Thursday, September 28, 2006

Re: Ottawa Sports Fans

I thought I'd comment on this Ian Mendes post that raised some hackles a few weeks ago. The tone kinda reminded me of the attitude of some of the folks who used to come to Ottawa U. from Toronto and bitch about what an insignificant backwater the city was. e.g. : "OC Transpo sucks - in Toronto we have a REAL subway". "Ottawa is so small, in Toronto we have REALLY big buildings". "Ottawa's criminals are so lame, in Toronto we have REAL drive-by shootings and machete hackings".

Is Ottawa Canada's Worst Sports Town?

Disclaimer: I am not writing this from Toronto.

I live and work in Ottawa. I do my grocery shopping at Farm Boy, I listen to Lowell Green on the radio, I get frustrated that there is no exit for Bank St. off the Queensway and just like you, I'm wondering when the O-Train will arrive in Barrhaven.

Okay, now that I've firmly established myself as a true resident of Ottawa, I would like to pose a question to you.

Do we live in the worst sports city in the country?

Couple of obvious points have already been brought up in the comments there - the fact that it's a government town, the arena's in the middle of a cornfield, etc. I think the most substantative point Mendes brings up is the precarious nature of the "walkup" crowd versus a healthy season ticket base. I'll throw the following observations out for discussion:

-Pointing to the failure of the Riders/Renegades and Lynx franchises simply won't do. The CFL teams were notoriously badly managed, while the Lynx were the last of several triple A teams to bail out of Canadian cities. The Expos left Montreal, the Grizzlies left Vancouver. These strike me as Canadian issues, not an Ottawa-specific issue. Is it possible that Canadians just aren't culturally attuned to spending weekday evenings in the summertime watching minor league baseball? Lynx Stadium/Jetform Park was a swell venue and had great accessibility and freeway visibility but I just don't see it as enough to compete with hockey playoff overlap on one end and pre-season / football overlap on the other.

-The residual Habs / Leafs fans. Anecdotally, I know of many season ticket holders who renew simply for the novelty of local NHL hockey and the chance to see the team they've followed since childhold. The Senators are a secondary consideration, and as such (during the regular season in particular) you can get the feeling you're watching two visiting teams play an exhibition game. It takes time to rear the next generation of fans - the kids you see hopping around on the big screen are the die-hard homers of the future. There'll always be the 416 crowd in town for Leafs games, but as the older ticket holders die off and get replenished with a "re-educated" fan-base, I think you might see a change in attitude.

-I feel uncomfortable even bringing this up, but when you observe bejerseyed inter-fanbase couples in attendance, you'll often note that the patriarch is wearing blue and white, while the wife wears black/red/gold. I don't think this is a statement on the relative femininity of the Ottawa sports fanbase (as if that would be a bad thing!) but a sign of its irreconcilable loyalties.

-My scope for comparison is extremely limited, but do fans in the lower bowl leave the game with five minutes to go in other cities? If not, then Ottawa fans deserve every ounce of scorn heaped on them. This is just an unconscionably lame habit.

-Please for the love of God stop complaining about the traffic. Yes, it is murder to drain a parking lot of 16,000+ vehicles in the span of an hour (that's the directional equivalent of 8 freeway lanes, which do not exist), but for what it's worth I think the Ottawa traffic and transit system is quite superb (relatively speaking) and should be no excuse poor sports attendance (any more than bad weather should be).

UPDATE: Mendes' response. He notes the Edmonton Trappers received an attractive offer to leave and didn't suffer from poor attendance. This might be useful in making the case that Edmonton is Canada's best sports town, not that Ottawa's the worst.

Sens 5 Leafs 3 Exhibition

By The Meatriarchy

Despite the outcome I quite enjoyed this game (well I saw the last two periods a power outage in my neck of the woods had me eating dinner with the family at a local restaurant that didn't have the game on). But that might be because it was an exhibition game - you can watch one of those with a little less emotional attachment than a game that actually means something.

The post game scrum around Mikael Tellqvist was telling, the reporters and the now embattled Leaf backup seemed resigned to the fact that he has probably played his last game in a Leaf uniform. Mikael expressed a hope that a decision would be made soon as it is hard on both him and his fiancee not knowing what is happening.

