a 20 goal scorer if he could play with those two for the whole season.

I won't begrudge Neil his 1.1 million dollars, but if he was a stock, then quite a bit of good news has been priced in before the fact.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 21, 2006 -- I am sure you have noticed that in certain media quarters, it is fashionable to turn one's nose up at professional hockey in comparison with the other major North American sports leagues. The source comes from a certain breed of American sports broadcaster that immediately puts down anything that is not instantly identifiable as being thoroughly "American". Worse at times you can see it rubbing it off on Canadian broadcasters with inferiority complexes. Thus their willingness to consider "gimmicks" to save the game of hockey or change it to sell it to the Americans.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 18, 2006 -- You can change the "P" on Vermette to a "C" as it has been announced that he has signed a two year deal. The one million dollar cap hit remains the same. Money well spent.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 15, 2006 -- Below is the revised GM Worksheet. According the NHLPA site, Schubert has been signed for .525 million - which is less than the .7 million I had projected. This only confirms to me that Muckler is better at negotiating salaries, than he is at trading players. This is a steal for a player like Schubert who is the team's uber depth player.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 12, 2006 -- Muckler has been quoted as saying that he wants to start the season at $42 million, and leave a reserve for trade deadline acquisitions.

According to my estimates, Muckler should still has about 2.5 to 2.85 in cap space even after the RFA's are signed.

I think it would be better if he took that money and got the best forward he can buy for that amount. With one more top six forward, we would have a very sound line-up that you could ride for the whole season.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 10, 2006 -- Anyone who has done any line juggling in their heads can tell you that the departures of Smolinski and Havlat has left the Senators pretty lean up front. I don't think you will get much debate by saying that our top priority is to sign a top six impact forward. Not a prospect, not a project, not a young player with promise or potential, but a no shit player that we know will contribute from game one.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 10, 2006 -- Havlat and Smolinski are out. Priessing is in. I have not yet included the other two as of yet, as it is not clear to me whether they will playing with the Senators or in Binghampton. We are more or less set at defense. The remaining cap space now definitely has to go and get an impact forward.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 9, 2006 -- Well was just browsing through the SensNation chat board where I found out that Havlat and Smolinksi have been dealt. The link below will take you to the TSN story.

Sens deal Havlat and Smolinski to Chicago

First impressions. The Blackhawk braintrust blew a gasket, signing Havlat for 3 years and $6 million a year. If they think Havlat is the kind of player that can carry a team on his back, then they are in for a rude, rude shock.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 9, 2006 -- A recent article in the Ottawa citizen quotes Muckler as saying,

"Organizations have to think differently in a cap world that expedites player movement and limits payroll to $44 million U.S. The Senators won't exceed $42 million U.S. at the start of the season."

I would think one of the conditions for long term viability is to avoid salary albatrosses. Indeed any salaries that do not give good value has a ripple effect that affects the whole team.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 6, 2006 -- Below is an updated salary worksheet which incorporates the signings of Spezza and Emery.

C = Contracted (Source used was TSN) P = Projected (My Estimation) A = Under Arbitration


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 5, 2006 -- In an interview with Bruce Garrioch Chara is quoted as saying

"He [Melnyk]told me the cap is going to be $44 million and they were going to go to the maximum.

So spending the max is a good thing. If my projections are anywhere close it means that there is about $3.8 million dollars in cap space remaining.

Novak was not given a qualifying offer and is thus a free agent, so the plan of bringing him up and concentrating that money on getting a number 2 center is not really workable.

Either through free agency or part of the Havlat deal we are going to have to get another defenceman. Even then it looks like our depth in that area will be non-existent.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 4, 2006 -- It should be obvious to all that Muckler is having trouble off-loading Havlat. Teams are not lining up to grab the supposed elite winger, especially with out a known dollar cost attached to him. That alone suggests that other teams may not share in Havlat's good opinion of himself.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 4, 2006 -- Well I guess Muckler's ambitions have dropped in just 24 hours. According the Ottawa Sun,

"Muckler also said the club is still sifting through the free-agent market for a fourth-line center and a defenceman."

A fourth line center? Why? We are up to our ears in centers. With Vermette and Kelly and Kaigorodov, this is hardly a gaping hole.

Unless of course some of these names are not going to be here?

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 4, 2006 -- I am not going to update the chart until a few more names are finalized but one can now take the "P" away from the Spezza slot and replace with a C. Today it was announced that Muckler signed Spezza for two years at $4.5 million/year.

You will notice that the figure matched my "projected" estimate dead on. But not quite. When I projected $4.5 million, it was the first year of a five year deal.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 2, 2006 -- From the Ottawa Sun we get the following from Bruce Garrioch,

"Muckler said he's not done.

The club is still trying to trade winger Martin Havlat, who is a restricted free agent, possibly for another forward.

The Senators could also make pitches to free-agent centres Doug Weight, Jason Arnott and Michael Peca."


While getting Weight or Arnott would be wonderful, I am a little at a loss of where the money is going to come from. I realize that my "projected salaries" may be off a bit, but I think the only real wiggle room comes in what will be required to sign Spezza and Schaeffer. There is not that much to work with when considering the projected salaries of the third and fourth liners.

Postscript. Well only hours after having one's imagination whetted, comes the news that both Weight and Arnott have been scooped up by other teams.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 2, 2006 -- C = Contracted Salary, P = Projected Salary


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jul 1, 2006 -- You know I was taking time between plastering and was fiddling with numbers to see how I could make my wish list come true in light of Redden's salary. I think there are some scary implications coming down the road, especially when it comes time to try to resign Spezza. Anyways it looks like some of my prognostications will have to serve as a private baseline for now, as Muckler has pulled the trigger and done some deals. For details check out the Ottawa Sun.

First knee-jerk impressions? Gerber? I like it a lot

Chara gone to the Bruins for 7.5 million a year? Good riddance and you will have extra time to work on your golf game.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jun 29, 2006 -- Not only did John Muckler drink the Redden kool-aid, he put on a Santa Clause suit while doing it. TSN is reporting that Muckler is signing Redden for $6.5 million/ year, thankfully for only two years.

As such Redden's salary has joined an elite cadre of players whose performance level and accomplishments Redden does not even come close to approaching.

Muckler's trades over the past year make him a prime candidate to take over from Mike Milbury as the "greatest fool" within the NHL market-place.

There is a very strong possibility, not inevitability, but very strong possibility, that this signing will mark the beginning of the end. A few years down the road the Senators may be like other franchises, like the Capitals, the Islanders, the Blues, the Penguins, the Canadians ... that went from consistent Cup contenders and/or winners to basement beaters. Like bankruptcy, it occurs slowly ... and then suddenly.

The only thing I am hoping for is that the contract does not include a "no-trade" clause. If that is the case, then I would advise Redden to keep his bags packed.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jun 29, 2006 -- Just to recap. In my GM exercise I have used up 28.92 million to date to sign the majority of the team. 11.08 million of cap space remains. With this we need to find two defencemen to replace Chara and Redden. We need another forward, and we need to fill our number one priority, which is a goalie.

Obviously Jovanovski is no longer a realistic option.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jun 28, 2006 -- There you are, struggling to put in that built in dishwasher, or however you find yourself spending your summer evenings.. There is a violent pounding on your door. You open it to find a behemoth in a black suit. A limo is idling on the street behind him.

He informs you that there is a crisis over at the Senator's head offices. Melnyk needs to consult with you and right now. Dutifully you let yourself get driven to and led up to the inner sanctum.

There Melnyk informs you that Muckler has been fired and that you are now "the man." "Put the team together" he orders. And oh yes, he reminds you that he has promised the local fan base, a "dynasty".

What do you do? What do you do?


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jun 26, 2006 -- Senators' Quest For Goalie Continues -- Ottawa Citizen.
Clicking the above link will take you to an excellent "state of the union" type report by Allen Panzeri of the Ottawa Citizen on where the Senators are. On one side I am pleased that there seems to be a concerted effort to get upgraded goaltending. To me this is a priority whether we get Hasek back or not. I am a little concerned over what Muckler is prepared to trade away though. According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, Muckler was ready to trade away Havlat, Emery, Philips and a first round draft pick for Luongo. This is a pretty steep price to pay for a goaltender who has not proven himself one iota under play-off pressure. We have no idea if he is another Turcot. Muckler has a thing for throwing in high draft picks to sweeten the pot, and that practice is going to catch up to us.

I am still holding out a slim hope that Huet will be available after July 1.

-- Allen Panzeri


Jun 19, 2006 -- I don't know when it started but I wish professional team sports, and particularly hockey, would stop this practice of allowing wives, children, and girl-friends/groupies onto the ice when championships are won.

It is, in the end, a competition between men who quite literally battle each other for victory. It is a test and a celebration of qualities that are now too often denigrated in many aspects of our society. It seems ridiculous that the "field of battle" be turned into a nursery school the minute the siren goes off.

Seeing trophy wives and girl friends getting their picture taken kissing the Cup, only cheapens the achievement of winning it. If the little toddler wants to be on the ice with the Stanley Cup, then he better start practicing his wrist shot, because that is the only way anyone should be able to get close to this trophy.

Things hit a nadir when I saw someone plop their rug rat into the bowl of the Stanley Cup for some "cute" pictures. The Cup was made for champions to drink champagne from - it is not a toilet seat for the diaper set.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jun 8, 2006 -- First Crawford gets hired by the LA Kings. Then Chiarelli, the guy you would expect to fill in if Muckler got the deserved boot, is lost to the Bruins. Then, my favourite pick for coach, Ted Nolan, gets grabbed by the Islanders.

Have no doubt - if Ottawa had had Ted Nolan as coach for the past six or seven years, then our playoff record would make for very different reading.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jun 7, 2006 -- It is amazing to hear the pundits of every class and salary level talk about the loss of Roloson as if it was just a piece of adversity that can be overcome by digging deeper.

Let me stick my neck out here. It is over. And you know what? It better be over. Because if an eighth place team that has been outplayed in every series can go on to win the Cup, with two of the crappiest goalies in the league, then there is something terribly wrong with the NHL game of hockey. It means all this scheming and planning and analysis and speculation on how to make a team better, is all a colossal waste of time.

Might as well leave it all to monkeys

Quite frankly I think the Edmonton faithful are in denial. Yes they have a chance, yes you have to still play the game, but the Oilers are screwed and they need nothing short of a miracle. They need Lady Luck to come out and literally drench the Oilers with good karma.

To suggest that, without divine intervention, the Oilers are a better hockey team than the Hurricanes, that they stack up well, is sheer delusion. Do they really think the Oilers would be in the finals if Roloson hadn't been standing on his head?

I am not being mean here, but am speaking from experience. Remember when word came out that Hasek was injured? My first reaction was that we were screwed. Of course as time went on I tried to convince myself, and any who would read, that the Sens would still do OK and that we were powerful enough to compensate for the loss. Well the initial reaction was the right one. We were screwed and because we did not have a good enough goalie we did not have that critical mass needed to win the Cup, and we did not deserve to win the Cup.

Neither now do the Oilers.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jun 6, 2006 -- The 13 Levels Of Losing
Just click the title above to get to the article. Masterful.

-- Bill Simmons


Jun 4, 2006 -- Some of the numbers being thrown around for signing Redden and Chara are nothing short of preposterous. According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, Redden is asking for six million plus to stay in Ottawa. The zeitgeist around the league is that Chara can demand even more. So we are talking about 12-13 million dollars for two defenceman. Given that the team will most likely be under a self-imposed salary cap of $40 million, that would mean 30% of that cap would go to only two defencemen.

What really gets to me is that supposedly both Redden and Chara are asking, nay demanding, what changes or steps the GM is going to make to help bring a Cup to the city. Well if I was the GM, I would respond by stating that we are jettisoning playoff under performers who are asking for gigantic and undeserved pay raises.

Even in the surreal world of NHL player salaries 6 million dollars is reserved for that rare defenceman that has proven that they can lead a team to multiple Stanley Cup Championships. Redden and Chara are certainly not in that category. Chara is not Scott Stevens and Redden is certainly no Lindstrum. Indeed their playoff performances over the past five years have been completely under whelming in nature. Redden has been an active participant in way too many season ending goals and Chara has had way too many games where he has been ineffectual, if not a liability.

Indeed if you look at the list of available players through free agency you have to figure you can get a lot more bang for 12 million dollars than two good but vastly overrated defencemen.

Now as I have mentioned I do not have a detailed encyclopedic knowledge of players outside of Ottawa. However I suggest that for 12 million dollars you could get the following: Jovanoski for 5-5.5 million, Jay McKee for 3-3.5 million, Anson Carter 3-3.5 million and still have some change to spare.

Jovanoski can do everything Redden can do plus he adds physicality and in my limited viewing of the Canucks is a much better player in pressure situations. Jay McKee may not have the potential to squish opposing players like Chara, but he is a premier shot-blocker in the league and he certainly did not spend these past playoffs coughing up the puck the way Chara did. The big bonus is getting a forward like Anson Carter, a robust physical player who scored 30 plus goals, and whose play does not falter when up against the stiffer competition of the better teams.

Throwing Carter into our current mix of forwards gives all kinds of promising line combination possibilities.

Now those names are just examples. But in the end 12-13 million dollars should be able to get you two rock solid defenceman and a physical rugged forward that has proven goal scoring capabilities. With a little tough bargaining you may even have enough left over to get a good role player whose stock is down, like say Yanic Perreault, who is always in the top five in face-off winning percentages.

(Note: The "alternate" Senators logo is copyrighted 2006 and is used here with permission.)

-- Thomas DeChastelain


May 30, 2006 -- Well if you are coming to the site, that can only mean you are a real Senators fan, a keener.

I salute you.

Well from reading the Ottawa Sun it seems that "Hasek Experiment II" is a definite possibility. A major argument for going this route is money, Of course the performance risk is the same as last year. One, can Hasek regain the form of the Dominator, and two can he get through the season and playoffs without injury. Actually to be accurate I would say the risks are higher as he is one year older and he did suffer another season ending injury. I don't care what kind of shape you are in, when you hit your 40's you just can't do what you could when you were in your 20's.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


May 22, 2006 -- A homemade 2006 Senators tribute music video can be found by clicking below (warning it does take a for the video to load)

Sens '06

I found the pictures of Spezza, Heatley and Alfredsson together particularly bitter-sweet.

As an exercise in self-flagellation I went to the "Scores and Video Highlights Section" (See the "more sports" section near the bottom of the links section) and watched the highlights, especially from the first part of the year. That period when Havlat came back from his 5 game suspension to the game he was hurt really was the peak of our season.

