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About "Don Brennan"

Don Brennan is a Day 1 employee of the Ottawa Sun. He has spent the majority of his 23 years as a sports reporter/columnist, covering the Senators since their return to the NHL in 1992, and prior to that writing about the Rough Riders, 67's and other sports. Brennan also wrote a Page 6 column in the Sun for nine months. A native of North Bay, Brennan moved to attend Centennial College in 1978. He remained in Toronto for a decade, working first as a freelancer, than an editor with the Toronto Sun. Brennan has lived in Ottawa full time ever since.

Randomly Speaking

- October 14th, 2014

As the Senators approach the 1/20.5th (I think) mark of their schedule, I feel it’s about time to look at what they’ve done to this point and what their prospects (not just Curtis Lazar) look like going forward.
1) They have to be very happy with a 2-1 start – given all three games were on the road – even though one was against the Florida Panthers, who could challenge the Buffalo Sabres for best peewee team of the year. But if that was a free spot on the bingo card, facing Tampa wasn’t. And Nashville could be a playoff team. So gaining four out of a possible six points that has them third in the division and tied for third in the conference is more than decent.
2) Filling the skates of Jason Spezza as the team’s new No. 1 centre, Kyle Turris is the Senators top scorer (and tied for 28th in the league) with three points. His wrist shot for a goal in Nashville was as good as you’re going to see, and he made a pretty nifty setup for Clarke MacArthur to score the lone goal in Sunrise. All in all, a good start for Turris.
3) On the other hand, Bobby Ryan is not exactly jumping out of the gate. He had just one assist in the three games, and generally speaking seemed to lack jump in the first two. But I thought he did play much better against the Panthers, and while he was slow in trying to intercept a pass that turned into a power play goal against Nashville, he made up for it by diving on the back check to take one away from the Panthers. Ryan would be the first to tell you he needs to start shooting the puck more. He put just four pucks on net on the road trip.
4) Erik Karlsson is being Erik Karlsson, which is both good and bad. He is generating chances, but he is getting beat defensively. He was the pylon that led to a breakaway for the Panthers in the first, and a little later he was also caught up ice for a Florida odd-man rush that turned into a hit post. As I noted on Twitter last night, I wonder how hard it is for the Senators to grasp a simple concept – when Karlsson goes on a rush, somebody has to drop back and cover for him.
5) I nailed the goaltending rotation before the trip began, with Craig Anderson starting the opener, Robin Lehner getting Tampa, and the Senators going back to Anderson in Florida, where he used to play, still lives, and has a dominating record as the visiting goalie. With five goals against and a shutout thus far, it seems to be working. Note: Watch for Anderson to start Thursday against Colorado because a) it’s another one of his former teams, b) it’s the home opener and he is still officially ranked as the team’s No. 1 goalie and c) he did throw up that goose egg.
6) I think they should tell Curtis Lazar to get an apartment. He played well in his first two games and he’s only going to get better. If for nothing else, the Senators need his physical play up front. They don’t have enough guys who finish their check the way the 19-year old does.
7) Of the two veterans coming off the healthy scratch list to make their season debuts against Florida, Erik Condra was more effective than Colin Greening. Of the four forwards who have now seen press box time – Lazar, Mike Hoffman, Condra and Greening – Greening has to be low man on the totem pole, and not just for salary reasons. Still, I do like the way he at least occasionally throws his big body around, especially when they don’t have enough muscle up front. I still look at it this way – do you go with Lazar or Greening? And do you go with Hoffman over Condra. The latter is the tougher call.
8) Who do you use as the sixth defenceman against the Avalanche, Patrick Wiercioch or Jared Cowen? I don’t think Mark Borowiecki or Eric Gryba are moving from their starting posts, at least not at the moment. I still seem to be one of the few outside the organization who hasn’t given up on Cowen, although his performance in the Nashville game had me teetering the other way.
9) And finally (for now), Alex Chiasson was very impressive, especially against Florida. I like the way he works down low and can hold onto the puck. He also continues to exhibit good offensive skills. Did you hear Nick Paul scored a hat trick for North Bay the other night? That Spezza trade is going to be a good one for the Senators.

Senators make first big cut

- September 25th, 2014

Here’s how the Ottawa Senators lined up at practice Thursday after the team’s major roster cutdown.

