Andy or Andy…Take II

- March 4th, 2015

At 11 a.m. today (CST) the Senators had a team meeting at their Winnipeg hotel.
At 11:01 a.m. it was done.
Craig Anderson and Andrew Hammond stayed in the meeting room with goalie coach Rick Wamsley. Not sure if Dave Cameron sat in.
At 11:05 a.m., Anderson, Hammond, Wamsley (and maybe Cameron) emerged.
Judging by the disposition of the two goalies, it was hard to determine which had been told he would start in goal this evening against the Jets.
At 11:25 a.m., Cameron told the media it would be Anderson.
After explaining the decision and answering questions, Cameron walked away. Anderson, who sat on a bench down the hallway, was supposed to be up next. While we waited, reporters chatted with David Legwand.
And then, in a bizarre turn of events, at approximately 11:40 a.m. Cameron came back to inform us Hammond would be starting. At first, I thought he was joking. But Cameron doesn’t do a lot of that, especially on game days.
Cameron said Anderson wasn’t “quite comfortable”. Apparently, the bruised hand injury he suffered exactly six weeks ago was acting up again. Not sure why he didn’t tell Cameron or Wamsley this during the meetings. I asked to speak with Anderson and was told I now couldn’t, because he isn’t starting.
I’m not sure why he wasn’t allowed to explain himself, or didn’t want to, in a quick, painless conversation with the media.
So now Hammond (5-0-1) is making his seventh consecutive start, which I think should have been the call in the first place (see below) while Anderson serves as back up. Unless Anderson’s condition worsens before game time, I suppose.
I do wonder if Anderson can step in if something happens to Hammond during the game. After Cameron originally announced Anderson as the starter, I asked if the 55-year old Wamsley would be available to step in, in an emergency, like a slightly younger Rob Tallis did in Florida. Cameron chuckled and said he wasn’t going to comment on that.
If Anderson can’t start, I don’t see how he can back up.
Anyway, what follows is my opinion around 10 a.m., back before any of the above transpired.

As far as the ability to keep pucks out of a net, I like Craig Anderson. I think he is a very solid goalie.
What I don’t like is the disappearing act he has pulled for the last four winters. Self-inflicted chicken carving wounds, sprained ankles, stingers, bruised hands … let’s be kind and just say Anderson has been very unlucky.
On the flip side, there is Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond, the 27-year old minor leaguer who in the last two weeks has written one of the best individual stories we can remember.
What’s been better – Mike Brodeur hustling from Binghamton to Madison Square Garden, carrying his own hockey bag up the ramp to the dressing room and then shutting out the New York Rangers? Not bad, but Brodeur was more of a one-game wonder and, as far as we can tell, not nearly the same quality of human being as Hammond.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, a rookie and hometown kid, scoring three times in one of the team’s best playoff games of all-time – over the hated Montreal Canadiens at that? Good one too, but again, more of a fleeting moment that what The Hamburgular has accomplished in reviving the Senators chances at a post-season spot this year.
In his first victory, a 42-saver over the Habs Feb. 18 at CTC, some people said Hammond had horseshoes. Exhibit A was the post Brandon Prust hit with a wide open net in the first period. Okay, so maybe the Hockey Gods were on his side that night, and maybe they haven’t strayed too far since. But you also have to be good to be lucky, right? And in stringing together a 5-0-1 record in six consecutive starts, Hammond has also been very good.
So now, with the Senators road-trip closing, all-important tilt against the Winnipeg Jets just a few hours away, we await the decision of coach Dave Cameron, who is expected to tell us which of Anderson or Hammond he will start in goal at MTS Centre.
Andy or Andy.
The unlucky guy or the lucky guy.
I’m listening to the “twitter poll” Steve Lloyd and Chris Stevenson are holding on TSN1200′s “In The Box” right now. The majority are saying Anderson should start tonight. And I just don’t get it.
Whether it’s good karma or the Senators playing harder for the old rookie, there is definitely something magical going on with the Hammond run right now.
Why interrupt that?
Why tempt fate?
The Senators will need to get all the luck they can to make the playoffs. And Anderson will be a factor at some point. But right now, you’ve got to run with The Hamburglar.
It’s been exactly six weeks since Anderson started a game. You want the cold guy over the hot guy? Hammond isn’t tired or worn down. He is pumped up. He can’t wait to play another NHL game. Run with that.
I remember in one of Anderson’s first games back from injury, at the Bell Centre, he let in a soft goal or two. In over 360 minutes as a starter, Hammond still hasn’t given up a weak one.
No, this is an easy decision, as far as I’m concerned.
Cameron is expected to tell us what he’s doing in about an hour, when the Senators finish with a team meeting at their Winnipeg hotel. Of course, you can’t be sure with Super Dave, either. He may yet become the first Senators coach to say his choice for starting goalie will be a “game time decision.”