A neat little feature is that if you click a player's name you watch all the goals that player scored during the year. Of course one has to watch Havlat's goals. [I had almost changed my mind about wanting him traded, but you know he can't just duplicate that in the playoffs so why bother]

I also took the time to check out the goals of Vermette, Eaves and Kelly. If we don't get any major changes, and that's the way the wind seems to be blowing right now, than any scope for improvement will have to come from the "kids" bringing their game up to a new level.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


May 21, 2006 -- Ok, I am not in the best of moods when it come to things "Senators" but I could only describe the "letter to the fans" from the owner as sheer blubbering, and psycho-babble. Most disappointing was to read the following,


-- Thomas DeChastelain


May 18, 2006 -- Below is a list of top unrestricted free-agents for this off season. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


May 16, 2006 -- I played a lot of hockey in smoke filled dingy arenas. In the stands would be men, not fathers watching their sons play, but miners with nothing much else to do but drink, smoke and watch us cream each other. You always had the sense that they were sizing you up, watching to see what you were made of. They were hicks, of course, but they were tough hicks. They would be keenly observant of the line, the path, a player took to get to a loose puck along the boards. All I can say is that if Havlat was playing hockey in those arenas, the way he played that last game against Buffalo, those men would have declared him as a chicken, a coward, as yellow as the bleeding sun.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


May 14, 2006 -- Here is a lesson from the past, also involving Bryan Murray. In the 92-93 Season the Detroit Red Wings were also coached by Bryan Murray. They were also filled with talent, also finished second in points in the regular season, and like Ottawa, also made an early exit from the playoffs.

The Detroit fan base went ballistic. Everyone wanted to get rid of Yzerman, and it amazed me even then, how much "legs" that idiotic idea actually had. Well someone from higher management came to their senses. They fired Murray, hired Bowman and kept Yzerman. They went on to win three Stanley Cups.

I suggest that is the route the Senators should take. Fire Murray again. Replace him with a coach that has at least taken a team to the Cup Finals. And keep your best player and top scorer. The mob calling for Alfredsson to be dealt away, should be summarily ignored.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


May 14, 2006 -- Well so much for winding things up. Still digesting the season so in no particular order:

Reading the newspaper I noticed that not one sports writer had the balls to call for Murray's head. We are poorly served by the weakest cadre of print pundits in the league. Again imagine if San Jose split up the Thornton line...they would be dragging the coach out by his heels and hanging him. The fact that Murray admitted that he did not give sufficient respect to Buffalo is just another reason to give him his walking papers. Any sports bar fan could tell you that Buffalo was dangerous, and nothing short of bringing our A game was necessary to win.

After Brian Murray the highest priority is to get a goaltender. I know I know...Emery was good, and if everything else was in order we could win with him. The big rub is that when you look at all the remaining teams you soon realize that even if Emery is good, the other team's goaltenders are still better. Getting an establish proven number one is too expensive. The guy to go after is Christobal Huet from Montreal. I don't think this last season was a flash in the pan. He is the real thing, but his lack of a long established track record means he should be available for good, but affordable money. It will be the kind of multi-year deal that at first seems expensive, but as the years roll by will look like a steal. Not only that, but being a Francophone makes good business sense as it will generate French media coverage and be a plus for attracting Francophone fans from Hull (Ok Gatineau).

I will confess that I was one of those that swallowed the rhetoric that our defence corps was one of the finest in the league. Their performance during the playoffs was the biggest disappointment. Chara has proved he is not a difference maker in the playoffs. My lasting image of the second round remains Chara, at the end of Game 1, just standing still while two Sabers zipped by him and got the puck and that tying goal. If he had just taken two strides and gotten in their way, the whole texture of the series could have changed. Chara would be of great value to a team like Florida. Against 70 percent of the teams, in regular season play, Chara would help accumulate those extra points needed to qualify for the post-season. But in the playoffs, whether because of the increased tempo, or his refusal to use his size advantage, Chara is just as often a liability as an asset. He is certainly not worth the salary the market is prepared to give him.

His departure does leave a big hole and we certainly need a top tier defenceman to replace him. To me the best man available would be Jovanoski from Vancouver. He would be perfect for us. He won't come cheap, but the Ottawa GM should at least try to get him, and offer a long multi-year deal with the same amount of money used to sign Redden.

(To Be Continued)

-- Thomas DeChastelain


May 13, 2006 -- Well the season ends in a most unglorious and bitter tasting fashion, with a short handed goal against us in over-time, driving the final nail. There will be much finger pointing for sure and why not.

To me this season starts and ends with Brian Murray. His terms of reference were simple ... take the most talented team in the league and win the Cup. Getting knocked out in five games in the second round, does not meet anyone's objectives. As such he should be the first to get the axe.

This is certainly not a knee-jerk reaction. You can go back to almost the very first post of this blog, 175 posts ago, and see that I have been wringing my hands over Brian Murray's ineptitude in organizing and preparing the talent he had available at his disposal.

Are the Buffalo Sabres a better team? No. Oh don't get me wrong - they are a good team, but they don't come close to the talent level we have. But as Dean Brown said they are a team that is "in sync", and the Senators were not.
In fact the Senators have not really been in sync since Nov 30.

Consider that our most "cohesive" line, the Fisher line, was thrown together only two days before the playoffs started.

And we are not talking about subtle stuff here, over the season Murray saw fit to put together, and then destroy the most prolific line in hockey.

Even on that final powerplay I was gnashing my teeth. In round 1 we had the best powerplay in the league because he put Havlat, Spezza, Heatley, Alfredsson and Redden together, what I called the "uber-powerplay". What on earth was a rookie doing out on the ice, in that circumstance, with the season on the line?

So regular readers will not be surprised to hear me say that the first step required is the firing of Brian Murray. We do not need to go through another five years with a coach that is incapable of preparing teams for the playoffs. Brian Murray's entire NHL coaching career is an unblemished record of taking strong teams and ensuring early exits from the post season. He is not Jacques Martin, who took a mediocre team and turned them into contenders, but lacked the tools to take the team to the next level. The organization does not owe anything to Brian Murray.

Indeed if it is not announced soon that Murray is being replaced there is a good chance that this team could implode over the summer.

As far as replacement coaches go the two possibilities that quickly come to mind are Crawford and Ted Nolan. Of course the latter means that Muckler would have to go, and I for one, see no reason to rush to his defence.

Anyways, for me the hockey season is over. I have no interest in following the rest of the playoffs. This was the first year I put this blog together. Indeed at first it was just meant to be a repository for a few letters and that is all. It turned into a bit of an obsession. I would like to thank all those who came to the site and I hope you received some, if not enjoyment, then maybe some insight that helped you shape your own opinions and views of this hockey team.

There maybe a "season in review" piece coming out, but most likely I will not really start putting stuff together again until the next season starts.

I hope you all have a great summer.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


May 13, 2006 -- One of the things that has come out in the post game chatter was the lack of ice time for Spezza/Heatley in the third period. I must admit I didn't even notice. When I looked at the box score to try to confirm this, I noticed that both Spezza and Heatley recorded three shots each in the first period, no doubt why I myself had a favorable impression of them.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


May 11, 2006 -- Buffalo is sweating. Yes I know they are up three games to one but they are sweating. You could see it by Lindy Ruff's demeanor. You could see it in the way Sabres player's heads were hanging when they got off the ice. And you could tell by the fans who lost it when the final buzzer went off. The Senators are not the Flyers and they know that.

They are sweating.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


May 11, 2006 -- It may seem to some that reciting some form of the St-Crispin's speech would be too maudlin or falsely dramatic heading into tonight's tilt in the lion's den. Yet to me the first requirement for a successful come-back is that the team hit the ice with a true "band of brothers" mentality. Murray doesn't have to tell the defence that they have to stop giving the puck up, or Emery that he needs to come up with the big save, or tell forwards that they have to finish their attacks.

The players already know that, and hitting them with motherhood bromides which highlight the obvious will do little to make it transpire on the ice. Sitting players in front of the video machine will not do one iota of good unless they, as a group, know something that the rest of the planet does not, that they can still win this thing. Indeed if I were the coach I would tell them that there is no other team in the league that I would want to even attempt the feat with , that the Ottawa Senators are the only team that can even contemplate coming back.

My biggest concern going into tonight's game is Emery. I cannot help but have the impression that he is playing hurt, that somehow his hip injury has flared up again. There is too much of his play that reminds me of that period in the regular season. His lateral mobility seems non-existent and he seems to be having great difficulty getting himself square to the shooter.

If Hasek was waiting for the opportunity to come in as Ottawa's white knight, then you can't ask for a more opportune circumstance than tonight's game.

One thing about being down three games, is we get to really find out who is who on the Senator's line-up.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


May 10, 2006 -- Well as I write this we are down three games to none. As I am sure you all know history has not been kind to teams in this predicament. However, if one were to design circumstances where a come-back was possible, then they would not be unlike what we have here. Ottawa is the better team, and the games have been close even though they have not been playing to their potential. We can win four games in a row against Buffalo if we can get our act together. It just starts with one victory.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


May 9, 2006 -- We expect Tom to be back in a few days. He has been watching from afar and perhaps a bit displeased.

-- Staff Writer


May 2, 2006 -- I was just thinking - if Anaheim pulls a rabbit out of its hat and wins game 7, that would mean that all four top seeds of the Western Conference would be out in the first round. Can't imagine that happening too often. Regardless, it does mean the Senators have home ice for the duration. This is good.

Anyways, I will be out of town for a week, so Ottawa will probably be well into Round 2 before the blog gets updated again.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


May 1, 2006 -- Well as we wait for the remaining first round series to finish up, one can only watch and begin to imagine who our next opponent will be and wonder what challenges will that team present. Mathematically we will face one of three teams in Round 2.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 30, 2006 -- Tampa Bay was always a consensus favorite amongst most Senator's fans for being a first round opponent and this series bared out their optimism. Tampa was a team with well recognized weaknesses: weak goaltending, hap-hazard defensive corps and lack of depth up front, shoddy special teams. The Senators, the better team, did what it had to do, and exploited these weak points mercilessly and got through the series quickly. Now it has ample time to recharge, mentally and physically, before meeting its next opponent, who will becoming off, at the minimum, a tough six game series.

There are of course many positives that have come out from our play in this series


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 29, 2006 -- As has been discussed earlier, finishing your first round early helps give the team it's "fair advantage" for round 2. Rest - mental and physical are the key benefits.

With over a dozen players having scored a goal during this series, you would think I would be a convert to the "balanced" approach to line combinations. It still remains my biggest concern. We have so much depth up front, that even when it is spread out, we would still match up well against a Tampa which has no real defensive scheme, and shoddy goal tending.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 29, 2006 -- Maybe it was because I knew that I was going to have start filling out tax forms, but there was one incident in that Game 4 that really bugged me. It was in the first period, and the referee wanted to clamp down on the pushing and shoving after the whistles. He warned both coaches that if it happened again, he would only take one out and leave that team short-handed. Of course it did happen, and Eaves got the short straw. And you know what? It worked. The players were much better behaved for the rest of the game.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 27, 2006 -- When it was all said and done, the whole game seemed almost anti-climactic. There is little wonder why the Tampa Bay players seem so down - the Senators hardly played their best today, and yet came away with the 5-2 victory in almost pedestrian fashion.

There isn't that much to say. In the first third of the game we basically sucked. We gave the puck away I don't know how many times, and couldn't win a face-off to save our lives. And yet we were only down 2-1.

In the end our big players, Havlat and Spezza made big plays, scoring and setting up some goals, and you could literally see the other side hoisting up the white flag.

It is difficult to imagine having too much difficulty putting this away come Saturday.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 27, 2006 -- Was just rummaging around and stumbled on this video. Just click the link below:

Ingle Wood Jack

Thanks to the chaps at GoonBlog for unearthing this hilarious little gem.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 27, 2006 -- Well first kudos to coach Murray to come to the defence of Neil and Chara in respect to the self-righteous ranting of Cherry. As you know I have had some serious beefs with Murray this season, especially when it comes to how he organizes his people, but in many other areas he is a sharp improvement over Jacques Martin.

According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, Arnason may get a reprieve from the doghouse and be pressed into service if Kelly is a no go for tonight's tilt. One would think then that he would be put in as the fourth line center. (If he puts him on the line with Spezza and Heatley in place of Vermette, I would ... well I would "cringe" to say the least.)

Of course being fourth line center has some challenges all of its own. I never liked Vermette on the fourth line because I felt it meant his offensive potential was being lost to the team. But his time there has shown, although hardly an enforcer, that he wasn't any wall-flower either. Arnason on the other hand, although also having some offensive skills, has often played with a distinct aversion to body contact. An Arnason who is playing well, would be a great addition to the overall depth of the team.

Arnason does not have the luxury of having play-off jitters; he has to hit the ice ready to play. His career, literally, may be on the line.

Of course if Kelly is gone, that would leave a big hole in the usual PK pairings. I could not find the thread, but I remember someone on a Senator's chat board suggesting that Havlat be given his shot on the PK. Given that Havlat started the whole short-handed goal scoring thing for Ottawa, I for one, would think that an excellent suggestion.

I know after the Toronto debacle, I had grave concerns about Murray being able to psychologically prepare the team for play-off hockey. Their energetic performance in Game Three did much to assuage my fears in that regard. Let's hope they come out with the same fire tonight. Winning this game would give us a choke-hold on Tampa, and help us to avoid a long series.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 27, 2006 -- The efforts of Tampa Bay's coach to psyche out Emery, are to me, a sign of increasing desperation. If there is anyone with goalies that can be "got to" then I suggest Tampa Bay has two of them.

Maybe I am looking in the wrong places but I can't believe the paucity of Senator's coverage on local stations. Like bake sales are more important?

I do hope the Senators come out with all guns firing and they keep the pressure on through out the game. All of the hockey I have seen so far in the playoffs shows that "letting up" or sitting on leads, is a disastrous tactic.

Short of the Big Line being put back together, I hope Vermette gets a full game this time with Spezza and Heatley. They looked really good together and I think Vermette has reached the point where he has the potential to "break out" as a recognized new offensive weapon for us.

He was close to this point after the Olympic break where he was starting to score with regularity, but then the injuries happened, and he no longer got to play with Kelly and Schubert, and it never happened. Maybe tonight.

It is not a stat the TV folks key on, especially when the goals are going in by the bushel, but Vermette, in the two games we won, had bravura performances in the face-off circle going 15-7 in the last one.

I hope Smolinksi can pick his game up to just another level. Alfie had a good game, and Eaves looks like he has completely gotten over any rookie jitters. I didn't mention him, but he had a great game as well, potting a goal, and adding some great hits and screens.

As you have probably noticed I don't study the defence that closely so I was a bit surprised that Pothier was a healthy scratch. He certainly wasn't the only defenceman to have a sub-par performance in Game 2.

