Needing to win 4 of their next 5 games against the Penguins, the Sens need all the help they can get, cue the return of their star centerman. Spezza should provide a big boost to the league's worst offense and 20th ranked power-play who, despite having the 4th highest 5-on-4 shot rate in the league, has often looked stale and underwhelming.
After getting off to a hot start, Kyle Turris was forced into the first line center role after Spezza was injured in game 5, a tough spot he didn't sign up for. While he'll probably be bumped down to the second line to play with worse linemates and won't get as much PP time, Turris should benefit from not having to face team's top players as often. This year Turris' most faced opponents were Dion Phaneuf, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, and Milan Lucic. Last year with Spezza in the lineup he faced Dennis Seidenberg, Joe Corvo, Mark Streit and Matthew Carle the most, with Spezza tasked to take on top-pairings.
While injuries and poor shooting luck could be to blame, Milan Michalek has struggled on Turris' wing this year, and including playoffs, has just 5 goals in 30 games.
With the emergence of Jean-Gabriel Pageau, MacLean now has to move one of his centerman to the wing to make room for Spezza. My guess would be Mika Zibanejad, as he could take Latendresse/Kassian's spot on Smith's left wing, or Conacher's spot on the second line, since he played on the left side for Binghamton during the lockout. It's unfortunate because Zibanejad has played so well at center this year, but I think his north/south playing style might actually be better suited for the wing.
As we've seen with Karlsson, we shouldn't expect too much from a player who hasn't played since January. Even if he does get off to a slow start, Spezza's return does give the Penguins something else to think about , and hopefully a little hope for a team who has their work cut out for them.no comments
Today the NHL announced that Ottawa Senators head coach Paul MacLean was among its three finalists for the Jack Adams Trophy, presented to the head coach who has contributed most to his team’s success. The Trophy is voted on by members of the NHL Broadcaster’s Association. Anaheim's Bruce Boudreau and Chicago's Joel Quenneville were announced as the other two nominees.
Since being hired in the 2011 offseason, MacLean has brought more than his patented mustache to the table. His presence has provided stability at a position that the organization struggled to fill since Bryan Murray stepped away from the bench and assumed the GM position following the 2007 Stanley Cup season. In the years that followed, the organization went through John Paddock, Bryan Murray version 2.0 and Cory Clouston with mixed results.
From the moment that he arrived, MacLean has earned the respect of his players, the media and the fans. In the modern history of this franchise, I don’t think there’s ever been a coach who has been held in such high regard by all three parties. Let alone a coach who can drew the ire of an opponent like Brandon Prust and the presence of a doppelganger like MacClone Paul Watson.
This is the second time in two seasons behind the bench that the ‘husky’ walrus' has been nominated for the Jack Adams. Should he win, he'll be the first Senators coach to win since Jacques Martin won for his work during the 1998/99 season.
Here’s the write up on MacLean from today’s press release:
MacLean guided the Senators (25-17-6) to a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs despite the extended absence of several key players due to injury. Defenseman Erik Karlsson, the reigning Norris Trophy winner, was limited to 17 games; defenseman Jared Cowen, the ninth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, was sidelined for all but seven games; top forwards Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek played in just five and 23 contests, respectively; and starting goaltender Craig Anderson appeared in just 24 games. MacLean led a youthful Senators lineup, which included a League-high 14 rookies making at least one appearance, to the top defensive record in the Eastern Conference (2.08 goals-against per game). He earned his second consecutive berth as a Jack Adams finalist, finishing third as a rookie NHL head coach in 2012.
It’s interesting that the same criteria used to prop up what MacLean accomplished this season (and rightfully so) did not warrant the same kind of support for Bryan Murray in the NHL GM of the Year balloting. Ah well, I suppose there should be some level of satisfaction for seeing this organization be recognized for the unexpected level of success that came when the team was missing some significant key contributors from their lineup.
Other News of Pithy Importance:
- In case you missed it, my preview of Game Two of this Pens/Sens series can be read over at SenatorsExtra.com.
- Cory Conacher was featured on Puck Daddy as an unsung hero.
- Rumour has it that Spezza could return for the Senators in game three on Sunday night. Nails. Anything that helps make Colin Greening and Milan Michalek produce more than they have to this point.no comments
(1) Pittsburgh Penguins 36-12-0 vs. (7) Ottawa Senators 25-17-6
Game 1: Tuesday, May 14, 7:30pm - Ottawa @ Pittsburgh
Game 2: Friday, May 17, 7:30pm - Ottawa @ Pittsburgh
Game 3: Sunday, May 19, 7:30pm - Pittsburgh @ Ottawa
Game 4: Wednesday, May 22, 7:30pm - Pittsburgh @ Ottawa
Game 5: Friday, May 24, 7:30pm - Ottawa @ Pittsburgh*
Game 6: TBD - Pittsburgh @ Ottawa*
Game 7: TBD - Ottawa @ Pittsburgh*
The higher seed and clear favourite has won every time these two teams have met in the playoffs. But this go around I don't think the Senators pulling off the upset would that surprising. The caveat to that statement is Spezza has to return at some point and be impactable, which is a pretty sizeable caveat but considering how spaced out the schedule is, I think there's good reason to believe it could happen. Go SNES.no comments
The NHL has released its three finalists for the league’s General Manager of the Year Award and conspicuously absent was Senators GM Bryan Murray’s name.