For what its worth he played a decent game and made some fantastic saves. I think he has played his best hockey as a Leaf during this camp. However it might have come too little too late. Not all the goals were his fault but a few clearly were. Telly's problem is that sometimes he throws himself into a save so hard that he keeps sliding and ends up way out of position. That happened on at least one occasion last night.

On the plus side several Leafs had good games in cluding Alexander Suglobov and Matt Stajan. Bates Battaglia and Brad Brown continue to make Paul Maurice's final cuts challenging. Brown however might have an inside track considering how decimated the Leaf's defense core.

Outside the top four White and Wozniewski both seem to be strong contenders with Brown and Jay Harrison also in the mix. Of course the return of Colaiacovo could complicate matters. However after missing most of training camp I expect him to have a conditioning stint in the minors.

Battaglia might have a tougher time cracking a mostly set forward group made even more difficult by the play of Suglobov. Last night he scored a seeing eye goal and generated plenty of excitement but he was trying to be a little too fancy sometimes with the puck. However watching him play last night a thought occurred: could he be the replacement for Alexander Mogilny that the Leafs have been looking for? Granted he could never touch Mogilny in his prime but the Mogilny that played for the Leafs was not the Mogilny who played for Buffalo or even Vancouver. But Suglobov is creative enough and has a goal scorers touch to warrant consideration on Matt's right side. He is 2 inches and 20 pounds bigger than Kyle Wellwood and he is a natural winger. Wellwood is much better at center and was getting creamed along the boards in the games that he played on the wing. Small wonder that he is out with an injury already. He is not suited to the wing, he should be playing center.

Speaking of Sundin the Captain had 5 shots last night but generally looked like he didn't break a sweat. Ditto some of the other veterans like McCabe. And where was Jeff O'Neal. It was the third period before I realized that he was even playing. Did he show up late?

Hal Gill should take some fighting lessons. Rule number one: A taller guy cannot wrestle a shorter strong guy to the ground - the leverage isn't there. Also a taller guy is at a disadvantage in a fight if he allows the shorter person to stay in range. Gill should learn to hold a guy at arms length and then hit him. Chris Neil seemed to be holding back in this one. He could have landed an uppercut at any time and dropped Gill. But he probably didn't want Hal to fall on him.

Mike Fisher was by far the best player on the ice for either team and was well deserving of the first star.

Next up a home and home against our former Norris Division rivals the Detroit Red Wings. The real show begins after that and games like this will be a lot less enjoyable if the outcome is a loss.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Bubble Boys

By The Meatriarchy

Michael Traikos has a round up of the 14 players who are on the bubble to make the Leafs or be sent to the Marlies (or elsewhere).

Nothing he says is really surprising ( White is good but small, Wozniewski big and slow) but one thing that did strike me is this little fact:

Mikael Tellqvist is 27 years old. I completely forgot that. I have always thought of this guy as a kid but at 27 isn't it time to pull the plug on this experiment? If he hasn't proven he can play at this level by this age is there any proof that he can?

Well, I guess the fact that Aubin is 29 and has yet to find a permanent home in the NHL is as good an example as any.

Expect to see Telly in net tonight against the Sens. This right now is the most important game of his career (although those two stinkers in MTL last year were the most important in my book).
If he is merely average look for him to be on the trading block or waivers. And I don't think he will fetch much on the open market. Maybe a fourth rounder or the ever popular "player to be named later".

Monday, September 25, 2006

Domi and Stronach

Excellent - details are coming out on the Domi divorce.

The article is up on the Globe and Mail and some other news sites but strangely in not seen on though Sportsnet is giving it a prominent location on it's site. I wonder why.

I love the following quote from the article:
Leanne Domi believes the relationship began when her husband started working on Ms. Stronach's political campaign, though, “Tie had little to no interest in politics, and in fact, had not the slightest idea about political ideology,” she says in the document filed in court.

A perfect match! Belinda doesn't the slightest idea about political ideology either. How cute.