It looks like it will be a game time decision to see if Kelly will play. If he doesn't, then there is part of me that would like to see McGrattan in there, with Neil at center and Varada. A very "interesting" line for sure. I would not give a plug nickel for Dingman's life. Mind you the way the refs are, they would probably give McGrattan two minutes for "stepping onto the ice". If not McGrattan, then having Martins step in for center would be the way to go ... he certainly has displayed "energy" every time he has had the opportunity to play.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 26, 2006 -- Well there was Don Cherry just turning into a blubbering bleeding heart about LeCavalier and what bravery he displayed. Yah right. The fact is LeCavalier wanted nothing to do with Chara, until the referee got in between them, and then he got all lion-hearted on Chara. Unfortunately for him the ref decided to skidaddle and LeCavalier was soon doing the funky chicken.



They are always yakking about Ottawa's lack of toughness, but whenever Ottawa puts the boots to people they start squealing like stuck pigs. The notion that Ottawa never had toughness is nothing but a myth perpetrated by Toronto based corporate media and swallowed whole by way too many people.

We beat Philadelphia twice in the playoffs. Did we do that wearing tutu's? Hitchcock himself stated that the series with Ottawa was the most physically intense series he had ever experienced, and that was right after they had beaten Toronto.

By the way, what has Toronto done against Philadelphia? Nothing. You know why? Because they were not tough enough. Because they choked. Because they confused "clutch and grab" with "grit".

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 26, 2006 -- To me the magic moment of the game came relatively early in the first period, when the entire fourth line was sitting in the penalty box a la the Hanson Brothers. More than anything else, it was a sign that Ottawa had come to play. I know I said they don't hand out points for developing energy, but they proved me wrong.

The Senators went on to put in a dominating road performance. All the elements were there. Ultra aggressive fore-checking, great physical play, great play-making and a transformative effort from our defence corps.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 24, 2006 -- Some excellent, excellent news. The Ottawa Sun reports that Wade Redden will be back in the line-up for the remaining games with Tampa. That is big medicine on a variety of levels. First it should help stiffen the resolve of our defence corps. If one wants to get into finger-pointing mode, then one has to realize that the poor play of our defencemen was the chief reason why we lost our last game. Getting them to play like they can is probably the highest priority for the Ottawa brain-trust. Our defence is the area where we are clearly superior and their play has to start reflecting that.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 23, 2006 -- A bad give away, a bad line change, a bad rebound; three mistakes which the Tampa Bay Lightning pounced on and converted into goals. For all intents and purposes they were the difference in a game that was there for us to win.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 23, 2006 -- It has been reported that Wade Redden has flown back home due to the passing away of his mother, after battling serious illness. Losing a parent you are close to, is one of those events that blots out everything else that is going on in one's life. It is especially sad in this case as Wade's mother was not that old. In sports, there is always a next year, and a chance to start afresh. Here there is only finality and memory. It is the latter that gets you through this difficult time even as it is the source of one's pain. It looks like there is a large extended family involved, and that will be a great comfort in the coming days.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 23, 2006 -- Well actually before talking about the Sens, I can't help but notice that the Sabres/Flyers series looks to be off to an arduous and brutal start. May they go seven with many overtimes!

As for our second game?. Well hopefully "jitters" won't be a problem and we will have more success finishing off our chances. I am hoping that Graham, the Tampa goalie, reverts to form and has an off night. An "easy" game would be great.

I hope we do better on the five on five, which is supposed to be a huge strength for us. Those three Tampa shots off the iron, were a ringing warning to not get complacent.

The Tampa coach was quoted as saying they were going to attack more. That means they should be playing the kind of game that Ottawa likes. At the least, it should make for a great high tempo game.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 21, 2006 -- Superior special teams play carried the day and allowed the Senators to mount a third period flurry and grab a confidence boosting first game win over Tampa.

The powerplay unit moved the puck at will, and by the third period found the range. Havlat broke some long standing ice to get his first of the playoffs, and Spezza threaded the needle to give us the lead. Spezza who seemed hesitant in the first period grew stronger as the game went on. For someone who is always screaming for "concentrated offensive talent" our number one power play was wish fulfillment extra ordinaire. Spezza, Heatley, Havlat, Alfredsson and Redden. Now that's what I call bringing a bazooka to a knife fight.

Fisher got the back-breaker, a short-handed effort masterminded by stellar work by Schaefer. Schaefer had a monster game and Emery let it be known that Hasek could take his time recuperating, putting in a text book playoff performance.

I am a little bit concerned that we did not get any even strength goals, and the game was much more even than I would have liked. The best line to my eyes was the Fisher line with Havlat and Schaefer, which as it goes, was the only "Quasimodos - sanctioned" line in use. The most pleasant surprise was our fourth line. And have no doubts why - Vermette showed up to play tonight. He elevated his game to another level without looking like he was playing over his head.. He used his speed to generate offensive pressure both on even strength and on the PK. He was liquid helium with the puck, and looked to be one of the few Senators not suffering from play-off jitters in the first half of the game. Most impressively, according to the ESPN box score, he was a mind-bending 15-4 on face-offs.

There was nothing that happened tonight that makes me a convert to breaking the Big Line apart. Put them together and the one-two punch with the Fisher line would be irresistible, and we could put these guys to bed quickly.

Next game the cross-bars may not be so friendly.

All in all though it was great to get this first win under our belt. A great confidence booster.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 21, 2006 --

Snacks are at the ready. TV screens wiped clean. Recliners at launch position. The wife and I are eager to get this show on the road. For the playoffs, I will probably start taking a slightly different tack to the blog...in the end I don't want to get obsessed over how they win, I just want them to win. At this time of year that is all that matters. This will be our year...it is just a matter of watching it unfold.

(Pre-game postscript: actually we decided to get pizza tonight ...just trying to fill the ether with that positive karma) just two hours to go!!

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 21, 2006 -- Like Hitchcock said after a playoff loss to us: there is a huge advantage to getting through your first round quickly. That certainly applies here...as we will, barring a Montreal upset over Carolina, be playing either Philadelphia and Buffalo. Hopefully theirs will be a long series where they really have to pound each other.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 20, 2006 -- I am now watching CBC as Ferguson fires Pat Quinn. That is great. If Toronto really knew what to do to get going in the right direction, Ferguson, an obvious recipient of "name recognition" form of nepotism, would have been the first to go. You had to respect Pat Quinn's ability to get a lot from very little, but even he could not get something from nothing.

Ferguson getting a big vote of confidence from ownership would be music to my ears, as it suggests that the Maple Leaf franchise will be in tatters for years to come.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 20, 2006 -- Western Conference

Quarter Finals

Detroit exploits Roloson
Dallas trounces Theodore (Montreal's Revenge)
Anaheim upsets Kiprusoff
Nashville surprises Thornton

Semi-Finals

Detroit overpowers Anaheim
Dallas beats Nashville

Western Final

Dallas blows by a tired Detroit

Eastern Conference

Quarter Finals


Ottawa disposes of Tampa
Carolina batters Montreal
New Jersey beats the Rangers
Philadelphia beats Buffalo

Semi-Finals

Ottawa slaughters Philadelphia
New Jersey upsets Carolina

Eastern Final

Ottawa sweeps New Jersey

Stanley Cup Final

Ottawa will split it's first two games at home, then lose two in Dallas. They will then win the next two to force a game 7. We will win the seventh game 4-2, the last goal being an empty netter. Schaefer will score the winning goal on an hysterical scramble with seven minutes to go that will hyper extend Dean Brown's vocal chords. He will sound like a drunken madman until the empty netter. There will be one more shriek and then Gord Wilson will have to take over.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 19, 2006 -- Well I guess a low level surprise was that Arnason was not in the line-up in the game against the Rangers. Again with only 4 assists in 19 games he is not an easy sell. But he did come to us with 40+ points and a plus rating playing on a bad team. Those are "Smolinski" type numbers. And everyone, can, from his play with Ottawa, say that there are some skills there.

Although some of the fault may lay with Arnason, I do think that "management" should shoulder some responsibility for not finding him some kind of niche where he could positively contribute. Knowing Arnason's background I have to wonder if he burned some bridges in his "talk" with the coaches after the Toronto game.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 18, 2006 -- Ottawa vs Tampa Bay, Winner: Ottawa

Carolina vs Montreal, Winner: Carolina

New Jersey vs New York, Winner: New Jersey

Buffalo vs Philadelphia, Winner: ? Hmm... I will have to think about this one

In the end we will play the winner of the Buffalo-Philadelphia series in the second round.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 18, 2006 -- Well a much more enjoyable viewing experience than our last outing. Heater gets his 50th, we wrap up first place and will draw Tampa Bay for the first round, which I would think will make most fans very happy.

The big feature of the this final game was putting Fisher at center between Havlat and Schaefer. It changed the whole dynamic of the line and indeed one could argue the entire team. And no wonder you had three really good really fast players all on the same line. The Rangers were pylons. They did not score any goals but they were dominate out there, the strongest line on our team.

I cared nothing for the other lines, but if I understand it right, these were temporary game specific combinations.. I certainly hopes so. The Big Line along with the Schaefer - Fisher-Havlat line will provide a 1-2 punch that alone should get us through the first round in relative ease.

Mach 9 also made his presence known on the power-play which rose like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes. And little wonder. Our first power-play unit consisted of Alfredsson, Spezza and Havlat with Heatley and Redden on the points. Concentrated offensive force. They were near unstoppable and moved the puck around at will.

Havlat looked like his old self. He did not score, but was a threat the entire evening. Just a little time to get his shot bore-sited, and the goals will come in bunches.

Emery's performance will calm down some of the jitters. He looked solid out there tonight.

We will meet Tampa in the first round. I am happy the way that turned out. I am tired of having half our arena filled with opposing team fans.

I certainly don't foresee any problems here. I am quite sure Murray will put the Big Line back together and keep the Fisher line together and Tampa does not have the goaltending to pull off any miracles.

We couldn't help but smile at a little Freudian slip as the announcer identified Havlat, who was doing a rush, as Vermette. Twenty seconds later Vermette was doing a rush. They looked almost identical. Vermette in a way is Havlat, the Havlat of four years ago ... but none the less the similarity in skating style is definitely there.

I certainly hope Vermette does not spend the entire playoffs in purgatory with Neil and Varada. What a waste that would be.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 17, 2006 -- In sphere of military jargon, there is the concept of "key terrain". Now the key terrain is not necessarily the most important piece of ground on the battlefield. It is almost never the objective of the attack. Often it is not even an obvious feature. And yet the key terrain is that piece of ground that you have to control in order to win the battle. It may be a ridge-line that you need in order to launch an attack, or defend a crossroads. It may be a bridge or a ferry crossing that controls whose reinforcements come into the field of battle. Sometimes it is far removed, it's significance only apparent afterwards, when the historians rummage through bodies.

Antoine Vermette is the key terrain for this year's edition of the Ottawa Senators.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 17, 2006 -- Just a quick segment that I wanted to get in before the Rangers game. No need, I am sure, to tell anyone of the blindingly obvious importance of goaltending in the playoffs. Trying to determine if Hasek is back at 100%, and ready to take on the "Dominator's" role is a mug's game at this point. For all intents and purposes, it looks like we will go into the playoffs with Emery in the nets. Yes it could be better ... but it could be a lot worse as well. In that vein insuring that Emery is 100% over his hip injury is magnitudes times more important than the two points against New York.

I would much rather finish in second place in the East but start round one with a healthy Emery, than finish in first and start round one with an Emery whose mobility is still being compromised by his sore hip.

As long as segments 1 and 2 are being implemented I won't care if we lose a game because Morrison was weak, as long as we get a fully recharged Emery for the next game, which will really count.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 17, 2006 -- Every team has its own personality, and characteristics. They all have their own unique nature. In order for that team to play at their best, they must incorporate a style of play that is consistent with that nature. To do anything else is the equivalent of trying to put the proverbial square peg in a round hole. What you get are "problems".


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 16, 2006 -- Well as they say, "time is becoming a factor". Our team, so brimming with potential, heads into the playoffs playing some of their worst hockey of the season. Unable to sustain offensive pressure over any period of time, their play has become incoherent and disjointed. There is no sense of seeing players meshing together. We have suddenly become generous in giving up goals, having allowed five to six a game against non-playoff level teams. Our power-play is anemic, and even our PK, once the most consistent element of this team throughout the season, has become ineffective.

With the way we are currently playing, it is doubtful whether we can get through the first round, much less defeat a team like Detroit or a Dallas in a Cup final.

Can we turn it around? Yes of course. Prior to our great run in March, we were also playing horribly, and yet turned it all around with only some minor changes. So we certainly can do the same, and more, in time for the playoffs.

So my prescription for getting well is as follows:


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 15, 2006 -- Well you know I have much to say ... but looking over my posts since this blog has started, I can only say that Murray is an idiot so many times, in only so many ways. Murray made it clear that he considered this just another game. Really? Martin was fired for losing these kinds of games. Murray was hired to win these games. Only Neil understood what was at stake and stressed the need for Ottawa to take this opportunity to dispose of the Leafs threat.

Thank God for Martin St-Louis. I would not have given a fig's leave for our chances against the Leafs in a playoff series. Tonight we looked like lambs being sent out to slaughter.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 14, 2006 -- Tampa got one point in a shoot out loss (two posts hit though). Whatever. If Ottawa beats Toronto tomorrow night, we will have eliminated them from playoff contention on their own home ice. Even if they win the two after that, and Tampa loses, the tie-breaker would go to Tampa Bay. But we have to beat them in regulation.

Don't kid yourself. This is the biggest, most important game of the season. We need to reach deep and get that killer instinct that has been lacking in past seasons and put these pretenders away.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 13, 2006 -- I bet you Detroit and Dallas have real lines. Lines that get played game in and game out. Lines where the players are so familiar with each other's movements, that even in the pressure of playoff hockey, what to do and where to go will have been reduced to the level of muscle reflex. They don't even have to think about it. These are teams that have been properly prepared for the play-offs

Ottawa unfortunately does not have real lines. What Murray has are "pages and pages" of potential line combinations. You know when a movie has six scripts floating around, the odds are very good that despite whatever effort, no matter what the budget, no matter what the talent, the final result is going to be a bust.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 12, 2006 -- By pulling horseshoes out of the their butts, and with the aid of sympathetic officiating, the Leaves are still not dead. Why in hell did Jacques Martin put his back up in tonight instead of Luongo? Talk about soft goal city.

With Tampa starting to look weaker than ever, can the unthinkable still happen? There are some people who think it would be great for the Senators to meet the Leaves in the play-offs, and get that monkey off our back.

Screw that noise. Half our arena filled with locusts, the Toronto media on maximum psy-warfare mode, talking about the past, and how the regular season doesn't mean anything, and who cares who won the season series, and all those interviews with Tucker saying the same thing and of course the refs.....oh yeagh, the hell with that noise

Much better to get that monkey off our backs when we are defending Stanley Cup Champs.

