On the brink

- April 7th, 2014

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NEW YORK _ The end is near.
Have looked at the math:
- If the Senators lose in regulation or OT Tuesday against the New York Islanders they are officiallly eliminated.
- If the Columbus Blue Jackets gain a point at home against Phoenix, the Senators are officially eliminated no matter whether they win or not.
- Ottawa could technically still tie Detroit in ROW but the third tiebreaker is goal differential and the Wings would have to get blown out the rest of the way.
So, there it is, the season hangs in the balance and the Senators are about to pay for some of those terrible nights they’ve had this season.
Many in the organization believe this season has been a colossal failure no matter what happens in these final four games this season. This club didn’t live up to expecations.
Changes are ahead. I can guarantee that. This team won’t look the same next season.

What to do with No. 9

- April 4th, 2014

Milan Michalek is on a tear and frankly, I’m not sure what the Senators should do with him anymore.
For most of the season it was an easy call – July 1 would be the handshake, the official parting of ways. But at that point, I also thought his days as a scoring winger were over.
Now Michalek has four in his last four games and seven in the 13 games since Ales Hemskey was acquired.
Now he’s looking like the Michalek of old.
Maybe Jason Spezza wasn’t the only one who suffered without an offensively gifted winger on that line. Maybe that was part of Michalek’s problem too.
Or maybe Michalek is just thriving with a Czech mate around. Maybe it’s also Hemsky’s off-ice presence, a guy to speak his language, a guy with whom he’s on the same page, a guy who is also staring at the uncertainties of free agency.
The Senators have not closed the book on Michalek. They see him as a great teammate and a quality person. They would probably jump at the chance if they could sign him at a salary of about $2 million, or $2.5 million.
Michalek’s agent will not go for that. He will tell Michalek he can get him $4-5 million a year somewhere else. And he probably can. He has 17 goals and he’s just a couple of years removed from scoring 35. Somebody will bite.
But what does Michalek want? He likes Ottawa. He lives close by (in Montreal) during the offseason.
It’s hard to get a read on him, though. He wasn’t available after the morning skate today, but even if he was he likely wouldn’t have said much about his future.
I do know this: any questions about his knee in the past have been answered. He’s one of only four Senators to play all 76 games this season. Earlier, at least, he was guilty of not driving to the net like he used to. But that could be that he was tentative, worried about re-injuring his knee. Driving to the net is probably how he damaged it in the first place.
People who say he has lost a step, well, I don’t know what they’re talking about. Didn’t Michalek win the fastest skater contest at the skills competition? Yup he did.
Do the Senators have someone to take his spot on the Top Two lines? It depends on a few things.
It depends on if they re-sign Hemsky. It depends on whether Mark Stone or Mike Hoffman will be ready for that role full time. It depends on what Bryan Murray gets in an off-season trade for a defenceman. It depends on whether they have their eye on another veteran winger they can land July 1.
I just know I’d be reluctant to pay Michalek $5 million a year, and I’d be reluctant to let him walk unless I was certain about a Plan B.
So like I said, I’m not sure what the Senators should do about Michalek anymore.
In the end, the agent will probably force the decision out of their hands. That is, unless Michalek puts his foot down and says he wants to stay.

Big Country, Big Game

- April 2nd, 2014

If the Senators lose tonight’s game at Canadian Tire Centre, it will be a disappointing end to their season.
Falling to the New York Islanders won’t mathematically eliminate them from the chase for a playoff spot, but they won’t deserve to be in the conversation any longer.
Some of you think they don’t deserve to be in the conversation now, and I’m sure you have good points to back up your argument. But I say if they run the table, they’re qualified to qualify. And them running the table is possible, if highly improbable.
But back to the present. The Islanders have eight fewer points than the Senators. They’ve lost six more games than the Senators. They have 10 rookies in their lineup. They are without star centre John Tavares, and their opponents no longer have to deal with Matt Moulson OR Thomas Vanek.
They also played last night – beating the Florida Panthers 4-2 on Long Island – while the Senators had the day off to relax (and watch Champion’s League soccer, apparently).
It all adds up to the fact the Senators can’t lose this game … except they can. They’ve certainly played down to their opponent’s level a few times this season, and the Islanders have even less to lose than the Senators.
Their post-season hopes were dashed weeks ago.
“It’s a big game,” Big Country (aka Islanders defenceman Matt Carkner) told me outside the visitors dressing room at CTC this morning. “Obviously, that’s our role right now. We’re trying to work our best just to be the spoilers. We’re just trying to have fun and play the right way right now.
“Ottawa is in a tough bind here right now. I know they need the points. It’s going to be a high intensity game for sure.”
Carkner, who you all know is a Winchester native that was in the Senators organization from 2007-2012, said he’ll have extra incentive against his old team tonight. But only because it’s his old team – and players always want to do well against the organization that had them, but then didn’t resign them.
Asked about any bad feelings he has with the Senators, Carkner replied:
“Well not with my teammates, no, it’s …. not with anyone here. We left on good terms. We both knew what we were trying to do, and that’s the way it went.”

What happened to Canada’s Team?

- March 30th, 2014

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We don’t discuss the Toronto Maple Leafs much here but what’s happened to them is shocking. It really is.
I thought they were home and cooled for a playoff spot. To witness the way they played against the
They have completely fallen apart here during this eight-game losing skid. Our friends at sportsclubstats.com rate their chances of making the playoffs around 6.7%. That’s not very good.
I don’t happen to think one Canadian team in the playoffs is good thing. I think it’s bad for hockey myself. The Leafs being there, whether people like it or not, is good for business.
The people at CBC must be choked by what they are witnessing.
The Montreal Canadiens are looking like the only team headed for the post-season. This is two straight years the Leafs have just come unglued. Yes, you have to count what happened in the playoffs last year against the Bruins.
The Canucks have little hope. The Senators _ as has been documented here several times _ are pretty much done. The two teams in Alberta leave a lot to be desired. Winnipeg Jets have to get going in the right direction. The Habs and Leafs were supposed to carry the flag this year.
Where have the Leafs gone wrong?
I really think this team is better than this. I do believe they’ve got good talent. I know people don’t love Phil Kessel but he’s a natural goal scorer. Joffrey Lupul, in my opinion, is a strong player.
You have to wonder if this is it for Randy Carlyle.

So long Bobby

- March 27th, 2014

Bobby Ryan’s season is over early.
The Senators confirmed Thursday morning the club’s high-scoring winger is in Montreal to have surgery to repair a sports hernia that he has been dealing with since November.
He will miss the final 10 games of the regular season. League sources say the recovery time for this type of surgery is 4-to-6 weeks. That means Ryan won’t play for Team USA at the world championships either.
GM Bryan Murray said Ryan had been trying to put off the surgery.
“Both Bobby and our medical staff were hopeful that we could hold off from having surgery until the completion of the season, but he aggravated the condition last Saturday in Dallas to the point that surgery is now the only option.”
Murray said Ryan will be fine next year.
“Bobby has worked hard to play through this injury to help his team and his teammates, and had yet to miss a game this season prior to the injury progressing to this point, so we’re obviously disappointed that we won’t have him available to us for the rest of the season,” added Murray. “We’re confident that he’ll recover in time to have a full summer of training that will allow him to be back in our lineup and help this team be successful next season.”
Ryan finished the season with 23 goals and 48 points. His spot on the roster has been taken by Mark Stone from the club’s AHL affiliate in Binghamton.

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