Maybe the best lines though come from the Globe comments:

- careful big guy belinda will cross the floor and start cheering for the montreal canadians.

- I don't believe this article! Tie Domi has never been a star! A dwarf planet, perhaps.

- This gives new meaning to 'Tie one on'!

- Gotta hand it to Tie. Even off skates he punches well above his weight, so to speak.

- I wouldn't unpack my suitcase if I was Tie.


UPDATE: Tie Domi, Steel Baron
"Tie assured me that Belinda was nothing more than an important 'business contact' and said I should be nice to her since she held the key to an important and lucrative deal ... involving the supply of steel to Magna ... and he stood to make monumental commissions from this deal."

A Sens Blog I could grow to like

by The Meatriarchy

Just discovered this blog called "Scarlett Ice" written by a 19 year old Sens fan who appears to live in the Burlington/Hamilton area (which makes us neighbours).

It has a crisp layout. Great photos (vidcaps??) and commentary from the female perspective :

It might be sacrilege to be posting about the poster-boy for MLSE [well, that title might belong to Andrew Raycroft now] on a Sens blog, but I have to admit...I've got nothing against Sundin. You have to understand, I grew up in Leafs Nation and Sundin and his luscious blonde hair was a very integral part of my hockey development. He has since shaved said luscious blonde hair and it has never been the same.

Actually I think he shaved it because he has been going bald for sometime.

Regardless I urge you all to check out Sherry's work. Keep it up Sherry.

Sens 3 Leafs 2 (exhibition)

By The Meatriarchy

If I were the fans in Halifax I would want a refund. Supposedly the Toronto Maple Leafs were in town to play the Senators but it looked an awful lot like the Toronto Marlies. Trouble is they probably paid an NHL price to see AHL players.

No Leafs regulars played on defense and up front only Steen, Stajan, O'Neil, and Ponikarovsky were from the big club. No Sundin, no Peca, no Tucker, no Wellwood not even Nik Antropov.

At least the Sens provided Heatly, Redden and Spezza. But this was a mis-match from the get go. The Marlies who were playing their third game in three nights were lucky that it wasn't a blow out and it was only ill-advised penalties that kept them from possibly winning the game.

BTW someone should tell Dany Heatley that he isn't Bobby Clarke and Brendan Bell isn't Valeri Kharlamov. That tomahawk to Bell's foot was ridiculous and uncalled for.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Leafs 4 Canadiens 3 (exhibition)

By The Meatriarchy

The Leafs barely made the league requirement for 8 regulars last night with Peca, Stajan, Steen Wellwood, Kilger, Antropov, Gill, Jeff O'Neil and Raycroft being all locks to play for the Leafs this year. The rest of the crew was basically the Toronto Marlies especially on defense where only Gill is guaranteed a spot on the roster.

And with Colaiacovo and Kronwall injured it gave guys like White, Bell and Harrison a chance to show there stuff against a Canadiens team that iced Ryder, Bonk, Samsanov, Koivu, Johnson, Higgins, Kovalev, Huet, Souray, and Rivet.

Yet with all that offensive firepower the rookie D held up rather well bolstered by some sparkling work by Raycroft (although at times he looked like he was fighting the puck to me).

Penalty trouble certainly cost the Leafs as two of the Hab's three goals were scored on the powerplay. At the same time the Habs were 2-11 with the man advantage so the Leafs weren't all bad.

The standout for the night was Alexander Suglobov who had a goal and an assist and generally looked faster than anyone else on the ice.

I have always been skeptical of a forward who at 25 still hasn't cracked an NHL line up Defensemen and Goalies take a while to develop but if you can score at the big league level you don't languish in the minors. And this is only exhibition so we don't know how this guy will play when the going gets tough.

Paul Maurice did have an interesting comment after the game however saying that Suglobov had come from the New Jersey system and spent the latter half of last year un-learning the trap. He figures that Suglobov is still adjusting to a more offensive style of play.

If that is true and this guy can play on a 2nd or 3rd line at this level the trade that sent Klee to Jersey might turn out to be a steal

Everybody in the pool...