Below are the schedules of the three teams who are jostling for the final playoff spot.

Toronto



Atlanta



Tampa Bay



If the Leaves win all their remaining games, Tampa Bay needs three points to stay ahead of them. Given that 2 of their games are with Carolina, there is no guarantee that they can do that.

If the Tampa Bay loses all three, then the Leaves just have to win three out of four to get ahead.

When you look at their schedule you could describe them as having two "tough" games. One with us, and one against Buffalo.

Of course there is Atlanta, who have put two impressive victories together back to back. As long as they keep winning, they stay ahead of the Leaves. A tall order, but they do seem to have the schedule to do that, with all four of their games against non-playoff teams.

Regardless, our upcoming game with the Leaves will be the biggest game of the season. It will be a playoff game, the equivalent of a single game winner take all. We have to win that game.

More on that in the future of course, but one thing for sure, Murray better stop farting around and have the Big Line together and organize the rest as if this was a game seven.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 11, 2006 -- .
ZDENO CHARA

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 10, 2006 -- Over the next few days, we are going to start getting some key players back in the line-up so this game will go into the "it doesn't matter" file soon enough. In a way letting Montreal get the two points is bad for Toronto, so maybe there is a sunny side.

Although we lost, the overall performance of the team was much improved from our game with Buffalo. Despite the score, our forwards did have control of the puck, and the game, for large stretches of time. Only divine intervention kept the puck out of Montreal's net. Just a slight adjustment to the Universal Karma Fudge Factor, and we could have won this game going away. How many times are Spezza and Heatley going to miss wide open nets? Not that often I assure you. I can't count the times the puck just dribbled past the open net


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 10, 2006 -- Was just doing a little Googling and ran across this thread on potential line combinations. It is called,

Creative Line Combos for the Playoffs (click link)

It includes some interesting line combinations that had not occurred to me. I think you will find the ideas will stir some creative juices.

I have of course talked about potential playoff combinations myself in earlier posts. Right now the only combination that is deserving of sacred cow status is the Big Line. They just score goals.

The Kid Line? Well I hope they get at least one or two games to show if they have the makings of a workable trio. On paper they should be great together, but what works on paper and what works on the ice are two different things. If they are left together for the game against the Habs and the Bruins and still haven't scored a goal, then my support would go down appreciably. These guys can score goals, it is just a matter of putting them with the right people. In my mind this line should start getting results quickly or it is not to be.

It would really be wish fulfillment to see Vermette at center and Kelly at wing. I think it suits their respective styles of play. As well it would take advantage of Vermette's face-off percentage which is never mentioned by the media, but is fourth in the league..

One thing for sure when Havlat returns, there will be no weak players. There will be no "booby" prize of getting stuck with a weak sister. It is just a matter of finding the combinations that gel.

Of course like everyone else I am anxious to see who gets to play with Havlat. Right now I think the lines are being jigged for Havlat to drop into Smolinski's place with Fisher and Schaefer. Smolinski will then take over from Varada and play with Arnason and Neil.

But that is pure speculation

For the game tonight against the Habs? Well our forwards are going to have to step up and take control of this game. Our defence corps does not have the horses. The big key is the forwards ability to keep possession of the puck. As has been pointed out in various blogs and newspaper articles our generosity in giving the puck away is just killing us. There is no excuse here. We have a full complement with the exception of Havlat. They should be able to outmatch Montreal on nearly every shift.

One can't expect too much from the defence, but they do have to be stronger on the opponents blue line... and well just stronger.

I don't think it will happen, but I think Morrison should get the start. If you click the Hockey Country link (on the right under Fan Sites) you will find some excellent rationale for doing so.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 9, 2006 -- This was a totally deflating and disheartening game to watch. Despite line combinations that could have come right off my computer key board, we got thoroughly trounced. We do not look like a team that is doing a little final fine tuning before the play-offs. We looked tired, and looked very much like a team that just had their first scrimmage of training camp.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 8, 2006 -- It happened both in Afghanistan and Iran. The bad guys would be sitting in their trench lines out on some exposed ridge line. They could see the American forward air control party set up their laser targeting equipment a kilometer away, and start aiming it at them. They could see the B-52 circling around them. They would know that within 15-20 minutes that bombs were going to start dropping right into their holes.

They could have sent 25 or 30 guys down to go kill the air control party. And if that proved too strenuous, all they had to do was get out of their trenches, walk back down the hill 50 yards, and lie down and wait until till after the bombs have been dropped.

Of course they did neither. Things really reached the level of absurdity in Afghanistan where troops from adjacent trench-lines would get out of their trenches, gather round, and watch the show. They would then turn around, go back into the graves which they had dug themselves, and literally wait for their turn to die.

All of which to say, that in any "competitive" environment, you can never, ever, underestimate the stupidity of the men in charge.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 6, 2006 -- It is an armchair coaching exercise that anyone can do. Basically using the same players, come up with some line combinations and then "game" them against the ones Murray has put out there. So for the record, tonight Murray went with the following

Murray 1: Kelly - Spezza - Heatley
Murray 2: Eaves - Arnason - Alfredsson
Murray 3: Schaefer - Fisher -Smolinski
Murray 4: Varada - Vermette - Neil


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 6, 2006 -- Montreal has been on a hot streak and come to Ottawa with Hasek's remarks ("easiest shut-out of my life") still ringing in their ears.

One thing going for us is the fact that David Aebischer will start in nets and he has not been strong in his last three outings. One thing the Senators have always been able to do is exploit weak goal-tending.

Again, it would be nice to see the Big Line back together, and Fisher playing at center.

It will be interesting to see if the minutes for defencemen get spread around a little tonight. Another attempt at 37 minutes and you have to figure that some people will be dragging their knuckles on the ice by the third period.

Our PK has been letting in a few goals, and it would be good to see that aspect of the game, get back to form.

It will be great to watch the games on TV again.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 6, 2006 -- Arnason was not on the ice for the goal because Spezza did not get off with his line mates. If the goal was not scored, Spezza would most likely have been chewed out by Murray. The fact that the combination was never used again also reinforces the notion that Murray had nothing to do with them being on the ice together.

Most of our losses this season can be laid directly at the feet of Murray's line combinations.

Don Brennan replies:


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 5, 2006 -- A chaotic game by the sounds of it. On one hand it looked like we were going to steal a game we had no business winning, and in the end let it slip away anyways.

One can be comforted by the fact that we were missing our top four defencemen, and that certainly was a huge factor. Still we did have a full complement of forwards. One would have thought that we would start seeing some of the lines that one could expect to be in use come play-off time. Let us hope these are not the ones we are going with.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 5, 2006 -- So is there a double standard? Of course. If that was Tucker who was out for two weeks, he, Quinn, the Leafs and the entire Toronto centric media would be squealing like stuck pigs for the Sabres player to be frog marched to the nearest gallows.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 4, 2006 -- I have been waiting for so long for some coach to have the brass to blast the league about the home-cooked officiating that basically allows the Leafs to cheat. Too bad it took a serious injury to a key player to have this happen. Basically Tucker got hit, and then in true Maple Leaf cry-baby fashion went looking for pay-back, first with a head shot and then a deliberate knee on knee which caused the injury. Of course no penalty was called, and yet the minute that Tucker was knocked to the ice to stop his rampage, the referee's arm goes up to give Toronto a key power-play in a tight game. How can a team as lumbering as the Leafs still lead the league in five on three powerplays? Because the fix is in.

I don't know how many times I have seen this happen. How many time did we see Hossa get clothes-lined and gang tackled, even without the puck, with nothing getting called and then the minute Chara hits one of them, up goes the arm. Too many people think that fans hate the Leafs just because of HNIC coverage. No they hate the Leafs because they are a bunch of whining sissies masquerading as tough guys. They are a dirty, cheating, non-skilled, clutch and grab, dump and chase team who confuse all this with "grit" and playing hard. This year even with the help of the refs they still can't do shit.

I hope Tucker does get suspended for the season. I look forward to the day that the Leafs are eliminated. It will be a great day for hockey, and a great day for sports in general.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 3, 2006 -- You know it's a team effort when McGrattan, makes like Cam Neely, and scores a highlight reel even-strength goal.

Depth? With Arnason taken out for a concussion during the game, the Senators were minus eight of their top players, and still came up with a big two points. Although obviously everyone chipped in, the Spezza/ Heatley and Smolinski/Schaefer pairings are deserving of special mention. They were "on", both for even strength and the power-play.

I think if there was any complaint, was that after watching the Kovalchuk slash on Neil, and the hit on Arnason, I do wish someone, would have had a "chat" with some of the Atlanta players. Fights without context are a waste of everyone's time, but there are instances, and this was one of them, where getting a message across with one's fist is fully called for.

I also didn't like the way we almost let them back into it by playing the trap. Ug!

In then end it was a nice two points, as it keeps us within range of Detroit, but perhaps more important, keeps us ahead of Dallas in the overall points standing. I do think Dallas will be the Western representative come Finals.

Thankfully there is only one last "radio" game to go. Like everyone else I am anxious to see all of our players return, and to get a glimpse of what this team is going to look like going into the playoffs.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 1, 2006 -- If we win the Cup this year, it will not be because of Murray, but despite him. Well at least I won't have to read about this "coach of the year" nonsense. Does anybody really think we lost this game because we weren't playing "responsibly" in our end, or because we didn't have enough "grit" or any of those other myths that have plagued Ottawa's psyche.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Apr 1, 2006 -- If we are depending on everyone to adopt Neil's crashing play to win the Cup, then we will not last long in the playoffs. Am I the only one who has noticed that we no longer dominate on 5 on 5 play. We were very fortunate in facing a physically run down Rangers team in a game which saw the first half of that game turn into a special teams battle. This meant Murray's line combinations were not put to the test. In the third period he shortened the bench and our only even strength goal was scored by a combination I know Murray will never use in the playoffs.

There was nothing wrong with the Top Lines +/- rating before Kelly came in to save the day. Indeed if we are leading the league in goals for, and goals against, it is primarily due to the work of the Big Line. To break up the best line in hockey, and to replace Alfredsson with Kelly, is a move so stupid I did not think it conceivable outside of extreme circumstances.

Hasek's injury has a direct connection to Murray's inability to organize and manage the talent made available to him.

Coach of the Year?...More like "Idiot of the Year"

P.S.
If scoring even strength goals was easy then anyone could do it.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 30, 2006 -- There would have been no shortage of legitimate reasons to blame any loss tonight with the division leading Rangers. But the Senators dug deep and found a way to win the game and get a big two points to keeps us firmly in first place in the East, and within striking distance of the President's Trophy.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 30, 2006 -- Redden, Chara, Phillips, Fisher, Havlat, Hasek. Our injured list could pose as the starting line-up in an all-star game.

We still have the tools to win this game. But everyone has definitely got to bring their A game. If anyone has been storing up any mojo for a rainy day, then tonight would be a good night to start dipping in. We need some people to have a big game. Some considerations from the hockey gods would come in handy as well.

With Carolina losing yesterday to the Capitals, a win tonight would be just huge.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 30, 2006 -- What would I do if I were in Murray's shoes?

First and foremost I would put the Big Line back together. When you have the best line in hockey you play them, you don't break them apart. That only makes the other team happy.

I would have liked to put Smolinski and Schaeffer up with Arnason. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, both play on the same wing and I don't know how either would playing the other side. Ergo time for the Insanity Line of Smolinski, Arnason and Vermette

Although dozens of combinations were tried with Arnason last game, this wasn't one of them. Unfortunately this is the only one that has really worked since Arnason came on board. I don't know why, and for the one or two games until Fisher and Havlat gets back, I don't care

The next line is Schaefer, Kelly, and Eaves.

So now we would have the three strong lines in sequence that has been a recurring requirement for success all year. These lines have only one purpose in life. That is to score goals.

The fourth line is Neil between Varada and McGrattan.

They are not expected to score goals. Their terms of reference are simple: Physically destroy the other team. Make sure all the advertising on the boards are replaced with the imprints of Ranger players.

Three lines to score goals and one line to grind them into dust.

That is what I would do.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 28, 2006 -- The Devils came out skating hard and playing the trap to perfection. The result was a sluggish game in which our forwards seemed to be continually skating against a strong head wind.

There were no real set lines tonight, and I doubt if any of the multitude of combinations we saw on the ice this evening, will make the light of day in the playoffs. Heatley got two clutch goals off of point shots, but no forwards distinguished themselves today. It is not that anybody was playing poorly either - it was just a bunch of black uniforms trying to push through a giant marshmallow.

Slowly, but surely our defence corps is getting decimated. Volchenkov and Chara are still out. Philips left the game with a knee injury and didn't return. Redden is obviously not skating at 100%, and Meszaros ate enough rubber to become the Michelin Man. Yes he had that bad give away, but you can't jump on a guy who is going to spend the next two days in a hot tub trying to get the bruising down.

Perhaps the real game feature of note, was Emery, who put in a great performance tonight. Lots of acrobatic and difficult saves, he kept the game close, and was full marks for being the first star. It was very good to see him come back from the Philly game with a solid outing.

In comparison to the game, the overtime was fantastic hockey. End to end action , speed and great passing, with lots of chances by both sides. Filip Novak, perhaps had the best chance, which would have made for a memorable first NHL goal, but it was not to be.

Our dismal record with shoot-outs continued. This time Vermette did finally get to shoot. He pulled a nice move, but lost the handle. ARRGHH! Heatley and Alfredsson both went for shots, and had no more success.

The one New Jersey shot that did go in, was actually stopped by Emery, but was carried back over the goal line by his own momentum.

It seemed almost fitting.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 28, 2006 -- Obviously the New Jersey Devils are no longer the team they used to be. Offense is hard to come by and their defence is a shadow of their Scott Stevens glory years. Worse, Brodeur actually has bad games now and then.

Still they have enough good players to make us pay if anyone just tries to mail it in. Only strong play by Emery made the last victory as easy as it appeared. He needs to get back his form tonight.

Even with Havlat and Fisher out, we certainly have more than enough offense to get the job done. The critical mass, or tipping point for this game will be our defence, who as a corps, have to come out with a strong game after their sub-par performance in Philly.

I sense Kelly and Vermette are on the verge of big things: expect them to light it up.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 28, 2006 -- I have stated clearly that only one man stands in the way of the Senator's winning the Stanley Cup and that is the coach Brian Murray. Since Nov 30 I have all but lost faith in his ability to recognize, and organize the talent at his disposal.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 27, 2006 -- On the Sens site the injury to Hasek is described as being to his "adductor brevis" muscle. Below are a few links that give some background.

