24th On TSN But 1st in Your Hearts

Normally, I wouldn’t even bother mentioning an expert’s poll, but it’s the long weekend and apparently there’s not a lot of news out there. So here it is: If you hadn’t heard, everyone’s favorite barometer for analysing their hockey team has ranked the Ottawa Senators 24th in their preseason preview. I’ve posted the original article by TSN below and in a break from the norm, I’ll post my comments in italic font.

OTTAWA SENATORS

2008-09: 36-35-11 (11th in the East – Out of Playoffs)
General Manager: Bryan Murray (3rd Season)
Head Coach: Cory Clouston (2nd Season)

Ok. Maybe it’s been awhile but did Ottawa actually finish with an above .500 record? Maybe in his second year behind the bench, Clouston can turn water into wine.

What They Did In The Off-season:

In the Senators’ case, it might be more apt to call this, “What They Did Not Do In The Off-season,” because everything surrounding the Sens revolves around the team’s inability to trade disgruntled sniper Dany Heatley. While the team was able to sign the enigmatic Alex Kovalev and re-sign both Chris Neil and Brian Elliott, Ottawa will be unable to truly move forward until Heatley is shipped out of town.

What they did not do in the off-season. Hilarious. I hope TSN paid Jay Onrait well for contributing eight words of intended humour to this piece. Okay, I rescind that comment since instead of penning “massively overpaid to retain Chris Neil” TSN just wrote re-sign. Much appreciated fellas. Now if only we could truly move forward…

GM Bryan Murray thought he found a suitor in the Edmonton Oilers, but Heatley scrapped the deal despite the Oilers’ attempts to woo the two-time 50 goal scorer.  Rumoured three-way deals involving the Sharks, Canadiens and Wild never materialized and Heatley will likely be forced to report to camp – run by Clouston, the very coach that Heatley publicly criticized.  Should this transpire it will be a very interesting season in the nation’s capital.

When is it never an interesting season in the nation’s capital? Even though the team has been mediocre for a couple years, there’s been a disproportionate amount of drama following this team. For the last two seasons, being a Sens fan was akin to following an afternoon soap opera. What? Ray Emery threw Christoph Schubert off the Champlain Bridge? Tune in tomorrow for more Days of Our Senators. Seriously though…much of the drama stems from what the media sensationally blows out of proportion and it’s no wonder why other fans hate us. They view us as an extension of the local media.

Biggest Issue Facing The Team:

Until the situation is resolved, the Heatley non-trade is going to hang over the team like a dark cloud.  Even if he does show up at training camp, what type of mood will he be in?  How will his teammates deal with a player who has acted as though his concerns are more important than those of the team?  And perhaps most importantly, how will Clouston deal professionally with a player who has already undermined his authority and questioned his abilities as a head coach?

That’s a great gift idea for the Senators store — A Dany Heatley mood ring. Purple means you dislike your employer.

When Heatley returns to camp next weekend, the players will accept him back with the caveat that he has to produce. If he can’t produce, it’ll only be a matter of time before players begin to resent his presence as their repeatedly asked by reporters how they feel about the situation. And who’s TSN kidding, Clouston will deal with him professionally by justifiably giving Dany a diminished role. Or he could give him a larger role in hopes of raising his trade value and consequently lose all credibility with the rest of the team. Talk about a potential conflict of interest if Dany doesn’t play well.

Make no mistake about it – the franchise realizes how valuable an asset that a perennial All-Star like Heatley is. That being said, you can excuse them for not panicking and making a move that will return them nickels-on-the dollar for their investment. While it’s unlikely that they will be able to acquire a player as talented as Heatley, the team sees this as an opportunity to jump start the rebuilding process and wants to make sure they get it right.

Jumpstart the rebuilding process? Someone should alert Bryan Murray. If this team was really convinced that they needed a rebuild, they never would have flipped a late 1st round pick for Chris Campoli and Mike “Give Me Money And I’ll Play Anywhere, Even Edmonton” Comrie.

The Senators do have one factor working in their favour – Heatley will likely be motivated to perform this season to ensure himself a spot on the Canadian Olympic team.  “The Heater” has been one of Canada’s top players at the International level for the last five years and saves some of his best performances for the world stage. 

Competition for a spot on Canada’s very exclusive roster will be fierce and Heatley cannot afford to miss any time or sulk through the first month. Otherwise, he’ll be doing what so many others will come February – watch the Olympic hockey tournament from the comfort of his couch.

Exactly. Why would Heatley give a fuck about what happens in Ottawa? All he cares about is wearing the Leaf on the front of his jersey. Enjoy watching Dany Heatley play himself off of this team for the next little while Sens fans.

Player to watch:

The Senators made possibly their most important pick-up at the trade deadline last season when they brought in Pascal Leclaire with the hope that he would take over the No. 1 netminder’s spot this season.

In a town that eats starting goaltenders alive, Leclaire is seen in some circles as a potential savior. It might be a lot to ask of a player who has a grand total of one season in the NHL as an unquestioned starter under his belt. Granted, in that one year (2007-08) Leclaire was excellent on a sub-par Blue Jackets team that saw him post All-Star type numbers that included nine shutouts, a 2.25 goals against average to go along with a .919 save percentage.

Ottawa’s not a town that eats starting goaltenders alive. It’s a city that’s notorious for bringing in goaltenders on the cheap. Lalime, Tugnutt, Rhodes and even Hasek were all brought in earning pennies. Consider the turnover and mediocre results as a necessary correlation for not spending the bucks to bring in a legitimate number one.

The problem is that Leclaire has a difficult time remaining healthy. Losing 48 man-games to an ankle injury last season is one thing, but Leclaire is constantly harassed by smaller, niggling injuries that sideline him just long enough to make consistency a real issue.  If the Sens are to be without Heatley’s scoring punch, they will be more dependent than ever on goaltending to keep them in games. A lack of consistency in this department will doom them to another disappointing season, something that fans in Ottawa can certainly do without.

Ouch. I’m reeling after this humbling exercise in informing of us how shitty our goaltending situation has been and could possibly be this year. Wait…we still have the golden boy, Brian Elliott right?

This Just In

According to the Ottawa Sun, Dany Heatley has bought a plane ticket to Ottawa. Awesome, expect Off the Posts blog updates to describe other menial garbage like Dany’s bowel movements. To borrow a phrase from Alex Rios, “Who Gives a Fuck?”

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