Quick PSA: Occasional BoO commenter and Bound By Gravity blogger Andrew Anderson has set up another installation of the Canadian Bloggers Hockey League (CBHL). If you're not in a league yet this season you should consider joining. No money, just bragging rights for first place and eternal shame and disgrace for last (I believe David Johnson of Hockey Analysis schooled us all pretty good last year).

See the post here for details.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Leafs 5 Canadians 1 (exhibition)

by The Meatriarchy

I only caught the first period but this game had a more regular season feel to it than most exhibition games.

I am not sure that it was the play (which did seem faster) but the coverage. Leafs TV is airing all the exhibition games and have been showcasing their new format and line up (Jody Vance is now hosting) .

The script and overall structure is presented exactly as a regular season game and you tend to forget that this is a meaningless contest and the result will probably have no bearing on the overall outcome of the regular season.

Regardless, what I have seen from the past three games is that the latest NHL rule change is going to have what I believe is a major effect on goal scoring (and goalies) this year. And that is the relaxation of the curve rule. The new rule which allows a 3/4 inch curve as opposed to 1/2 inch has been reported in the media but hasn't been focused on the way other rules like the red-line and tighter refereeing were in the run-up to last season.

But this one could really blow the game open. Last night Mats Sundin unleashed a shot from the mid-boards that took off like a rocket and moved at a very steep trajectory finding the underside of the crossbar as the Canadiens goalie was going down. Last year that shot would not have risen so high so quickly.

In the first game against Buffalo a Sabres player (I can't remember who) skated from behind the net and popped one over Raycroft's shoulder. Raycroft had hugged the post perfectly and had taken away the lower part of the net as all goalies do nowadays. And last year the Buffalo forward would have been way too close to make that shot. But I am betting he had a new curve and thus that shot was now an option.

So after a year of having to adjust to smaller equipment and a new style of play goalies will now be forced to deal with wicked rising shots from strange angles.

Not that this is a bad thing. The original curve rule was instituted at a time when goalies didn't wear masks and players didn't wear helmets.

Goaltending has evolved to a science nowadays and quite frankly I find it boring. Gone are the days of dramatic saves and acrobatic goaltending. Goalies now play the percentages and try to make sure they cover the area of the net that the puck is most likely to come towards. And that area has largely been the lower half of the net. So you often see goalies going down even before the shot is taken. They are that sure that the puck isn't going to be going high.

Makes for solid goaltending but also pretty boring play.

How often have you been watching a game where some announcer will yell "what a save!" and the goalie didn't appear to move? ( for me Pat Roy was a classic example) Maybe this year we will see a change in that.

What this will mean however is that some goalies will really suffer for it. But at least it is better than making the nets bigger.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

They Call Him The Keg?

I can't find a detailed game log on the web, so I'll rely on Don Brennan's notes for the second-line center candidate:

"It looked like his first NHL game," Bryan Murray said in defence of Kaigorodov, who played 15:32, was a minus-1, had no shots on goal and was 6-11 in the faceoff circles

Even his linemates are faking groin injuries to avoid playing with him.

The Save

Although it was only exhibition did Mikael Tellqvist revive his career last night? Particularly that one glove save on a two on one break?

Certainly he did not look like the Tellqvist of the past four years. But then again it was only pre-season.

Now the pressure is squarely on Aubin who must equal that performance in Montreal.

by The Meatriarchy

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tonight's tilt

First exhibition game in the BoO.

Any predictions? Do you think the Leafs will come in fired up to show the Sens that they are an NHL calibre squad this year?

This is Peca's first game as a Leaf and Ottawa native Brendan Bell is playing Raycroft is in the net. For the good guys, Gerber gets his first game action and we see debuts from Alexei Kaigorodov, and Tom Preissing and Josh Hennessy who came over in the Havlat/Smolinski dump.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

New Lines

Observed by Chris Stevenson:

Eaves/Spezza/Heatley (shifted to right wing?)