I remember reading an article in which the team therapist talked of a large bruise that looked as if a puck had hit there. That would imply at least a Type II strain ... more likely a Type III.

Physioroom

StrengthCats

Sportsinjurybulletin

I am sure you can count weeks as well as I. It looks like timing may be tight and there may not be that much time to confirm in real game-time conditions that Hasek is still the Dominator before the playoffs start.

Postscript

Well saw the footage of Hasek skating around and doing some high leg kicks. He certainly looks a lot better than last time.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 27, 2006 -- Well, only 11 games left until the playoffs start. We are a little behind the eight ball, as we still need to reintegrate the disabled back into the line-up. The big question marks remain Hasek's health, and how much time will Havlat need to get his timing back.

In the mean time Murray has stated that he will take no extraordinary measures to try to win the President's Trophy. So I guess one should not expect shortened benches or beefed up lines. He will basically go with the four lines as deployed in the past few games. At this stage of the season one can't take too much issue. One can argue that this tack has as much to do with keeping players like Varada happy, and preventing them from being a cancer in the dressing room, rather than scratching and clawing for every two points.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 27, 2006 -- Just browsing through stats and ran across this little gem on the ESPN site which shows the league leaders in face-off percentages.

League Leaders Face-Off Percentages


Everyone keeps saying we need more help in the face-off circle. There it is, hiding in plain sight.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 25, 2006 -- At some point prior to tonight's tilt with the Flyer's I can imagine the hockey gods were relaxing around the coffee table. They were noticing that maybe things were going a little too well down Ottawa's way. People were getting a little too smug ... a little too comfortable. And they decided to do something about it.

"Last night we giveth to thee. Tonight we taketh away ... with interest".

It certainly would explain the surreally bad start we had to this game.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 25, 2006 -- I was just perusing some of the "enemy" newspapers and web-sites. Most of them don't make much of Fisher's absence. They are of the feeling that Ottawa still has the advantage of team speed. They do believe that we are going to be very vulnerable on defence. Many are calling for the Flyers to put in a very aggressive, physical fore-check aimed at wearing our defencemen down. And of course that does make sense.

Our defence will have to be quick with the puck and our forwards will have to come back and support them.

Usually I am not a fan of McGrattan being in the line-up. There are two exceptions. The Leafs...and the Flyers. To us the Flyers are just another of the better teams that we have to go through. They on the other hand hate us, in the way we hate the Leafs.

I am expecting an intense, "rowdy" affair.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 24, 2006 -- Well I have to tell you I really liked this game. The level of play from the Senators exceeded my expectations. Despite missing key players, and some line combinations that had me cringing, the Senators put in a good, fast-tempo effort against a good Sabers squad, and came out with a very nice road victory.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 23, 2006 -- Back to back games, the first against the Sabres, who have been in a funk since that game with Ottawa, and the Flyers who just beat the Rangers to take a division lead. Late season games in Philly tend to be raucous so all in all these will be very "interesting" games to watch.

Spezza looks good to go. Chara is out. Given that there are no call ups, that means Schubert plays defense and McGrattan is in.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 23, 2006 -- I was going to call it the "The Return of Havlat - Redux", but as I write, I now would have to include the return of Fisher and Spezza as well. It does seem however, that all of these players will be available to us for the playoffs. And if the time off means that they will have more jump in their legs, then all the better.

The big difference between now, and the last time I speculated on play-off line combinations, is in the addition of Arnason. It adds a new dynamic and sets up some interesting debates of where to put everybody to get the strongest team possible. First to set up some historical reference points and baselines:


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 22, 2006 --

"Hey Murray! How do you like them fucking apples???!!"

That was most likely the line going through Vermette's head after he stole the puck off uber-rookie Sidney Crosby, streaked down the ice, and disrobed Caron, while burying his fifth short-handed goal of the season.

This in a game, where despite missing our top two centres, Vermette was effectively benched.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 21, 2006 -- In a prelude to putting down some thoughts on possible play-off line combinations, I thought it might be constructive to actually try to rank our forwards in terms of overall offensive skill. As in all things, hockey included, there are levels upon levels, and sometimes the differences between players can seem intangible.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 20, 2006 -- The next seven games are going to be critical for both the Canadians and the Leafs. Contrary to popular belief, the Leafs are not dead yet. With great support from "sympathetic" refereeing, and a mini-schedule break the Leafs have stayed close. However comparing schedules below shows that Montreal, by all rights should be able to put an end to the Leafs playoffs hopes over the next week and a half.

Montreal Schedule


Toronto Schedule


Obviously Toronto now goes through a stretch against teams who rank higher in the standings. The reverse goes for Montreal.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 19, 2006 -- There was something almost overly methodical to this unmemorable game with the Devils. Murray basically took his available talent and spread it like leveling compound over four lines. He then rolled them over and over, and over. Except for Schubert, who missed a few shifts for being a bad boy, I don't think I have ever seen such a narrow variation in ice time between all the forwards.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 19, 2006 -- On our last visit Ottawa lost 5-2. Of course that was in our "lines don't make sense" phase. If you look back you will see that this was when my sentiment towards Murray reached a low point.

However, from the day Murray scratched McGrattan, our lines have started to make more sense, and our play, and subsequently our won/loss record, has improved immensely. I expect a much better performance from our guys and we should come out with the win. We go in there with fewer players than last time, but we are getting more from what we have.

You may have noticed I spend a lot of time on "line combinations" and in "organizing our talent". To me one of the key reasons, not the only, but a key reason, for our failure in play-offs was Martin's failure to organize the team properly. Of course that hit it's apogee with our last series with Toronto. There he broke up our best line by inserting White, put Bondra on his wrong wing, benched Spezza, and put Lalime in the nets even when it was obvious that "something" was wrong with him. We scored only one goal in our four losses, and continually got killed by soft goals.

Obviously nothing can be set in stone until Fisher and Havlat return, but the time left for experimentation and tinkering is coming to a close. To me the big question mark that remains is who is going to play with Arnason?

Right now I believe the plan is that Arnason is going to play with Havlat. I know, in my mind, where Havlat goes, Schaefer goes. With Fisher gone for now though, I don't see how he can get Schaefer any shifts with Arnason.

Hopefully both Fisher and Havlat will be back in good form by April 1. That will leave a few weeks to see who gels with who.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 18, 2006 -- This game unfolded in a manner diametrically opposite to what we have been used to. Tonight Ottawa leaped out to a 3-0 lead, but in the end required an empty net goal to seal the victory.

In the end I perceive this game as a big positive for Ottawa, and a bit of a discomforting reality check for Buffalo. The score might have been close, but there is no doubt who is the better team.

This was a big clutch win for the Senators. Despite missing key guys tonight and through out the year, and despite playing well beneath the potential that this team has - the Senators find themselves in first place in the league.

The Senators definitely came out to play tonight, completely dominating play for the majority of this game. For the record the line combinations were as follows:


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 18, 2006 -- Well the big news, according to the Ottawa Sun, is that Fisher should be back in two weeks. No broken bones, no torn ligaments. Indeed if this results in a well rested and rejuvenated Fisher, it may pay dividends down the road.

Did you catch the footage of Hasek during his "skate" in Boston? I dunno ... to my eyes he looked like he was doing things pretty gingerly out there. Worse he was talking about improvements coming over periods of weeks, not days. Emery is doing fantastic ... but it would be nice to get the Dominator in full form.

According to the Sun's Bruce Garrioch, Varada will be back for the game tonight. There is consideration that Vermette might be put in between Schaeffer and Neil. Obviously I cannot argue with that. But you know, I really would like to see one full game of Vermette with Smolinksi and Arnason. There is something about having three centres out there on the ice at the same time. It is so unorthodox, so "out of the box", so insane, that it may just work.

I used this site's Media Directory to read up the Buffalo and Carolina rags. They are all hyped up for sure. Everything has been going their way, their teams are playing out to full potential: indeed they are playing to "perfection".

That's the rub though isn't it? "Perfection" doesn't last. In a way it is remarkable that we are right up there with them in points, because we have certainly not been playing to our full potential, much less perfection.

Maybe this is the year we save the best for last. Maybe Murray is a genius and is orchestrating everything to tie together at the right time. If that is the case, then I will gladly eat a closet full of hats, sans ketchup -- just as long as we finally put our best foot forward in the playoffs for once.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 17, 2006 -- This upcoming game with Buffalo is easily the biggest home game of the season. As I write, I am assuming that Fisher will not be available. That means the difficult task of beating the red-hot Sabres will be more challenging.

Can we beat them? Of course. But certain things will have to happen.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 17, 2006 -- "Coyote Ugly", "Surreal Malaise" "Suffocating Pall" "Mixed Emotions"

Just trying to come up with some word groups that could capture the essence of this game and quite frankly I don't quite have it. Shrinks would label this game as "inverse sandwich therapy" (bad....good....bad). Let us just say it was a weird, and ultimately frustrating game to watch.

On paper you would think that this game had a lot in common with the Tampa game. It had a great come-from-behind effort complete with pretty goals. It had monstrously clutch penalty killing, (Alfredsson was a superman) and great goaltending by Emery. But this game had a completely different texture, and it was more than just not having the story-book ending.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 16, 2006 -- "Walking into the den of a wounded bear" seems an apt metaphor for tonight's tilt. The Senators are going to start running into teams whose seasons are all but over. The potential for games to get ugly is rising. Actually Ottawa needs to go through some of these, as they can bring about that "band of brothers" mentality. Cynics may scoff at this as romanticism, but for those who have experienced it, either in sports, in the military, or in any high pressure environment, understand what a powerful intangible it is. It is not something you can maintain forever. You lose a bit of yourself, but in return you lose all fear, entertain no doubt...you are simply primed to act.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 16, 2006 -- Most of the arguments/examples that applied to Kelly work in reverse for Vermette, a natural center man who is forced to playing wing. Like Schubert he will do it, because bad ice time is still better than no ice time at all. But it should be obvious to all, that this is not his natural habitat. He gets by because of his innate talent, and his speed.. But when you watch him play you can literally see him chafing out there patrolling his wing. If he was a high school boy in a class-room, they would be stuffing him full of Ritalin.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 15, 2006 -- Perhaps one of the real eye-openers of compiling the goal and point scoring efficiency factors were the bottom basement numbers of Kelly. It is not just that he has the lowest numbers of all regular playing forwards, it is that they are just barely above McGratton's and Schubert.

Now anybody who actually sees Kelly play, knows he is a much better player than these statistics would indicate.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 14, 2006 -- What a great, great GREAT, GREAT, GREAT game. Oh yes after three games on the radio what a treat! I do not know how much "analysis" I can provide because the wife and I were just pure fans, yelling and screaming and hollering and of course lots of cheering and whooping and laughing.

Wow! What a great game.

Down 3-1 with Alfie in the box for four minutes, but the Senators came back like champions, and the Big Line capped it off with a tremendous tic-tac-toe goal with seconds remaining.

Impressions?


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 14, 2006 -- Remember last season, when the CBC was reporting that all Canadians were "banding together" behind the Flames in their quest for the Cup? Well I sure wasn't one of them. I was very happy when Tampa Bay took that seventh game.

One, I want Ottawa to be the team that brings the Cup back to Canada. Second the thought that a team that is based on two stars and a bunch of grinders can win the Cup, is to me an insult to the natural order of things. (Let's face it - the Flames were charmed that year: one bad bounce and their season is over in the first round).

In that vein I was emotionally pulling for Tampa in their victory against Montreal. If I could write the script, Tampa (tonight notwithstanding) would keep it together just enough to barely squeak into the playoffs. Atlanta and Montreal would melt down, and the Islanders would somehow sneak in through the back door.

One that would give us an easy first round opponent that we could dispatch quickly. Then there is the admittedly malicious, but exquisite zest of knowing that the Leaf lovers at HNIC, and the Toronto based sports media, would be forced to give the Senators continual coverage.

And then there is the certain knowledge that when the CBC is talking about all Canadians banding together behind the Senators, that Leafs fans will be yakking their cookies.

Petty...but there it is.

As for tonight, it will be great simply being able to watch the Sens in action again. We have owned Tampa for what seems forever, and I see no reason why that should start changing tonight.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 13, 2006 -- Have been catching some of the Oiler highlights. I don't think you could script a worse start for their eagerly awaited goalie. It may be that Ottawa picking up Morrison (10-4-2) off waivers, while the Oilers traded a bit of their future for Roloson who was then 6-14-3, may work out to be the genius move of the trading season for Muckler and a continuing albatross for Edmonton management.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 12, 2006 -- Well I have to tell you that the novelty of catching the game on radio is really starting to wear thin. With seven goals, the game was probably quite enjoyable to watch. I must admit, that in comparison to the Atlanta game, it seemed to be a bit of a dreary affair.

In the end we got the two points. It sounds like we won handily without having to put forth too much exertion, potting five goals on a goalie I think is the most over-rated in the league. Emery sounds to have put in another solid performance. All he needs now is a few good games against higher ranked teams to really cement his claim to being our future number one.

Another big positive was Neil breaking his scoring drought. Neil's play has been better than his lack of scoring has indicated, so hopefully this goal will help move some universal tumblers into his favor.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 12, 2006 -- Well one more game, with the Capitals, on the radio. I really can't see any difficulty here: indeed I think there is a reasonable chance for the Sens to enjoy a good old fashioned rout. Maybe I should take that back...the last time I made a wild prediction it did not turn out so well.
No, that time it was wishful thinking...this time the Senators really seem to be finding their stride.

I will be curious to see if the same lines stay in place. I don't think it will matter but in previous posts I had suggested putting Varada up with Spezza and Heatley. Varada's ability to dig up pucks will not be rewarded where he is now. More importantly my wish still remains to see Vermette centering Kelly and Eaves. I am working on a major piece that will talk more about the potential of this line to allow the Sens to have four lines that truly have scoring ability.

Smolinski/Alfredsson has always been a good pairing. With the new guy on the block there is potential that this line really starts to click. I wonder what would happen if this line really started to wrack up the goals. Does Murray then break them up when Havlat returns? It would certainly make things interesting.

We need the two points to stay ahead of Buffalo. With the Rangers as "division leaders", letting Buffalo get by us would seed us fourth in the playoffs. Meaning a tougher first round. Although I think we can take on anyone, getting an easy first round really helps down the road.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 12, 2006 -- First there was the realization that TSN would rather carry a dog show than carry the Sens. Then last night, I saw how Hockey Night in Toronto preferred to give national coverage to their precious Leafs instead of the tribute in Montreal to Boom Boom Geffrion. But it was really capped off when the French TSN, while during the moment of silence to remember the passing away of a Montreal icon, cut away... to a beer commercial

A real class act.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 10, 2006 -- Ottawa exploded out of the gate, scoring three goals on the first four shots and then leaned on outstanding goaltending by Emery to take the day. If there were any demons for Emery coming back to this locale, they were dispatched with confident efficiency. Spectacular, timely saves were the order of his evening.