Craig Anderson
Robin Lehner

Fredrik Claesson-Erik Karlsson
Jared Cowen-Cody Ceci
Chris Phillips-Patrick Wiercioch
Mark Borowiecki-Eric Gryba
Injured: Marc Methot

Clarke MacArthur-Kyle Turris-Bobby Ryan
Matt Puempel-Mika Zibanejad-Alex Chiasson
Colin Greening-David Legwand-Chris Neil
Mike Hoffman-Zack Smith-Mark Stone
David Dziurzynski-Curtis Lazar-Buddy Robinson
Injured: Milan Michalek, Erik Condra, Jean-Gabriel Pageau

Discuss among yourselves.

Time to dance

- September 24th, 2014

Never one to be a proponent of hockey fights – okay, sometimes … often – I’m seeing the potential for a scrap or two in the Senators game against the Leafs at Canadian Tire Centre Wednesday night.
The Leafs aren’t bringing a lot of their skilled players on their visit in the nation’s capital – Phil Kessell, James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri are among those staying home to play the Senators at ACC at the same, bat time, different bat channel – but in tow will be Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren, the two toughest Buds in the bunch.
Orr and McLaren are trying desperately to land a spot on the NHL roster this season, and it sounds like the former is on the bubble while the latter needs something of a miracle to happen.
Meanwhile, making his pre-season debut in this one for the Senators will be Chris Neil, who told us this morning everything is now fine with the “family matters” that prevented him from attending training camp in Newfoundland last weekend.
Mark Borowiecki will also be in the lineup, and available to give Neil a helping hand, should things turn nasty.
Testing the waters (which is what I do), I asked Neil if playing Toronto, even if it is just a pre-season game, gets his blood boiling as much as ever.
He wouldn’t bite.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, obviously pre-season is a chance to either play with some of the guys you haven’t played with before, and get to know them,” said Neil. “That’s what it’s about.
“Getting your systems down as well.”
Okay, but when you see a Maple Leafs sweater, do you get the urge to throw a coffee on it or something?
“Like I said, when you put that (Senators) jersey on, you look around the room and those are the guys you’re playing for,” said Neil. “That’s how I’ve got to look at it.
“Obviously, being close rivals it doesn’t take much to get up for the game either, but for me, I try to get up for every game.”
Neil did add that getting his game ready means running into a few opponents. He needs to get his timing right for all the hitting he does during the regular season.
As a 35-year-old who has scrapped more than any other player in Senators history, he probably doesn’t necessarily want to start smashing his fists into faces when there’s nothing on the line. But if he’s throwing his weight around, Orr and McLaren are going to have something to say about it.
And Neil isn’t one to back down from a challenge.

Newfoundland – a good choice for camp or a visit

- September 23rd, 2014

The Senators made a good call in picking St. John’s N.L. as the place to open their camp.
For one thing, it’s wise to get away to give the players a chance to bond. No wives, no girlfriends, no kids, no buddies, no real-life problems, no distractions. Where better to go than an Island for all that?
And Newfoundland, well, if you haven’t been there you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s true, “Newfies” are among the friendliest folks in the world. That alone puts everyone in a positive frame of mind.
The province is beautifully scenic. And being in St. John’s, it’s not like the young guys were completely isolated and were threatened by boredom in their down time.
The famous George St. is everything it’s billed to be. The line up of pubs and bars is reminiscent of the strip in Nashville – at least a smaller version of it. This is not to say the Senators were out drinking every night. But who doesn’t get a charge out of just walking up and down a street full of night time activity?
The players golfed, management and the support staff went on a day cruise and everybody enjoyed outstanding meals at the multitude of restaurants (nothing like fresh seafood).
And after attracting only a small gathering for Sunday’s intra-squad game, and a slightly larger one for Monday afternoon’s pre-season opener, Mile One Centre was packed and lively for the surprisingly fast-paced night game against the Islanders.
“Obviously the people love hockey,” noted new Senator Dave Legwand when asked his assessment of the trip. “It was fun.”
For the Senators to be competitive this season, for them to play the defence they need to play to have a shot at the playoffs, they need to adapt the one-for-all approach. There’s no doubt they became closer during four days in Newfoundland.