The Award, voted on by some ambiguous blend of NHL GMs, a panel of NHL executives and members of the print and broadcast media, is given out annually to the top GM. (Note: Wikipedia indicates that 40 individuals vote on the Award -- each NHL GM, five NHL execs and five members of the media. In the NHL press release that I saw, there was no specific mention of how many people get a chance to vote.)
Bryan Murray’s omission is the kind of result that instinctively channels the inner-fanboy in most fans, but it’s worth remembering that this exercise to evaluate or recognize a GM’s accomplishments for one season’s work is ridiculously inane. This isn’t the freshman fifteen when the months of binge drinking, eating fast food and cafeteria catch up to student in short order. It takes years before the true efforts of a GM can be grasped and properly evaluated.
How inherently flawed is the concept of the award?
While Pittsburgh’s Ray Shero and Anaheim’s Bob Murray have spent time crafting their respective teams for years, first-year GM Marc Bergevin from the Montreal Canadiens was surprisingly named one of the three finalists.
From the NHL’s press release:
Under the direction of Bergevin, in his first season as an NHL general manager, the Canadiens were the NHL's most improved club. After finishing fifth in the Northeast Division and 28th in the overall League standings in 2011-12, the Canadiens (29-14-5) rallied to clinch the Northeast title and the Eastern Conference's No. 2 seed on the final day of the 2012-13 season. Bergevin hired Michel Therrien as head coachfor his second stint behind the Canadiens’ bench; selected C Alex Galchenyuk with the third overall selection in the 2012 NHL Draft; strengthened the roster with summer signings D Francis Bouillon, LW Brandon Prust and RW Colby Armstrong; and acquired RW Michael Ryder in a midseason trade.
Yes, props to Bergevin for not bungling that 2012 third overall lottery pick, bringing in two retreads and for acquiring a 13th forward, a 3rd/4th line guy. Okay, maybe I’m being too harsh here. The move to shed Erik Cole’s contract while add an impending UFA and power play specialist in Ryder was shrewd. But, for all of the lauding of how significant it was to rid the organization of the money and term owed to Cole, shedding that money means nothing if you can’t use it in an efficient manner. And as Canadian city that insane levels of media/fan scrutiny and playing within a province with high taxation, it’s not like the bulk of that savings will be reinvested in an inflated contract to grease the wheels and pique the interest of a free agent, right?
In looking at the candidates from this season, the formula for what merits candidacy seems to be, a GM must be at the helm of a team that: a) exceeds expectations; b) regresses to the mean; or c) has a healthy Sidney Crosby on its roster.
All that Bryan Murray and his amateur scouting staffs have done over the past few seasons is overhaul the organization and amass an assortment of talent and depth at each position. But hey, even if his peers and other respected members of the hockey community cannot recognize that, most Senators fans can. Hell, even Craig Button agrees.
With all due respect to 3 Finalists for @nhl GM of year, Slam Dunk choice should be Bryan Murray. Positioned Ottawa for success. Great moves— Craig Button (@CraigJButton) May 13, 2013
MacLean says Spezza won't make trip to Pittsburgh— Brent Wallace (@tsn_wally) May 13, 2013
MacLean says the club would prefer for Spezza to stay behind and work out with Luke Richardson and the other extra players.— Ian Mendes (@ian_mendes) May 13, 2013
Paul MacLean wouldn't rule out Spezza playing in Game 2. #Sens— AJ Jakubec (@AJonSports) May 13, 2013
Having dispatched the Canadiens in an efficient 5 games, there was some hope in the intervening time between series that a certain number one center could find this way back into the lineup. Like with Cowen and Karlsson, the organization of late has been doing its best to under-promise, and the script seemed to be similar with Spezza.
1. Player resumes skating with team
2. Team downplays significance
3. Player is in the lineup hours later
Nevertheless, that MacLean isn't ruling him out of Game 2 is a positive sign, especially considering what had been months of raised expectations, false-starts, and the information black hole that followed on his condition. There has even been a little chatter on the interwebs recently that he may have also had an issue with his knee, maybe that comes out later?
If the Leafs win tonight, Garrioch is suggesting that Game 2 won't go until Sunday at 3pm (oh how i loathe matinees). But the upshot of dragging out the schedule is affording even more time for Spezza to get right and in game shape.
Bonus video from Sunday via Daniel Slater of Spez skating and dangling to tide us all over...