It looks like Tyler Arnason is going to work out just fine if his first outing is any indication. He only played ten minutes, but he was a presence every time he was on the ice, and from the sounds of it was instrumental in setting up Smolinski's goal.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 10, 2006 -- I came up with some new statistics to try to get another view of how players were doing. They were called the Goal Scoring Efficiency Factor (G-SEF) and the Points Scoring Efficiency Factor (P-SEF). I was going to include these in a major "think" piece dealing the importance of compatible line combinations and the "quality" of ice time. And I will, but then I thought I would just present the rankings of our forwards in raw form, without any "analysis" or spin. I think you will find them interesting. In case your are wondering Arnason has a G-SEF of 1.44 and P-SEF of 4.56.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 10, 2006 -- Well the "Powers to Be" sure picked a fine time to not broadcast a Senators game. I think like everyone, I am keen to see how Arnason does. I mean if he shoots the light out it would probably bring on giggling from people anticipating the return of Havlat.

It is with a curious sense of dread and yet morbid fascination that I await the line combinations. Just with McGrattan off the radar, the line combinations should be OK. Will he look to try to drop in Arnason and go for minimum disruption? Or will he go for a whole new look for the team? Actually since our last game with the Thrashers the lines have been OK...not perfect...but I am so happy that Vermette does not have to play with McGrattan, I don't really care. I have been doing some statistical studies and putting Vermette with McGrattan has been probably the single biggest error of this season. No surprise he is starting to pick up his scoring since McGrattan has been scratched.

All in all a key test for us. We haven't beaten them yet this season. They have been playing good hockey lately and we need to start beating good teams. Of course our last visit here was arguably the worst performance of our season. That, along with our let-down against Florida, as well as the arrival of some new blood, should ensure that we are "up" for the game.

I just hope Dean Brown remembers that he is not on TV and to mention who is on the ice a bit more!

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 10, 2006 -- I guess the real debate is whether Arnason has what it takes to be a number 2 center. The big answers won't really come until Havlat gets back and we see if the two can gel. On the whole though I think one can look at this trade as a plus for the Senators. I mean Arnason does have Smolinski type numbers, and he got them despite more difficult circumstances. So even if he doesn't become our number two center, his addition will still make it that much harder for Murray not to have three good lines together.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 9, 2006 -- Well catching the Muckler press conference, it seems that Arnason is slated to be our number 2 center. Well if he does have the goods to play with Havlat and Schaeffer, then that would be great.

We then have Smolinski, Fisher and Neil who are a proven combination as our third line. And yes it probably means Eaves going back to play with Vermette and Kelly, hopefully with Vermette as center.

Schubert becomes our number one depth defenceman. Varada becomes a healthy scratch. In relation to our line-up in our dominant pre-Nov 30 days, Arnason takes over center from Vermette, and we now have a very beefed up fourth line.

It will be interesting to see how things shake out.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 9, 2006 -- At the last minute Ottawa pulled a trigger and got Tyler Arnason. (click name for stats sheet)

The initial reaction from talking heads on TV is that this is a good move for Ottawa. I have no direct experience watching Arnason so we are in the realm of pure speculation. He was described as a grit forward who could get dirty goals from in close. His stats, particularly his assists, show that he has good play-making skills as well. So all in all, my first impressions are favorable.

Of course now the big question is where will he "fit in" and who is going to be watching hockey games from the sidelines.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 9, 2006 -- The latest Garrioch article has him telling us to cross McCauly off our wish lists. How a guy who has only two goals since Xmas can be called "coveted" is beyond belief.

But in the last paragraph he mentions that Atlanta is trying to move center Marc Savard (24g, 55a). Now this is a guy we want. Why no buzz about Ottawa trying to get this guy?

Because if we got him, without having to pay too much, he along with the return of Havlat would give us three super-lines. If the Sens are going to go for a short-term rental then this is the type of player to go for.

I find it hard to believe that Atlanta would give him to us... but hey you don't know if you don't ask.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 9, 2006 -- I did not put together any pre-game thoughts but if I did I am sure they would have reeked of complacency. Getting blown out 6-2 by the 13th place Panthers just did not figure in my calculus. If you listened to the game on radio, (or if you were one of the lucky ones to catch the game on a TV somewhere) then you probably already know the basic story: their top line beat our top line, and their goalie was much better than our goalie.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 8, 2006 -- Chris Stevenson (Ottawa Sun)
Re: Go Big or Go Home

I like your article...but one question...if the trade is made, do Luongo and Jokinen come with multi-year contracts already signed?...or will they wait until the end of the season to consider all offers?

Your plan works if they come signed and committed to Ottawa for the next few years....otherwise we may lose in the bidding war and end up with worse than
nothing

Bruce Garioch (Ottawa Sun)
Re: Muckler turns attention to likes of Recchi, McCauley

Thank God we are not going after Bertuzzi. As someone on a chatboard mentioned, "we need character in the dressing room, and Bertuzzi would bring cancer"

Why on earth would we be going after old fogies like LeClair and Rechhi. Philly dumped them because they simply ran out of gas in the play-offs, and they are now two years older.

And why on double earth would we trade Vermette for McCauly?!! Vermette has as many short handed goals as McCauly has power play goals. Vermette is a center, if someone on the Sens management would only bother to check.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 6, 2006 -- I don't know why, but even with a 4-0 shut-out that was obtained with no real stress, I kind of want to look at this game from the "glass half-empty" view point. The game was won by Emery, who was full marks for his shut-out. He is getting better with every game, and you can see that this is a guy who thrives on work. He basically kept Tampa Bay out of the game, until our big guns could put it out of reach. Our top five forwards were just "on" tonight and played their best game since Nov 30.

Schaeffer, even without his goal, was a wizard with the puck out there, and Fisher continues to be one of our strongest players. Heatley, as anticipated, is coming off the Olympic tournament in strong form. I think he is playing some of his best hockey of the season. Indeed the whole "big" line look to be getting back into tic-tac-toe mode. Unfortunately this was not a total team victory.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 6, 2006 -- I gather that at the conclusion of the Leafs game the fans were booing their team off the ice. Too bad I missed that music. But I can't stand the HNIC eastern announcers. We put the TV on "mute" and tuned in to Dean Brown who is a national level play by play man. There was one instance where he described Vermette as doing a "Cirque du Soleil routine out there" and if you were watching the action on the ice at the time, you realize what an exquisite piece of ad-lib that was.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 6, 2006 -- I must admit I do get some "nightmare" scenarios, and it is more than potentially getting a useless toad like Barnaby or a proven play-off no show like Bertuzzi. Muckler says he does not want to do a trade in which he "subtracts" from the team. But the reality remains that if he brings some outside help in someone who is currently playing is going to be a healthy scratch.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 6, 2006 -- Just to be clear, I am not saying Hamel/Bochenski are top six forwards. They are simply keeping the seat warm for Havlat until he gets back in motion. At that point the Quasimodos line-up would look like this

Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson
Schaeffer-Fisher-Havlat
Varada-Smolinski-Neil
Kelly-Vermette-Eaves

All in all a pretty healthy line-up to go into the playoffs with. Now the question comes what should the lines be if we get some trade-line help?


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 6, 2006 -- Actually wanted to wax poetic about the Toronto game but need to hit the hay. I do want to take back one thing. Vermette will not catch up to Fisher if he plays with McGratton. Put him between Eaves and any other decent player and he will.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 4, 2006 -- What is best in life?

To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the Toronto media.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 4, 2006 -- From what I have read in the Sun it appears that McGrattan will be in the line-up. Usually that would make me unhappy, but not tonight. It is not enough to just win the game. I want the Senators to destroy them, to beat them in every way that they can be beaten, in front of their home town fans, and in front of a national television audience. I want the Senators to shrug off any trappings of Christian guilt and fair play and turn them into jam. Given their current vulnerability and mental state we have the opportunity to utterly destroy this franchise for the next couple of years. We need to take that opportunity. We owe them...big time!

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 3, 2006 -- I will just give the short version. Explanations and detailed rationale will have to wait for a future date. The purpose for this is to get maximum traction from our available talent in order to beat the good teams we will eventually have to play.

First we need to bring up Hamel (or Bochenski) and put him on the wing in Neil's place. He hasn't scored in an eon and there is a reason for that. He simply does not fit. Neil goes back to playing with Smolinski and Varada. Eaves goes back to play with Vermette and Kelley. Vermette plays center.

So we have the following

Heatley-Spezza-Alfredsson
Schaeffer-Fisher-Hamel
Varada-Smolinski-Neil
Kelly-Vermette-Eaves

Some notes: Neil has scored most of his points playing with Smolinski. He does not have the skill set/style/speed to play with Schaeffer and Fisher. Putting him back with Smoke would better suit his style of play. Remember the Philly game and the way he and Varada combined for a key goal? We would get more of the same and he wouldn't feel so obligated to compensate for his lack of scoring by getting into fights.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 3, 2006 -- The Senator's GM recently held a press conference. The link is below and I think fans will find it of interest. Particularly check out the sound bites.

The big thing I got out of it was his statement not to go for a goaltender and a rough date of 1 April for Havlat's return.

Muckler excited as trade deadline approaches

Postscript

I am happy that Muckler doesn't want to trade away the future for short-term help. Too many franchises go down the drain that way. I am surprised that he plans to go for another defenceman ... wasn't that Schubert's role? I would think he would like to concentrate his ammo for a stab at star center. which in my opinion is the one way we can improve the team.

From the sound clips at the Sens site it also appears he will NOT be going after a goalie. I have to admit the latter generates a bit of a pucker factor. I hope he is right about Hasek coming back as good as new.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 2, 2006 -- The Senators get back to the form they started to display just before the Olympic break. All the hallmarks of classic Senator hockey were on display. Great team speed, constant tempo, crisp passing, and physicality with a real edge. Emery was solid and came within a few minutes from recording what would have been a most timely shut-out. Neil was picking on guys twice his size and getting the upper hand. Volchenkov and Varada looked like angry men out there. The Sens scored multiple goals on the power play, even strength and on the penalty kill. Spezza got a monkey off his back with a power play marker, and his play visibly improved from that point on.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 2, 2006 -- In the game against the Pens, the fourth line got only one shot on net. The forwards. as a group, got only got 12 shots.

Ugh.

Feast or Famine in regards to television coverage. It was famine during the Olympic break, but it is feast now. After the next three games though it is back to famine. I don't understand what with all these 24/7 sports channels that nobody is picking up these games. Where are the Senator's media "specialists"?. Probably off making Girl Guide cookies.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 2, 2006 -- After watching the highlights of the game last night, I realize I may have been a bit generous in my description of Emery. First one of our goals (Heatley) came about only after Emery gave up an King Kong sized rebound that just got by everybody. Not a play one can formalize.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 1, 2006 -- Well we certainly were not the dominating pre-Nov 30 Senators. Even when we were up 4-0 there was a sense that the Senators were a bit "off" - like a transmission that had a slight timing problem, and unable to get full horsepower to the drive-shaft.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 1, 2006 -- I expect the Spezza-Heatley pairing to be highly "motivated". Spezza I am sure is especially keen to show what he is made of and prove he should have been a starter in Turin.

In the stretch drive I am expecting Vermette to start flowering into the offensive force he can be.

Emery is well aware of the "chattering classes", and will do his best to transmogrify himself into a brick wall.

I want to see the old Senators, the Senators that kicked people's butts.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Mar 1, 2006 --

These are two names that seem to be coming in articles and blogs/chat boards. Obviously Fernandez is the guy we want.

I have no idea if it is even feasible, but I am of the mind that we do not want a short term rental here. We want a guy who can be our number one for the next three to five years.

Can Muckler do a multi-year deal in this environment? I would think he would have to be talking to the agent and see if Fernandez would take a multi-year deal with the Sens. Can we compete in an all out bidding war? Maybe not, but Fernandez would know that by coming to the Senators he would be in the play-offs every year and be competitive for the big prize. And it is not like he would be a pauper here.

Signing a multi-year deal with Fernandez might also make it easier to sign some of our other big players.

I can only imagine that Muckler is really grilling the medical staff to get the straight goods on Hasek's injury and his prognosis for the rest of this season. It is certainly not looking promising right now.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 27, 2006 -- Not quite like the end of the lockout but I am keenly anticipating the return of Senator's hockey after the Olympic break. We have a concentrated schedule of 26 games, as the team prepares for the playoffs. Hopefully the improved play just before the break, and on the basis of line combinations that made sense will carry through. There is still much to be concerned over though.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 26, 2006 -- On the slide show on the Senator's site is a picture of Havlat skating with the team for the first time. (second picture of the series).

Even in a still, Havlat looks so good. There is an aesthetic quality to Havlat that makes him worth the price of admission alone. I can't wait to see him back in action.

Olympics? Huh? What? Who cares! The drive for the Cup now starts in earnest!

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 22, 2006 -- The most important event in Canadian Hockey History will be the Olympic Hockey Tournament in Vancouver. And the time to start preparing is now.

The first step towards a successful campaign is to bring Scotty Bowman in as the full-time Executive Director of Team Canada.

His record speaks for itself. He has Stanley Cup rings for each finger and a couple of toes. He has won Stanley Cups with three different teams. He is a man who is not afraid of pure talent. Remember this is a guy who, while in Detroit, brought Luc Robitaille to play as a fourth line "role" player.

He can spend his remaining years either giving charity coaching clinics, or he can go out coaching the greatest team in planetary hockey and winning the one thing he hasn't yet got: an Olympic Gold Medal.

Indeed if it was up to me I would have the press conference even before the upcoming gold medal game. Turin? Who cares. Vancouver is where it's at baby, and we all know it.

It would bring tears to men's eyes to see Scotty Bowman behind the Team Canada Bench. And when he passes on, we would have the most expensive state funeral taxpayer dollars could provide...and one hell of a wake.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 22, 2006 -- Let the recriminations begin!

There will be much hand-wringing, punditry and pure second guessing following Team Canada's failure to compete for a podium finish in the Turin Olympics.

And for good reason.

It was a most unsatisfying performance. You cannot escape the fact that in the four games in which we played against real opponents, we lost three of them, getting shut out each time. We only scored goals in one period out of 12. I mean how is that even possible?

The one good thing from this is that hopefully the Team Canada brain-trust will completely reevaluate their philosophy in preparing for this tournament in Vancouver, which will arguably be the most important tournament (not "series") on Canadian soil in our nation's History.