Chris Neil, jam and some Penguins

- April 13th, 2014

PITTSBURGH – Pointed out to me by a friend this morning was a very interesting statistic regarding Chris Neil.
The Senators all-time penalty minutes leader has never be a single season leader in PIMs. He’s never won the NHL bad boy title. He’s been in the Top 10 nine times, and the Top 3 five times. But he has never been No. 1.
That could change today.
With one game to go, tonight at 7:30 versus the Penguins, Neil leads the league with 206 PIMs. Next in line is Vancouver’s Tom Sestito, with 203, who plays a rivalry game against the Flames at 9 p.m., and then Dallas’ Antoine Roussel, with 197, who plays against the Phoenix Coyotes also at 9 p.m.
Nobody else is close.
This is Neil’s first year as an alternate captain. He has averaged 11:47 of ice time per game, while scoring eight goals and six assists, and a minus-10 mark that is not so bad on this Senators team.
He is also seventh in the league in hits, with 249.
Neil, as always, plays the game with … what’s the word? Anyway, it’ll come to me.
Meanwhile, a few of us Ottawa media types went over to the Consol Energy Center this morning to watch the Penguins “optional” skate. Twelve players were on the ice, plus goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff. The start against the Senators tonight will go to Zatkoff, which means Fleury ends the season with 39 wins, second only to Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov.
Fleury wanted to get to 40, but he missed out on that chance yesterday when he gave up a very bad overtime goal to Philly’s Mark Streit.
Actually, Fleury deflected the relatively slow backhand by Streit between his own legs.
That’s what you get with The Flower. He can be very good, as the 39 wins will attest, but he can also be brutal.
I asked him if he feels as much pressure heading into the playoffs as everybody thinks. I said people believe the Penguins will go only as far into the playoffs as their goaltending will take them.
“Maybe that’s people that don’t know the game too much you know,” he said with a defensive look on his face. “I think goalies help a lot in a game, but it’s a team game and we need everybody to play well.”
Okay, but the Penguins would have more Cups now if Fleury had played better in past playoffs. Last year against the Senators, his struggles were such that he wound up on the bench as back up to Tomas Vokoun.
The Penguins are better defensively these days, and part of the credit goes to Jacques Martin, the most successful regular season coach in Senators history who is now an assistant with Pittsburgh.
Jacques hasn’t been an assistant in the NHL since he was on Colorado’s staff in 1995-96. The next year he took over the Ottawa job, and the Avalanche won the Cup.
Jacques would like to earn his first Cup ring this season with the Penguins, and he would like to become a head coach in the NHL again.
“Definitely, I’d love to get back as a head coach,” he said. “Hopefully I get an opportunity.
“This year has been a learning experience .. I think you always learn when you’re put in a different scenario, with a different organization, so I think I’d even be better prepared (to be a head coach).”
Also chatted with defenceman Brooks Orpik about playing the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round. Columbus is Pittsburgh’s closest rival, just a 3 1/2 drive away.
As I sat on the dressing room bench beside Orpik, I noticed other reporters were looking at me, chuckling. I thought they were laughing because Orpik was uncomfortable answering my questions about Jacques, like he was unsure of what to say about the impact Martin has had.
He was like, “Jacques, Jacques …” almost as if he didn’t know who I was talking about, at first.
Then I looked down at my shirt and realized that’s not what they were laughing at. Something was on me … I thought it was a bug initially. Then I realized it was …. jam!
That’s the word I was looking for to describe Neil’s game!
Funny, the same friend who pointed out Neil’s penalty minute numbers also says I’m the Chris Neil of Ottawa sports writers. He says I go hard, I’m emotional, and I wear my heart on my sleeve.
Apparently, I also wear my breakfast on my chest. I’m impressed Orpik could keep a straight face while we chatted.
Senators didn’t have a morning skate today and there will be no availability with Paul MacLean until 5:30 or so, which means I can not tell you who will be starting in goal for them or any lineup changes they may make.
I can tell you that owner Eugene Melnyk sent out a message today inviting fans to ask him any questions they may have on Twitter, and he will answer them between 3-4 p.m. on Tuesday.
There’s already some pretty good ones for him. Check out @MelnykEugene.

The breakfast