A Forced Hand Change in Philosophy

Barring a trade some last minute signing like a Willie Mitchell or a Jose Theodore, most NHL teams will conclude this summer with their current version of their roster. At quick glance, it seems as though the team that has experienced the greatest roster upheaval is the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. Gone are names like Cristobal Huet, John Madden, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel, Antti Niemi and Kris Versteeg. Some, like Madden, are gone because their contract expired. Others were moved out of necessity. Cap casualties stemming from the financial mismanagement of the Dale Tallon era.

I believe that Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski referred to this exodus of talent as Florida Marlins’esque. The Marlins if you’ll remember have gutted their rosters on two separate occasions following their two World Series championships. The comparison is a tad unfair though. The Blackhawks had to move bodies to get underneath the salary cap ceiling. The Marlins did so because their ownership group, lead by Jeffrey Loria, is notoriously cheap and wanted to line their pockets. (Ed. note: There’s a fantastic article written by Jeff Passan for Yahoo! Sports detailing how Loria and David Sampson misled the public to get a new stadium deal approved.)

Regardless, Chicago’s going to be an intriguing case study to watch this season. Although their hand was forced, the Blackhawks have retooled more so than any other recent Stanley Cup finalist that I can recall. As a fan who has looked back upon our own version of the 2007 Stanley Cup finalist Senators team, I often wonder how things could have changed had management taken the steps to remedy some of the in problems with that team. (Ie. Rumours of drug abuse, lazy players, cliques, etc.) Instead of parlaying some of their assets when their value was at its peak, management opted to remain status quo and retained many of the same players by giving them raises, long terms, and no-movement clauses. God forbid that management couldn’t realize that the circumstances that lead to the 2007 Finals appearance could never be replicated. Sure, the players might stay the same, but the salaries forever change. Dany Heatley at $3.5 million and Jason Spezza at $4.5 million look great. When they’re both making over $7 million? Not so much. It didn’t help matters that when the John Muckler regime opted to retain a draft pick, they struck out. With a barren prospect cupboard, expecting years of sustained success or a dynasty was wishful thinking at best.

So that’s why I look at the Chicago scenario with an earnest interest. Despite the fact that losing many important depth pieces, none of their roster casualties will ever be respectfully mistaken for a game changer. Can these players be easily replaced by the likes of some in house or cheaper alternatives like Skille, Boynton, Bickell, Hendry and Turco? Will the infusion of this much fresh talent gel quickly and relieve the locker room from complacency? Or will the loss of the aforementioned Cup winning depth players be understated? Would it have been more prudent to trade one of the more expensive/better skilled players like Patrick Sharp and retain more depth? Or perhaps there’s a large correlation between having star players on entry level or below market value second contracts and the window of opportunity for a Stanley Cup victory? (Ed note: Detroit with Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Chicago with Toews and Kane. Ottawa with Heatley and Spezza. Anaheim with Perry/Getzlaf. Pittsburgh with Fleury/Crosby/Malkin.)

Senators News Bits

According to Sens Chirp, Peter Regin has opted to change his number from 43 to 13.

Over at Off the Posts, Don Brennan congratulates Bryan Murray for receiving the distinction of formally inducted into the Upper Ottawa Valley Sports Honour Roll in Pembroke Oct. 13. As a 67-year old GM who’s entering the final year of his contract with the organization, Don briskly looks at the Murray tenure and questions who should be his successor. Provoking one of the longest reader comments that I have ever seen.

Sticking with Brennan, in an article for Sun Media, he highlights some of the notes from a media conference call featuring Daniel Alfredsson. Of note, Alfredsson has recovered from his sports hernia surgery and has resumed skating for the past two and a half weeks. According to Alfredsson, “I started earlier this year than I normally do, just to try it out and get on the ice a little bit more.” (Ed. note: Is it too much to ask for an injury free season from the captain?)

As part of a hot-stove panel that is contributing at the Molson World Hockey Summit in Toronto, Ontario, Daniel Alfredsson weighed in on some of the game’s issues like the size of the playing surface.

Today, the NHL unvealed the national television schedule for its broadcasts. Of note, on Saturday, February 12th, the Senators will take on the Edmonton Oilers on Hockey Day in Canada at 2pm ET. More Hockey Night in Canada information can be found courtesy of the CBC, but if you want to give the alternative media some love, you can check out Silver Seven Sens.

According to The Examiner, the Toronto Maple Leafs have released a list of player names who will compete in the annual rookie tournament that begins on September 11th in London, Ontario. Since the Senators are competing in the tournament alongside the Leafs, Penguins, and Blackhawks, it shouldn’t be too long before their roster is released.

Through the work of those affiliated with the Senators’ official website, Chris Campoli has become the most recent player to discuss how much Sergei Gonchar brings to the table.

Earlier this week, Aaron Ward announced his retirement from the NHL. With Garry Galley leaving the Sportsnet broadcast booth to work exclusively for the CBC, I wonder if an Ottawa native like Ward will get the nod? (Ed. note: From what I’ve read online, the speculated candidate is the Team 1200’s Jason York.)

Collision Repair Magazine
has a small feature on Matt Carkner’s father and his Winchester autobody shop. Keep an eye out for next month’s issue that devotes a feature to Jordon Leopold’s recuperation from that Andy Sutton hit.

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