Dionne Warwick

- February 27th, 2015

Of course you all knew that “Do you know the way to San Jose?” was a 1968 hit sung by Dionne Warwick and written by Burt Bacharach (music) and Hal David (lyrics), but were you also aware that the Sharks are 0-for-February?
That’s right, they have lost all seven games at the Shark Tank this month, although they did salvage a point in two of them.
We’re flying to San Jose in a couple of hours, but I just wanted to update folks of that, and also say this is an off-day (other than the travel) for the Senators.
Also wanted to mention that at Staples Center Thursday night we saw former Kings owner (and ex-jailbird) Bruce McNall, and outside the building following the game we walked alongside porn king Ron Jeremy, who we later spotted “interviewing” a couple of dazzling young ladies outside of our hotel.
Oh, and did I mention that yours truly correctly predicted the Senators would win both their games in SoCal? There is audio proof from a TSN1200 pre-game show.
But I did not expect they would shut out the Ducks and the Kings.
Welcome to Hamburglar Mania. More coverage to follow.

The department of player safety …. and hypocrites

- February 24th, 2015

Jared Cowen gets a three-game suspension which also costs him $113,000, which is a lot of money for anybody, because his timing was a LITTLE off when he hit Jussi Jokinen. It was not a shot to the head, which the league itself admitted, and he was only doing his job by laying a check on a player as he crosses the blue line. Jokinen, who was not injured on the play, would have avoided the contact altogether had he not been admiring his own pass, and been skating with his head up, as we were all taught to do as kids.
But the league is looking out for player’s safety, and therefore needs to punish Cowen, who was guilty only of being a second late with the check he is supposed to make.
Meanwhile …….
Jamie Benn punches Henrik Zetterberg in the side of the head not once, but twice, off a face-off in the Dallas-Detroit game the other night. When you punch somebody in the head, the intention is pretty clear.
Benn gets a two minute penalty and nothing more. And Zetterberg is out of the lineup with a concussion.
Where is the concern for safety here?

Cowen gets three games

- February 23rd, 2015

Jared Cowen got the book thrown at him by the NHL.
The Senators’ defenceman won’t see any action in the Golden State after he was given a three-game suspension by the NHL’s department of player safety Monday for his hit on Florida Panthers forward Jussi Jokinen Saturday.
That means he won’t play Wednesday in Anaheim, Thursday in Los Angeles or Saturday in San Jose. Cowen, a repeat offender, was mystified by the decision.
“I’m disappointed. Three game is a bit much. I’m trying to be a physical player out there and do my job. If I don’t do that I’m not in the lineup. To do that, you’ve got to play on the edge. That’s what I was doing. I didn’t hurt anyone and I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. It’s a bit over the top but there’s nothing I can do about, said Cowen Monday.
Cowen said his previous suspension for a headshot on Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons came back to haunt him.
“Different season. I don’t think it should be related but that’s how they deal with it. There’s nothing I can do about it. They have their way of going about things and that’s just the way it is,” he said.
Cowen had a hearing with the department of player safety Monday and learned of the decision after practice. While Cowen was given a two-minute minor interference when the incident occurred, he did admit to making contact late.
“Goals scorers goals and there’s no repercussions for that but if I make hits sometimes I get suspended, lose money and don’t play for my team. If I do that then I don’t play,” Cowen said.

