Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The last year the Sens missed the playoffs...

Black Aces takes us back in the time machine.

I was in second year at Ottawa U. I had finally traded in the bowl cut for short 'n spiky and was slowly but surely purging denim from my wardrobe in favour of cargo pants. This song was in heavy rotation and a cinematic masterpiece had just been released to VHS. Y'see, kids, there were once these things called "video cassettes" and, ahhh forget it.

Post your mid-90's retrospective in the comments.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A few afternoon thoughts:

1. Ping Pong Balls
While some fans in some hockey cities are chewing their nails off wondering if their team can squeak into the 8th playoff spot, the remaining of us scroll down the standings for our drama.

22. Ottawa, 76pts - GR 7
23. Dallas, 75pts - GR 7
24. Toronto, 75pts - GR 6
25. LA Kings, 73pts - GR 7
26. Atlanta, 70pts - GR 6
27. Phoenix, 69pts - GR 7
28. Tampa, 65pts - GR 6
29. Colorado, 64pts - GR 6
30. New York, 59pts - GR 7

2. Martin Gerber
One wonders what the future might hold for Gerber whether it's in Toronto or somewhere else. Talk this morning in one Toronto paper has suggested he should be considered as a back-up to Vesa Toskala next season at a huge discount on the $3.7M Ottawa has paid him for the past three seasons. It wouldn't surprise me if Burke and Co did throw $1.2M/year at him. He showed more passion in one game in Toronto than he ever demonstrated in Ottawa and he would be one of the more experienced back-ups available on the market once Toronto throw a retirement party for Cujo. He has five games left to seduce the Leafs management team.

3. Brian Burke
There are three exceptional free agent NCAA players available this summer (Bozak, Gilroy, Hanson), and Burke is already talking to all three. Burke was in talks earlier than most GM's, speaking with the players "family agents" (NCAA players are not allowed to have paid agents, only family members speaking on their behalf) for months now. Good to hear that Burke, along with Nonis, Niewendyk and Fletcher are doing their homework and at least getting their foot in the door on some good young players. Maybe this rebuild won't have to take half a decade after all?

4. Cryin Bryan
How do you take a playoff team off of Mucklers hands and turn them into a basement dweller in a few seasons and still have your job? Easy, throw a bunch of coaches, players and Martin Gerber under a bus to cover up your own mistakes. Keep trading players on and off the roster until something sticks, and then, with a little luck and a long leash, last until something positive happens. Seems like hiring Clouston along with the Comnrie/Campoli deal have maybe saved his job for now. Credit where it's due, good moves, but in most other hockey markets he would have been fired long ago.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Grant me this one fantasy

It's Saturday, April 11th 2009. It's the final game of the regular season and the Senators must win to make it into the playoffs. The Sens and Leafs are in a scoreless deadlock until late in the third when Jason Spezza curls and finds a pinching Chris Campoli who rifles one over the shoulder of Curtis Joseph.

Yes, it's been a long year. Yes, I'm ingesting the same mood stabilizers as Mean Gene, and yes that is Bubbles from TPB dancing a jig in the aisle.

(but, NO this is not an official GDT - the lads have gone 9-2-1 since my last one against the Sharks, so consider this a Game Day Non-Thread).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Leafs will pick 5th overall.

A prediction to kick off Tuesday.
Of the bottom eight teams, the Leafs have the second toughest schedule to close out the season.

Average Current Point Totals For Opponent's Remaining:

The NY Islanders 86.9
The Toronto Maple Leafs 86.4
The Ottawa Senators 84.1
The Tampa Lightning 83.6
The Atlanta Thrashers 81
The Phoenix Coyotes 80
The Colorado Avalanche 79.3
The Los Angeles Kings 79.2

Does draft position even matter when this coming draft is being compared to 2003? Here are a few of the many highlights from 2003 with position in brackets:

Staal (2)
Phaneuf (9)
Carter (11)
Parise (17)
Getzlaf (19)
Richards (24)
Perry (28)

If the Leafs do pick 5th, here's who they would have gotten the last seven seasons:

Ryan Whitney (2002)
Thomas Vanek (2003)
Blake Wheeler (2004)
Carey Price (2005) (note: The Sens took Brian Lee in 2005 passing on Marc Staal taken two picks later. Well done!)
Phil Kessel (2006)
Karl Alzner (2007)
Luke Schenn (2008)

That's all I got.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Still in it, thanks to Buffalo

I've gone from putting up 90% of the roster on craigslist to busting out my 1998 keepsake Woo-Hoo towel. Who's with me?