Forget icons and legacies, a similar performance in Vancouver should have Canadians stringing up the responsible parties to the nearest available telephone poles


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 20, 2006 -- You would think, given the main emphasis of the site, that I would talk a lot about trades and trading. But the fact is I don't follow the other teams close enough to form independent opinions of how good other players are. In other words what is their true value.

Up to now I have not shared that feeling held by many that Muckler has to make a trade before dead-line. In my mind no trade is better than a bad trade.

Contrast this with the populist but idiotic ravings of Erin Nicks, who wrote recently in the Ottawa Sun,


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 13, 2006 -- Well we have finally reached that point where one can realistically start anticipating the return of Martin Havlat back to the line-up. Everybody realizes right now that the Senators slide towards mediocrity started the game after Havlat was injured. Of course I have argued that our problems were more than just Havlat missing. Remember we won four out of five with Havlat gone during his five game suspension. As well, the reality is that until he came back from that suspension, Havlat was not scoring that much, even though he was playing well.

Mox nix as they say. The Senators will certainly be better with Havlat than without him. Havlat is one of the best forwards in the league and certainly the most enjoyable to watch. While we are on Olympic break, it is time to put on our arm-chair coaches hats and wonder what our lines could like with him back in circulation.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 11, 2006 -- Is the slump over? I think there is a good chance that it is. The main reason being that Murray is finally starting to put lines together that make sense. Thankfully the lines that were together in practice, were not the lines that were put into play tonight against the Flyers.

The biggest move was the healthy scratch of McGrattan. It is not just the roster spot that he takes up, but the fact that two other players get relegated to the shadow world as well. I sincerely hope that the McGrattan experiment is over.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 11, 2006 -- Withdrawal symptoms are already starting. Thanks to Hockey Night in Toronto, we won't get to watch the Senators play for a good long while.

It seems everywhere I read most people are laying the blame for the slump on everything and everyone except Murray; and quite frankly that is where I feel the problems lie.

It looks like the lines will be changed yet again although nothing has been committed. According Brennan (Ottawa Sun) reports,


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 9, 2006 -- Well for the first time since Nov 30 I liked the line combinations that Murray put together. And for the first time in a long while, the Senators again looked like a cohesive team, built around speed, skill and physicality.

In short they played a very good game but could not buy a goal. They were also handicapped by the inept Koharski, who in my opinion is the worst referee in the NHL. This is not just about what he called on the Senators, but what he didn't call on the Thrashers. It wasn't quite like the clutch and grab days against the Leafs, but it did make a difference on a lot of rushes where Senator forwards were dragged down, with or without the puck. And of course then there was that hit from behind on Varada, an obvious five minute major which just got two minutes.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 9, 2006 -- Well tonight we will have two underachieving teams who are both desperate for a victory. On top of that you have the whole Heatley-Hossa dynamic to add that little bit of acid to the mix.

I expect and certainly hope that the crowd gives Hossa a nice welcome. Along with Havlat, Hossa was my favorite player to just watch. He was one of those players that really made you understand that Ottawa was a good team with outstanding hockey players.

I still remember vividly that playoff goal against Philadelphia where he was literally skating circles around the Flyers. In my mind that single goal is what kept the Senators from bowing out of the playoff early that year.

No wild predictions tonight. It would be nice to see the Vermette Fisher pairing again. They provided some very nice play in the few shifts they had together in the first period.

As well I think it is safe to say that the Senators are no longer suffering from "complacency".

Post ScriptJust read on the ticker that Bochenski is being brought up. Perhaps to replace Schubert who will play for Phillips who is a game time decision due to sprained thumb.

As well it looks like Spezza is no worse for wear and will play. I am hoping that last night perhaps provided some kind of catharsis between he and Murray. Trust me when I say that I would rather be heaping praises on Murray than insults.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 8, 2006 -- How did that old Oxfam commercial go? "Hope Vanishes ...Despair Triumphs".

There is a saying which says "there are no bad battalions, there are only bad officers" This certainly applies to the Ottawa Senators, who are one of the most talent rich teams in the league being led by an utter failure of a coach.

I was so happy when Jacques Martin was let go. We still had a young team and I thought we would finally start making up for lost time. Now I have to wake up to the nightmare that Murray is worse by several orders of magnitude. It is more than mediocre hockey knowledge. Murray is spiteful, petty, a natural busy body; a shriveled old crone who has no business leading men in a competitive environment. The type that will blame everyone else, even when the fault is his, the little boy who cuts a fart in class and points his fingers at others. He is a man who prefers earnest mediocrity to pre-natural skill. Worst of all he is a man who panics when things don't go his own way.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 8, 2006 -- One of the features of the dominant Senators of the early part of the season was putting three consecutive lines on the ice which had speed. Speed is the most reliable skill as long as players are motivated and not too hurt.

From my pre-reading it seems the third line Varada-Kelly-Eaves retains its sacred cow status, so no joy there.

But Fisher, coming off the flu, looks to be replacing Martins on the fourth line. (Eyes roll again) Vermette and Fisher are among the two fastest skaters in the league. Schubert will hate me for saying this, but he makes a better power forward than a defenceman. This could prove to be a potent combination.

From them we will go to the top line. Spezza, Heatley and Alfredsson can be counted on to ignore Murray's admonitions to become a dump and chase line (reference today's Ottawa's Sun) and simply keep doing what made them the best line in hockey. And then we get Smolinski, Schaeffer and Neil.

Ok not as good as could be, but we do get three lines capable of offense playing in sequence. This give us the capability to sustain constant offensive pressure.

The Rangers are toast!

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 7, 2006 -- This victory was against the weakest team in the league but two points are two points. Emery got into a game without getting shelled and that is good. He looked shaky at first, but to my untrained eyes looked stronger and more at ease as the game went on. I am still of the mind that he should be spending his Olympic break down in Binghampton getting more game time in.

People got a glimpse of what a fourth line would be like without McGrattan. What Martens brings that McGrattan doesn't is speed and some semblance of puck handling skills. With Schubert laying the body and Vermette playing another strong game, they contributed two goals and were very strong on every shift, especially in the first two periods.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 6, 2006 -- Fisher is out with the flu. Emery is in for what is probably the biggest game of his career. Hamel will likely be brought up according to Stevenson. What will the lines be?

This should be a easy, and well needed two points..."should".."could"...I must admit there is a little bit of nervousness.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 4, 2006 -- This is a classic example of what happens when the empire fights the peasants on the peasants own terms; i.e. the peasants take the day.

It really is amazing how much things have changed. In the pre-game show Dean Brown was talking about how Ottawa had to play a physical game; how Ottawa did not want to get into a run and gun game: how the Senators could not match the Sabres speed. The Sabres?!! You mean the same team that we absolutely clobbered the last three times we played them?


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 4, 2006 -- Retro night tonight as we will settle around the fire and catch the game on the radio. The Sabres have been playing much improved hockey since our last meeting and they certainly will be up for the game in an attempt to undo past pastings. The Sabres are definitely not the Leafs and should provide a good test despite having some injury problems.

From the Ottawa Sun it seems that we will have new lines again tonight.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 4, 2006 -- The short answer is yes and yes. Given Emery's performance last season and at the start of this season, his sudden collapse may seem inexplicable. Injury does not seem to be a factor and I think it is safe to assume that Emery hasn't forgotten how to play the position. Is this another case of player mismanagement? There is certainly a case to be made.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 4, 2006 -- You are funded by taxpayers dollars to cover an entire country not just one big market city.

You are called Hockey Night in C-A-N-A-D-A, not hockey night in Toronto.

Your decision not to cover the Senators/Sabres games is ridiculous.

There may be 4.6 million people in the Toronto area but there are 28 million who live outside of TO.

And then you wonder why people get so receptive of the idea of privatizing CBC ... I hope you get sold to some US right wing media mogul who fires half of you.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 3, 2006 -- Things were getting a little surreal for awhile, being down 2-0 in the second period to a Penguins team without Crosby or Lemieux. The only way things could get worse was if Hasek popped a back muscle or something. But the Penguins are not the worst team in the East for nothing and they gave up two goals on their own power-play. From there the Senators ability to exploit weak teams and weak goaltending took over and we won the game easily. So we got the two points and padded some statistics, but beating up the Penguins doesn't yet prove that we have turned the corner.

Muckler might as well start looking for another back up goaltender.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 2, 2006 -- Semantics....bad defense is when we don't play well when the other team has the puck. When we give the puck away through bad passes or by being pick-pocketed we are talking about poor offensive execution. The Mask...Tyson was a man who had the world in his hands but proved to a babbling idiot and lost it all. Joe Louis, Chuvalo, Ali, Frasier, Ray Leonard...hell almost anyone else would be better. Coach replacement. Ted Nolan is available and is the right fit. He took a one goalie team to the finals. More importantly he had the Sabres playing like a band of brothers, a cult - he knows how to draw on the emotional instincts of men in a competitive environment. You can't teach that. Of course it won't happen. Muckler is still sore about Olan diddling his daughter or whatever. You are too old for this Muckler...get over it and pull the trigger. Spezza Backlash? I cannot believe the forums reaction to Spezza i.e. to bench him or trade him. These kind of head games satisfy only infantile instincts. Spezza is one of the league's top scorers and this is only his first true full season. For tonight's game? Well there is always the novelty of seeing what combinations are going to be used. Sheer number theory suggests that it only a matter of time before he tries the "kid" line of Vermette between Kelly and Eaves. It is true our defencemen have not been playing up to par....I can't see that lasting too long. A thought. At least we are not peaking too early. A scary thought. We peaked on Nov 30.

In the end I just hope everyone plays well tonight.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 1, 2006 -- There was a point in the first period where the only things missing were six-packs of beers, screaming snot-nosed rug-rats and a totally depressed housewife scrubbing dirty pans. I was looking into the abyss - wanting to descend into the terrain of white boy trailer trash and just pull my hair out and scream obscenities at the television.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 1, 2006 -- Well after the Boston fiasco, the upcoming game with New Jersey will be an important one to see where the team really stands. A lot of my attention will go towards those players who were not traded. As pointed out below, Vermette and the third line have got to start scoring goals. Playing better, even having an edge in play, is, in the context of Carolina, no longer enough.

Volchenkov represents the other element that has been missing from the Senators since Nov 30 and that is plain old body checking. When was the last time Volchenkov "A-trained" someone? When was the last time Chara turned an opposing forward into new board advertisement? Is it any wonder that Boston "dictated the tempo"?

It is a critical element not just from a momentum standpoint, but in the extra room it creates for our speedy forwards. The Senators cannot wait until the playoffs to start hitting. Like figure skaters who have to establish their routines in front of international judges before they actually compete in the Olympics, the Sens have to establish a baseline for physical play before getting into the playoffs. It is why we always get called for charging and boarding in the playoffs while other teams, like Toronto, do not.

The other element is fore checking an element that I read about somewhere else, on a blog or something - but it makes sense. At the beginning of the season Murray spoke in terms of "never letting the foot off the pedal, always "maintaining pressure". From what I understand we used to send two people in on the fore-check. Lately Murray has been talking in terms of "laying back" and playing "defensively". In other words he is starting to sound like Martin, and by only sending one player in on the fore-check, we have basically gone back to the trap.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Feb 1, 2006 -- So Weight is gone. There is little doubt that if we had been able to get him for just a first round draft pick, that he would have been a valuable addition to our team. Along with Spezza and Fisher we would have had three top-notch centers, and lots of troops to play with them. But giving up Vermette and Volchenkov, along with a first round pick, is too much to pay. Philosophically giving up three young good players for a short-term fix, is rarely good for the long term competitive viability of the franchise. That is especially true when you consider that Redden, Chara, and Havlat all need to be resigned, with big dollars that we may or may not have.



-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 30, 2006 -- A frequent refrain I heard over the weak stretch in December and January, was that "even good teams lose.". I didn't really buy it then, feeling there was something more fundamental going on. There is always a desire to point fingers when apparently getting blown out 5-0 at home, but the fact is that sometimes even good teams lose games. The stench of bad karma permeated the entire contest this evening.

Our forwards played fine I thought. I mean they generated 44 shots and that doesn't include all the ones that were blocked or just missed high. It wasn't just the shots. They generated lots of good chances but Lady Luck had all but built a wall of invisible bricks in front of the Bruins net. OK, their goalie was hot, but pleeeeasse ... don't tell me there weren't higher forces at work here.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 30, 2006 -- A letter sent to the Ottawa Sun regarding an article titled Vermette can wing it

Mr Brennan,

Coach Murray has never handled a team with this much offensive talent and it is a potential Achilles Heel in our quest for the Cup. I am afraid he is being influenced by this myth that you "have" to have a checking line or "energy" line or whatever euphemism is in vogue. And that is total poppy cock. If Team Canada does not win the gold medal it will most likely be because of this nonsense. Who would you want on your national team? A Bobby Hull or a Bob Gainey?

The only reason every team has a checking line is that there is not enough talent, and it is usually too expensive to have four scoring lines. You don't have to worry about energy if you are putting pucks in the other guys net.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 29, 2006 -- So guess who is the fastest skater, on the fastest most offensive club in the NHL? Yup, my unintentional but totally enthusiastic "cause celebre" - Antoine Vermette.

When you look up this guy's stats in the AHL and with Victoriaville, you really start to understand how ludicrous it was to have this guy relegated on the fourth line for half the season. A "utility player"? Oh please. Remember when Havlat came back from his suspension? The put him on a line centered by Vermette and with Schaeffer. Can you say speed?

Of course one hears Vermette's name come up a lot in trade rumours, especially for Weight. Ever notice how that comes from the same source as the rumours about trading Havlat during his suspension? What I am talking about is Toronto based, and Toronto biased media. Their "advice" on how to improve the Senators should be taken with the proverbial bucket of salt. More on the myths and agenda of Toronto and local media in the days to come.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 26, 2006 -- The Senators are more and more looking like their pre Nov 30 selves. We now have three lines that can apply pressure, and there is precious little respite for the opposing team. The Senators outshot the Habs 40-12 and that included a lot of coasting in the third period.

I don't know if any one else notices because I am hyper-aware, but my proposed "kid line" was together for about 45 seconds tonight. They got four or five shots in that time period and were just flying. I have little doubt that Kelly would love the idea of playing with Vermette and Eaves.

There is talk of Havlat coming back in mid-March. It makes sense to put him with Fisher and Schaefer, giving us a second "super-line". Then you can have Smolinski centering Varada and Neil. Smolinski and Neil have paired up quite a bit, and they play well together.

That leaves the Kid line. Who is third or fourth line doesn't really matter because now you have four lines that you can roll, and nary a weakness in the whole lot.

I guess the only thing I would like to see is a bit more hitting. It's been awhile since Volchenkov has "A-trained" somebody. As well Chara has to establish in front of the referees that he is allowed to hit people as hard as he can, without getting a penalty.

