Thursday Grab Bag – El Cannone Style

As any baseball fan who watched countless hours of baseball during the ’90s and 2000′s will attest to, Raul Mondesi was bat shit crazy. So much so that he had ‘El Canon’ tattooed on his right arm and would point to his tattoo every time that he’d hose anyone who had the audacity to test his arm from right-field.

According to The Oxford Press, the Senators may have added a little ‘El Canon’ to their coffers by allegedly coming to an agreement with unrestricted free agent NCAAer Pat Cannone. Starring at the Miami University, Cannone is a senior who put up 14 goals and 23 assists this season.

While no signing has been formally announced by the Senators, Cannone told the paper, “I spoke with Ottawa today and I’m going to Binghamton, N.Y., tomorrow. I think I’ll be playing Friday and Saturday night.”

Cannone is just the latest in a flurry of undrafted collegiate free agents — Jesse Winchester, Bobby Butler, and Stephane Da Costa being the others — who has signed on with the Senators during Bryan Murray’s tenure as GM. With the likely graduation of players like Erik Condra, Colin Greening and Butler to the parent club, at the very least, Cannone’s signing just replenishes the depth down on the farm. By the end of the week, Cannone probably won’t be the last to join the Baby Sens for their playoff push. The University of Michigan’s (and a former podcast guest of ours) Louie Caporusso will probably ink his first professional contract at the conclusion of the Frozen Four.

With this flurry of activity and Binghamton clinching a playoff spot, I don’t know if I’ve been this invested in the Baby Sens since the 2004-05 lockout.

Clouston Opines To Keep His Job

Regardless of which newspaper you happened to pick up this morning, you’ve probably read something about Cory Clouston making his pitch to remain as the head coach of the Senators. To his credit, many of the excuses for Ottawa’s play are within reason and are attributable to a roster that Bryan Murray assembled. Now that the team is having some modest success, Clouston seems bereft of praise while Murray receives the bulk of the accolades for a job well done at the NHL trade deadline. Truth be told, if Greening, Condra and Butler don’t step up offensively down the stretch, we might not even be having a discussion about whether either person is retained. Alas, the fact that he’s being kept in the dark regarding his future is telling. Revisiting the comments made by Bryan Murray at the time of the Craig Anderson signing, it’s pretty clear where his future lies.

“Today is only about the goaltender. What I had was an opportunity to make some changes because of the results we were having – which weren’t very good as you know. And it’s been clearly pointed out and rightly so. And all I’m trying to do is make sure this organization is put in a position where it’s much more competitive going forward. And I think this is obviously… Mr. Melnyk is a big part of this. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the plan. The idea of re-establishing this team as a perennial contending team. So we made the decision that goaltending was a real priority and we wanted to make sure that going forward… now if I go out to recruit a free agent, I think you can can use this. Now we’ve got some security in goal; a core of defencemen who look like they’re very capable. And if we have to put another piece or two in place over the summer, it might be an easier sell for me to go to other people or whomever is in this position.”  (via The 6th Sens, March 21st)

So yeah, don’t let the door hit you on the way out Cory. I have to say though, with the Clouston era assuredly coming to a close, it’s going to be intriguing to see what happens with assistant coach Greg Carvel. The man is a survivor. If he survives the Clouston era, he’ll return next season assisting his fifth head coach since the 2006-07 season. 

Ryan Shannon – Ottawa’s Masterton Nominee

Don Brennan had it right when he wrote, A worthy candidate to be sure, Ryan Shannon is not the most deserving member of his team for Masterton Trophy nomination. Although assistant coach Luke Richardson was ineligible for the award, the player who best exemplified perseverance on this Senators team was Brian Lee. This is not a knock on Shannon, he did overcome a concussion and started to put up some points once he was removed from Jesse Winchester’s flank but the adversity that Lee has had to overcome was far more substantial. Here’s an excerpt from an article that I wrote last month on Lee’s transformation:

Obviously no scouting service list is infallible but when other draft picks from the 2005 Draft like Anze Kopitar and Marc Staal excelled, revisionist fans (including myself) cursed the day that Muckler drafted Lee. It was nothing personal against the player once viewed as an heir apparent to Wade Redden but Lee’s game has taken some time to develop and at times, it looked like it he wasn’t going to. There has always been something that prevented Brian Lee from being a regular on the Senators.

For three consecutive seasons Lee has never been a stranger to the travel between Binghamton and Ottawa. Even after he was one of the few who Senators players who played well during the 2008 quarterfinals playoff matchup against the Penguins, Lee was returned to Binghamton because the organization felt that it needed some offensive punch on the blueline – preferring to dress the likes of Alexandre Picard and Brendan Bell. One season later, through the emergence of Matt Carkner and Erik Karlsson, Lee was the obvious choice to be returned to Binghamton because of a two-way contract that paid him a substantially reduced salary to play in the minors.

Having been bounced around, whenever Lee did get an opportunity to play, he never looked comfortable.

“Overall, I thought his play was better than when he originally went down (during training camp). I think he lost his game a little bit the last three or four games. I think he looks a little indecisive, playing not to make a mistake. I think he has just got to go down there and recapture his game and find his game again — play bigger minutes, play more roles, bigger roles, and be a dominant defenceman down there.” ~ Cory Clouston (via Faceoff.com)

Despite this constant shuffle between the minors and the NHL, Bryan Murray surprised many by giving Lee a two year, one-way contract last March. I suppose you could chalk it up to the organization not wanting to give up a young asset, but it only delayed the inevitable. Having sat out the first 18 games of the 2010-11 season, Lee was eventually placed on waivers. Unfortunately for him, teams were unwilling to take on Lee’s salary because of salary cap or self-imposed budget restrictions. Re-entry waivers were never an option. The Senators didn’t want to recall him and risk having him get claimed by another team -  meaning that the team would pay half his salary and absorb half the cap hit as well. For Lee to be moved, the Senators were going to have to do something that they didn’t want to – take back a NHL contract.

So for 25 straight games Lee sat in a professional hockey player’s purgatory, keeping a positive attitude and waiting for an opportunity to play.

As you can see, I’m not saying that Shannon was a bad choice, I’m merely stating that he wasn’t the best choice.

Quick Hits

- The Senators revealed a patch that they will wear on their new heritage jerseys next season.

- Former Senators assistant coach EJ McGuire has passed away at the young age of 58. EJ most recently worked as the NHL’s director of Central Scouting.

- The more I think about Eugene Melnyk’s comments on the Fan 590,  the more I become comfortable with the idea that I wouldn’t mind seeing Bryan Murray in an advisory role that allows him to be a buffer between the owner and a new GM. 

- Wayne Scanlan examines Melnyk’s comments on the Fan 590. There’s no other word to describe it but “nails”. I highly recommend checking it out

- If the Senators lose tonight, James Gordon will capture the second Senators Extra Prediction Panel Title.

- In Don Brennan’s article on Ryan Shannon’s Masterton nomination, he mentions that Shannon is eligible for UFA and that the Senators should be looking to lock him up. Personally, I’d prefer to see the organization explore other options for the second line center first. Whether it’s an internal solution like a Regin or a Da Costa or even acquiring a young player with pedigree like Kyle Turris — who may now be expendable since undrafted collegiate player Andy Miele has signed with Phoenix — I’d like to see the Senators brass exhaust this avenues before they even consider bringing back Shannon. 

- There is a decent article on the Grand Forks Herald’s website discussing the UND defensive tandem of Derek Forbort and Senators prospect Ben Blood. Considering the Fighting Sioux square off against Michigan in the Frozen Four, I wonder if Blood return for his senior season or he will decide to ink a pro contract.

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