Cheering for the story

- February 21st, 2015

Beat reporters and columnists hate nothing worse than being called a homer.
If you’re a homer, you can not be trusted to give an unbiased opinion. As a fan of the Chicago Bears, I want an unbiased opinion from columnists at the Chicago Sun Times. I care what the fans say, but some fans (not the ones who read Off The Posts, of course!) tend to overlook weaknesses of their favourite players. They see their teams through rose-coloured glasses. That’s all well and fine, but as a fan of the Bears, I want a true and accurate account of what’s going on with my team, the negatives as well as the positives. If a particular player is to blame for a touchdown against my team, and I didn’t notice the missed assignment, I want to be able to read it was his fault.
I want to know Joe Schmo is Joe Schmuck, if that’s who he really is.
As a beat reporter and columnist, you sometimes have to walk a fine line.
If a particular player gives you inside stuff, if he helps you do your job, you don’t want to torch him in the papers. That’s how you lose your source. Better to overlook his particular shortcomings, if it’s possible.
A beat reporter and columnist will cheer for a particular player or somebody with the team, if he develops a relationship with that person, because it’s impossible not to wish good things for people you like.
But you can’t cheer for the team. It’s not professional. It’s not cool.
Personally, and most of the beat reporters and columnists I know share this mindset, I cheer for my stories. I want them to be interesting and accurate. As Cheap Trick used to sing, “I want you to want me” … as your provider of news and views regarding your team.
I also want to write stories about the unlikely, because I find them entertaining to cover as much as to read.
All of this rambling is to say I think there would be no more interesting and entertaining story to write and read than if the Senators made a miraculous run to a playoff spot right now – with 27-year-old “journeyman” Andrew Hammond leading the charge.
Is it going to happen? Logic says no. Everybody says no. But that’s not a very good story, right? The expected finish to the season actually playing out? How boring.
But what a great story if it did.
For the most part, everybody thinks the last wild card spot winner will need about 96 points. To get there, the Senators would require 40 more points, or a record of 20-6 down the stretch. For a team that hasn’t won two in a row since Dec. 29-Jan.3 – and hasn’t won more than two in a row since the first week of the season – that is highly improbable. But still, not impossible.
Rather than look at the TPN (total points needed), let’s break down the task the Senators face.
As of this moment, they are nine points behind the Bruins, who sit in the final wild card spot. That’s a lot, but better than the 14 back they were a couple of weeks ago – and they haven’t made a move as much as Boston has by falling back.
Let’s say they somehow win the two games in hand they have on the Bruins. That would leave them five back. They also play Boston twice more at Canadian Tire Centre, on March 10 and March 19. Win those and they would be one point back, right? Suddenly, there would be real hope.
Now I know there are other teams involved in this race. But only the Florida Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers are between the Senators and Bruins, and they have played one and two more games than Ottawa, respectively.
And they ARE the Panthers and Flyers.
Columbus and New Jersey are one point behind the Senators, but this is no time to be looking in the rear view mirror.
Again, none of this is likely to happen. It makes more sense to look at the Senators prospects to see what kind of team they’ll have in the future, or hope they slip down the standings to improve their draft position.
But that’s not much of a story, and I’m cheering for the story.
At the very least, I’d like to see the Senators go on a winning streak – God knows they’re due – just to make things interesting.
Tonight’s game against the Panthers is bigger than we are giving it credit. Imagine if they win this, and then somehow take their next three games before the trade deadline. Three in California, at that.
I’d like to see how many points they’d be back then, and count how many people start considering it possible they work themselves back into the playoff picture.
Go story go!