Big body checks are big momentum builders, and the playoffs is as much about momentum as they are about scoring goals.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 25, 2006 -- Belfour was better, and the Leafs got some typical garbage goals to make it nerve wracking by the end. It is too bad we could not have slaughtered them again. You could sense that this was an organization that was on the verge of imploding...and now they have "hope". One thing for the Leafs, it does not take much for them to see the glass as half-full.

I keep trying to think up of some ways that they can keep Leafs fans out of the building...but nothing within the realm of legality comes to mind

All the forward lines seemed to be playing well. It was nice to see the newly formed Vermette Smolinksi Eaves line start passing to each other. They were rewarded with a nice goal which ended up being the game winner.

Due to shifting players on the powerplay one did get a glimpse of Vermette,Kelly and Eaves (my proposed "kid line" line would look like. You can't make big judgments on just two shifts, but they certainly had a lot of zip while out there.

I can't see it happening thought. Where would he put Smolinksi? He wouldn't want to break up the second line, and you can't have him on the fourth with McGrattan.

Basically McGrattan is getting benched with Kelly and Varada getting a regular turn with rotating top six forwards. So that is working OK.

Hopefully Murray will leave these line alone awhile and let people get used to each other.

The Ottawa media spin meister should be cooking Quinn over a public slow fire over his comments on Varada. Quinn has always played these public head games with the referees, and it pays dividends in the playoffs where the Leafs always seem to get their "fair advantage" when it comes to officiating.

They need to completely discredit him in an equally public fashion.

The only other item that comes to mind is Emery. Have they lost all confidence in him?.. At some point they are going to have let him get back on that horse.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 21, 2006 -- Spezza, Heatley, Alfredsson and Fisher were men playing against boys, and the result was a relaxing 7-0 romp over a Leafs team that would not look out of place in the AHL right now.

The top line showed why they are the "top" line and hopefully there will be no more experimentation with this trio. As for the rest? Well I still don't think we are putting out the best team that we can. Vermette and Eaves are good young promising speeders, but they are not top six forwards. At least not yet, and not when you have Schaeffer and Fisher.

I am still of the mind that if you paired Vermette with Kelly and Varada with Smolinksi all four would be the happier for it.

Another big problem is McGrattan. Because of him, the two players that get the short end of the stick, and put on the fourth line, get relegated to a wasteland. Today that was Kelly and Varada Remember we still have to make room for Bochenski.

Replace McGrattan with Bochenski, Hamel or even Martins, and suddenly all kinds of options open up. We are no longer a team that has a "fourth line"; but instead a team with four lines.

The semantics may seem subtle but the difference on the ice, and in the dressing room, are immense.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 20, 2006 -- As I write the Maple Leafs (spit, spit) are clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot. Hot on their heels are the defending Cup champs, Tampa Bay. Surely the Lightning have the horses, and if they get their act together they should be able to jump over the Leafs. Atlanta and New Jersey are now starting to play up to their potential and should be able to keep from dropping back.

The Senators can certainly help, given that they have the Leafs in back to back home games. The last two games have been real trouncings, and the Leafs have not been playing well. Their lack of defensive depth, and shakier goaltending, and the crack-down on "clutch and grab" are proving to be insurmountable obstacles.

The Sens are not in peak form, but at all times during the regular season they have shown the ability to exploit weak defencemen and shaky goalies.

Two victories is the tactical goal. Strategically what we want is for the Leafs to miss the playoffs. Can you imagine the national (cum local Toronto) media if the Senators are the only Eastern Conference Canadian team in the playoffs?

That would be exquisite. And then to top it off with a Cup victory? I am not sure if that is in the "better than sex" category, but it sure would make it sweeter!

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 19, 2006 -- Here is a little thought experiment. You are a head coach for an opposing team coming in to play the Senators. Here is the rub. You have access to exactly the same players as Brian Murray has. Put your lines together and play against Murray. In essence the game will be determined by which line-up is better.

Brian Murray = "A" Team. His line-up from the first two periods goes as follows:

Line A1: Alfredsson-Smolinski-Eaves
Line A2: Heatley-Spezza-Neil
Line A3: Schaeffer- Fisher-Varada
Line A4 McGrattan - Vermette- Kelly

I would counter with the Quasimodos or"Q" Team

Line Q1: Alfredsson-Spezza-Heatley
Line Q2: Schaeffer - Smolinski - Fisher
Line Q3: Kelly -Vermette- Eaves
Line Q4 Hamel- Martins- Neil



-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 16, 2006 -- Our coach was better than their coach and that isn't saying a lot. Lemaire's Wild gave new meaning to the term "safe=death" as Minnesota arguably proved to be the most inept team we have faced this year. Taking advantage of the many powerplays and giveaways the Senators won 6-1 in almost workmanship fashion. I don't believe I have ever witnessed fourteen thousand people make so little noise for so long.

It is not the kind of game to make any firm declarations, but people will. The third line finally got some points, capitalizing on brutal give aways from Minnesota defencemen and goalies. This had the Sportsnet color commentator absolutely cooing. He has been waxing ecstatic over this trio for the previous nineteen games even though they have done zilch offensively and finally on the twentieth, reality, for one lucky bounce period, actually fit the rhetoric.

He called them the Senator's "top line". And you know what is scary? He was right. That means that Brian Murray's conversion of one of the most dominating, exciting teams of the league, into an honest "hard-working" lunch bucket team, is now complete.

Lunch bucket teams don't go too far in the play-offs though.

Everybody will be saying that all is well. I am telling you that things are not well. Not well at all.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 16, 2006 -- I don't specifically know why, but I am really looking forward to this game. Maybe because one really doesn't know what kind of lines are going to be put into action.
Of course what the lines are at the beginning of the game and what they are in the third period are rarely the same and it does give the festivities an added layer of "intrigue"

The Wild will be a different kind of test than the Oilers. They are not as good a team as Edmonton, but they do have much superior goaltending. Beating teams with good goaltenders is one of those good omens that hints at long playoff runs.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 15, 2006 -- I guess any game you win on the road is a good win. Ottawa scored 4 goals on 16 shots and put in a spirited effort to take the game.

I have to tell you I have no clue over our team's philosophy when it comes to line combinations. I am not a communist. I do not see players as interchangeable parts.

The reality is some players are better than others. Some players play better when with some players, and worse when with others.

Smolinski is not a top line center, but there he was. Varada is not a top six forward but there he was on the second line. Heatley is not a third line player, playing alongside call-ups. Vermette is not a fourth line utility player. When you are two men short, Kelly is not the guy you put on the ice.

When you have a two man advantage, putting Smolinski on with Varada and Neil, while leaving Schaeffer and Fisher on the bench (Alfredsson was off getting stitched up), is just not putting your best foot forward.

That was the first period


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 12, 2006 -- San Jose will be a stronger team than Phoenix so we will get a better idea of where things stand. Bad news is Spezza will not be returning tonight. Good news is that Bochenski will be back. Better news is the Sun reports that he will be playing with Vermette. Bad news is he is replacing Schubert. Hopefully this is only because Schubert is still injured and not being replaced.

McGrattan's play has improved but a Bochenski-Vermette-Schubert line-up definitely has that critical mass of quality to surprise people to the upside.

I must admit, I am still not as sold on Bochenski as a lot of other people are. But he does have a laser for a shot and if Vermette can get him the puck, good things will follow.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 10, 2006 -- Alfredsson for MVP? I think so. It was like watching a whole different team. Everyone was flying, especially Fisher. If he can keep his shot bore-sighted, he has the capacity to become a 40+ goal scorer. Schubert was plastering people left and right and hopefully the groin injury is just a minor one. McGrattan again had a better game. Vermette got lots of ice. He has got to start burying his chances and start using his straight-away speed when carrying the puck. He always wants to dipsy doodle the minute the puck touches his blade.

The big news was Alfredsson, who looked like he hadn't missed a shift. I do feel confident that the bottom is in and that things should start looking up. With Spezza due to come back, things can only get better.

Watching the game we were wondering what was going through the mind of Gretzky. The Great One who made everything look so easy, now has to try to teach the unteachable to mere mortals: indeed they may as well been wearing cement shoes out there tonight.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 10, 2006 -- According to the Sun, Alfie should be playing tonight. Thank God. We need him...and bad. Was trying to confirm at the Citizen...but all I could get was an article on McCabe....figures.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 7, 2006 -- Well the game is over. If you are into "spin" one can say that we won the last two periods in a 1-0 nail biter. In the end it sucks losing to weak teams. I don't know how much one can make of this game. On one level it is a continuation of the pattern that has been in place since Nov 30. We have the raw materials, but can't get the mix right.

This game is a little bittersweet, because we did not play as bad as the score would indicate. The first period especially had that aroma of bad karma: the kind that can lead the superstitious to make wrong conclusions.


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 7, 2006 -- As I write the first period with the Canadians is over and we are down 4-0: according to some, the worst period ever for the Senators.

Here's the rub: the Sens are not playing bad, in fact they are looking better than they have for awhile. Even McGrattan is moving well out there. The Heatley line is looking much better. Now if they can only avoid getting run over by their own defenceman.

This is just one of those games where the Hockey Gods look down and decide to put the screws to the Senators. Fortunately the Hockey Gods have short attention spans. If the Sens just keep their heads together, things should start turning around.

This game is not over. Indeed this period may mark a low point in the Senators season.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 6, 2006 -- Introduction

After the previous game with the Bruins, which saw us shockingly get shut out 3-0, I sent the Senators a little note which included the following:

"The line-up last night against the Bruins seemed almost purposely designed to suck all offensive synergy outside of the first line. For the first time an opposing team could concentrate on only the top line and not worry about anything else"

This recent 4-2 loss to the struggling Bruins definitely rests in the "same song, different verse" category. I know we are missing three big guys, but surely the difference between the Senators and the 13th place Bruins, is more than one line? Of course it is. Our defence is much better, our goaltending is much better. And man for man our available forwards are still much better than whatever Boston has to offer. Still we "found a way to lose".


-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 5, 2006 -- We got by the Capitals. With Washington so weak and our team so injury ridden, it is hard to make any conclusions. My first impressions of the Heatley, Smolinksi, Vermette combination during the Islanders game was, despite getting the winning goal, that they looked "disjointed."

The Washington game did nothing to change my mind. I still think Fisher would be better on the top line. Heatley was trying to do it all by himself, crashing through multiple opponents even when he had help nearby.

Vermette has looked and played better with Kelly, and with Schaeffer who he played with at the beginning of the season.

Philips had a monster game, getting his first goal and pan-caking people.

It was good to see Martins. He always strikes me as being one of the quickest skaters on the ice. I have always wondered why he isn't a full time NHLer. From what I gather he needs to work on scoring.

The biggest thing was that Hasek looked no worse for wear, and was outstanding in several PK situations. Not that I want to get into anyone's nationalistic pride, but deep down I wish Hasek took the Olympics off. Wear and tear tends to accumulate, and the sore back may have been a shot across the bow. We definitely want a fresh Hasek come playoff time.

The Bruins will be a bigger test. Given that our period of dominance first faltered when we got shut out 3-0 by these guys, this game should be interesting. Winning with our depleted line-up, would be a big one.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 4, 2006 -- With injuries, (Spezza, Alfie, and Havlat) we have the equivalent of one top line out of the equation. Those three obviously represent a good chunk of Ottawa's offensive power. Do we still have the goods to field a winning team? I thinks so, at least against the lowly Capitals.

Again, going on the philosophy that talent should be concentrated, these are the lines I would like to see

Smolinski, Heatley and Fisher

This becomes our top line.

Schaefer, Vermette and Kelly

Vermette and Kelly are a proven combination. As a line they will be unproven and Vermette will have to crank it up. But they will be fast, and they will be able to move the puck around and should get lots of chances.

Hamel, Eaves and Neil

Hamel is a proven NHL performer, with 100 plus games under his belt, including some in playoffs. Eaves can score and Neil has become a steady player. They will at least hold the line and my gut tells me they would provide secondary scoring, if Murray can get the right match-ups.

The fourth line is Varada, Schubert and Martins.

All three are good skaters, and should be able to keep the other side off the board. There is no scoring capability here though.

McGrattan is a scratch - Ottawa no longer has the luxury of carrying dead weight.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 2, 2006 -- Hockey is not politics. Stupidity is not rewarded. Today the Senators ran into a team that did not have a sieve for a goalie and had some genuine offensive talent - a description of any team you expect to meet in playoff hockey - and the result is that we got smoked out of the building. With Murray's incomprehensible fetish for diluting offensive talent across four lines, the Thrashers could, and did, for whole chunks of time, completely dominate play.

The media, broadcasters, pundits indeed even most people on chat boards etc still talk about the Senators as an elite team that will be vying for the Cup. But that team no longer exists. And it has not existed since Nov 30, when Vermette was demoted to the fourth line. Up to that point the Senators lost only 2 of 22 games. Since that date we have lost 7 of fifteen.

Now Vermette is not Gretzky, but the move is significant in that it changed the philosophy with which the Senators have been organized. Up to that point if you ranked our forwards from top to bottom in terms of offensive talent (speed, puck handling, shot), and then fed them into a rotation - you basically came up with the lines that made Ottawa such a devastating team.

I know everyone likes McGrattan because he knocked Tie Domi's lights out but he is not an NHL player. He is a liability every time he is on the ice. He ruins plays by being off side. He cannot hit open men with a pass because his eyes have to stay on the puck, and cannot receive a pass even when on his tape. He gets stupid penalties trying to start a fight, that nobody wants.

Smolinksi is a good steady player, but he is not the guy you put on a "dominant" line. Varada has one goal despite regular ice. Vermette has eight. Indeed since Nov 30 Vermette has more goals than the entire third line combined, and that is despite getting shifts of the 20 second variety playing with a useless thug and a defenceman turned forward. Varada has been a digger his entire career. Vermette has been a superstar scorer at every level he has played in, and yet has to see every emergency call-up get more ice time and opportunity than himself.

Vermette is a Havlat in waiting. He is the kind of star player that can ensure a hockey' teams future for years to come. Varada is a salary cap drain. Vermette is a restricted free agent. He is under contract for one year. If the Senators don't smarten up, they are going to lose him the way they almost lost Spezza. And before that, you can kiss our chances to win a Cup good-bye.

-- Thomas DeChastelain


Jan 2, 2006 -- It now looks like the Senator's captain will be out for more than one week.

I think this is our worst injury of the year. Alfredsson is a key in all situations: five on five, power play and PK. He is the one guy that instinctively ramps up his game when everyone else is going flat

The inclusion of Alfredsson on the top line is what makes that line so devastating because now you have ALL 3 who can carry the puck over the line and make plays, and of course ALL 3 can finish attacks

Big, big shoes that can't be filled

-- Thomas DeChastelain