Consolation prize: stealing four points from the habs in the last three weeks of the season.

Dominic Who?

Meet Jeff Hamilton.

When the Leafs signed him out of the minors on March 5th and inserted him directly into the line-up that same night, it was a head-scratcher to say the least. At least for most of us, who aren't exactly scouting the AHL for 30 year old UFA's.

Seven games later, the 5'10" right winger has two goals and a pair of assists and has provided speed and the intensity we saw in Moore. He even scored a beauty shootout goal last night, which of course, doesn't show up in his stats.

So the Leafs take on another reclamation project it would seem, although maybe one with even more upside when you look deeper:

HAMILTON's Career NHL pts/game before signing here = .503
MOORE'S Career NHL pts/game before signing here = .220

Some were pretty insistent that Burke had foolishly traded away an incredible player in Moore. Ottawa fans, mostly. I hate to say it, but Moore is pointless in 6 games since joining the Sabres. I wish no ill will on Moore and think he's a solid fella, but his ask of $2.5M a year was way too much and Burke knew it. Hamilton seems to be filling the same role, so far, and one would think if he keeps up his play the Leafs may have just replaced Moore at a fraction of the cost.

Not too shabby.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What to talk about

It's been so long since we haven't made the playoffs here in Ottawa. The Leaf fans are old hat at this but it would seem to me that I'd rather be talking about this than this.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Ok, so this morning a Sens fan, his comment directed at you Muppet, said that Burke "put Vancouver in a funk for the better part of decade". Is that true?

Well, it depends on who you ask: some dude sounding off because he hates everything remotely linked to the Leafs? Or, facts?

Door number two big man!

Facts it is. Well, lets go back a decade shall we, when Burke had just taken over a last place Vancouver team that missed the playoffs 3 straight years before his first full season as GM.

Right. So they weren't very good?

And they would get even worse during Burke's first in command. 23 wins. Just awful. But it turned out to be a transition year.

A transition to what my good man?

Four straight years making the playoffs for one. Plus rising from 7th in the Pacific before he got there, steadily up to 1st on the Northeast his final season as GM. Along the way he dealt with trading contract holdout Pavel Bure, and of course swapping out the entire management and coaching staff and most of the players - and drafting the Sedins thanks to that one awful first year as GM.

Kind of reminds me of what he's up against here. But wait a minute, we're talking about how he allegedly screwed the Canucks for a decade and he left them in 2005. Let me guess, he left the Canucks with a bare cupboard when he was fired?

Vancouver has had a 1st round draft pick EVERY SEASON since Burke came on as GM right up until this past draft. Not many teams can say that. So he left the future intact in that regard. As far as salary cap, Nonis had cap room to bring in new players his first summer on the job and the Canucks were considered a serious contender their first season post-Burke. So they didn't resemble anything close to what the Leafs looked like post-lockout. On paper anyway.

How did that season work out and what about since then?

Well they never won a cup with Burke, but it got worse as they missed the playoffs two straight years after he left. That whole Bertuzzi/Moore thing destroyed the "west coast express line" and the team failed miserably. Naslund became quite ordinary once Bertuzzi was a non-factor. Eventually Bertuzzi was traded for Luongo, a move that has put the Canucks back on track and well on their way to a 2nd playoff appearance in a row.

Wow. Did Burke make that trade as well?

Nope that was a guy named Dave Nonis.

Nice friggen move. Man, somebody should hire this Nonis guy for their management team, and fast?

Not a bad idea Muppet. Not a bad idea at all.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Swiss taking both sides

Season series:
Oct 25 @ Toronto: Leafs win 3-2
Nov 27 @ Ottawa: Sens win 2-1 in SO
Jan 3 @ Toronto: Leafs win 3-1
Feb 28 @ Ottawa: Leafs win 4-3 in OT
Mar 9 @ Ottawa
Apr 11 @ Toronto

So, the good guys need to take tonight's game and the last game of the season not to lose the Battle this year.

The big guns for the Leafs are now Blake, Stempiak, Mitchell, and Stajan. Ian White led all Leafs on Saturday with over 30 minutes.
Who's going to be in net for Toronto? TSN is reporting that Joseph is going to start for the Leafs so we'll see Gerber around the 10 minute mark I'm guessing.

Campoli's stat line on Saturday looked great - goal and an assist, +3, 5 shots in 25 min of icetime. Watch for him and Spezza to have big games.