I'm tempted to pick Spezza for the Art Ross - he had more points per game than Ovechkin - but it's too easy to discount the early season tear the Sens top scorers went on in October/November. Heatley/Spezza/Alfie scored 40% of their total output in the first quarter of the season, when lockout-dazed defensive pairings were still adjusting to the New NHLTM (this was all prior to the Pizza Line formation if I recall correctly). During the broadcast tonight, Dean Brown noted some chirping through the glass between Spezza and Crosby - what an incredible three-way rivalry this could shape up to be.

With regards to Kaigorodov (pron: Kegger-Road-Off?), I'm not sure this dispatch from The Universal Cynic will comfort Sens watchers:

Alexei Kaigorodov: I tried to keep an open mind regarding the White Knight -- but it was difficult, given that I've been reading the HFBoard's insistence that the 23-year-old was some sort of Russian deity for nearly a year. And after yesterday, I can tell you that every concern I've read about him is true: The haphephobia, the sketchy faceoffs etc. He also wanted nothing to do with the boards, seemingly creating a barrier between himself and any edge -- it was like bumper bowling on ice. But probably the biggest irritation involved his insistence to casually reach with his stick, as opposed to skating for the puck. These Gumby-like attempts were completely ineffective, but I do understand why he doesn't make the effort to move his legs: The White Knight has all the pickup of a three-cylinder Geo Metro.

Yikes. Petr Schastlivy redux? Next thing you're going to tell me Mark Gandler's his agent.

If the Sens could get one thing done this year...

...number two on my list would be revenge.

Warning: searching Youtube for highlights of Sens-Leafs games is like watching the cursed video tape from The Ring. Sooner or later the ghost of Cory Cross will crawl out of the monitor and destroy your soul.

Mogilny/Roberts: Game 6 - 2002 (I was there - Ricard Persson, it's all YOUR fault)
Roberts: Game 2 OT - 2002
Sundin: Game 1 OT - 2001
Cross: Game 3 OT - 2001

I will continue to predict a Sens-Canucks final until it actually happens* (let's call it the Alfredsson-Naslund "Swede Redemption" special). If I can't have that, a first round dumping of the Leafs will be more than enough to satiate me.

*alternate universe ass-covering prediction: Penguins-Coyotes

Good Lord...

Domi announces retirement; Joins TSN

Don Romani unavailable for comment.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A lesson for JFJ

Tom Benjamin of Canucks Corner makes a great point:

As long as Wang is prepared to spend more than what he is allowed to spend under this CBA - almost certainly the case - the Islanders are in good shape with this contract:
- If DiPietro does turn out to be an elite goalie, the Isles have a great deal.
- If DiPietro turns out to be an average goalie who is overpaid at $4.5 million, it is not a millstone for the hockey operation. It is only Wang's money at stake and he apparently is prepared to risk it. If the worst happens, Charles Wang has the most expensive goalie in the AHL. His contract will always clear waivers. The Islanders will always be able to create cap space by demoting him.

The Leafs are also a team that is willing to spend more than the cap. Why shouldn't they be looking at this method?

They could have offered Chara and Redden 12 year deals for $5 mil a year. When the players aren't worth it anymore, demote them to the farm and face no cap hit.

Budget $70 million for salary like a few years ago. That means you can have $25 million or so on the farm. So, next year, offer some UFA like Doan, Smyth, Datsyuk some contracts that will pay them into their mid 40s decent money for reductions over the start of the contract.

They just have to be willing to collect that money on a farm team.

UPDATE: Comment from Tom B in the comments of his post ...

The Islanders don't have to require him to actually report and they probably wouldn't want him to actually report. Andreychuk was demoted to the AHL last season and was paid his NHL salary to stay home.

Seems like a good way to get around the cap.

UPDATE2: Let's take the Anson Carter case:

The Leafs would love to get someone that could score an even strength goal but could only really afford him at $750,000 because they are still paying Domi and Belfour. Carter is 32 and wanted a 3 year, $3mil a year deal but nobody would bite. Say he's going to collect $12 million over the course of the rest of his career.

The Leafs could offer him a 16 year deal at $750,000 a year totalling $12 million with the understanding that once he can't make the team he gets demoted but never reports to the minors.

UPDATE3: I guess JFJ has to pick a different guy.