6-1 Sens

Thursday, March 05, 2009

BoO Poll

Who was the ugliest deadline acquisition of 2009?

The Gerber era begins

The genius of Burke. Bringing a ring into the room and moving out players in their 20s with no experience carrying the big mug. Brad May and Gerber will show the key to the Leaf future, guys like Blake, Hagman, and Finger, how to win.

Ah, I'm just messin' with you guys. I think the bigger move is his last with Tampa. Buying contracts in exchange for a draft pick is a dangerous ground for the league and one that should spark discussions a the head office.

It was a good day for Burke. In theory.

I think this is a good summary:
"We're positioned well from a cap standpoint. We intend to be aggressive this summer on a lot of different fronts," Burke said.

The Leafs also shut down red-hot goaltender Vesa Toskala for the rest of the season so he could undergo hip and groin surgery. He'll be replaced by ineffective Senators netminder Martin Gerber... Toronto, then, has weakened itself considerably by removing two of its top four scorers and its No.1 goaltender.

That, despite Burke's protests that his team will strive to win every game, will make victories difficult down the stretch.

Toronto also went from having two picks in the first four rounds to having five, with the possibility of a sixth.

"This is an opportunity to put some draft picks back into the hopper. It was an important part of the rebuilding process here," Burke said.
(edited from The Star)

Not much bad you can say about yesterday. Leafs are definitely in a far better position to get into a draft lottery position (thanks Ottawa), and our cap situation will be excellent going into the summer.
The only question now is will Burke make the most of these draft picks? Something we won't know for a few years, so for now he either gets the benefit of the doubt or he doesn't, depending on who you ask.
I happen to believe, and history has shown, that great players come from any round. It's hit and miss. So the fact the Leafs have more darts to throw on draft day probably increases the chance of getting at least a couple of good NHL players, maybe even great.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Deadline Thread: For the late risers on the west coast

We'll all have fun today, but this lack of productivity is exactly the type of thing that could turn a severe recession into a full blown depression. Thanks for nothing, TSN. It's 7:05 AM and I haven't glimpsed at the trade tracker yet, so here is my deadline day synopsis, originally drafted around midnight last night and not to be taken too literally by anyone of influence who reads this blog.

Previous installments
are instructive as to the mood that grips us on these special days. I'm in a bitter / fatigued one this year. It has not been enjoyable to watch the team, and while I've been a fan through darker seasons, those mid to late nineties had a sense of hope and ultimate fulfillment to them, whereas now we are struggling through the hangover of a failed cup run and seem to be stuck in the tracks of our top-heavy expansion cousins. I'm tired of Spezza's drop passes, tired of Heatley's premature goal celebrations, tired of Chris Kelly's failed breakaways and tired of Chris Neil's Dumb Penalty Face.

As such, here's the current roster, color coded according to my highly subjective deadline preferences.

Left Wing / Centre / Right Wing
Dany Heatley / Jason Spezza / Daniel Alfredsson
Ryan Shannon / Mike Fisher / Nick Foligno
Antoine Vermette / Mike Comrie / Chris Kelly
Jarkko Ruutu / Jesse Winchester / Sean Donovan
Christoph Schubert / Cody Bass / Chris Neil

Defence / Defence
Chris Phillips / Anton Volchenkov
Filip Kuba / Brian Lee
Jason Smith / Chris Campoli
Alex Picard / Brendan Bell

Brian Elliot
Alex Auld
Martin Gerber

Colour Code:
Red: Hands Off, For Now
Yellow: I Would Hold Back Tears If The Return Was Decent
Green: Lost Souls / Solid Gold Toilets / Old Couches In Need Of A Loving Home

My classifications are more than open to discussion, and I've changed colors multiple times in the past several drafts of this post. It would be an easy task to try and talk me out of my choices in the comment section. That's just how ambivalent I am about the season. Ah well, best wishes for a happy, healthy deadline day - maybe this is the year we land Gary Roberts!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hurry, sell your Antropov jersey.

Sources tell TSN neither Dominic Moore nor Nik Antropov will be in the lineup tonight when the Toronto Maple Leafs host the New Jersey Devils.

I can't find any lineup news for the Sens except Schubert being inserted.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Take a guess?

Burke has this trade on the table:

''We got a trade proposal yesterday (Sunday) that is intriguing. We're actually chewing on it right now,'' Burke stated. ''This one would involve three players and a draft pick…it would involve two guys off of our team,'' Burke added. ''I think we're going to reject it, but we're chewing on it,'' the Leafs gm concluded.

So who is it?