Thursday Thoughts

1) After watching Erik Karlsson race back to his end to get an icing call in the second period of Tuesday’s game in Boston, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that a potential Bruins versus Senators first round matchup will take years off my life. Had Karlsson been racing against any other Bruins forward not named Tyler Seguin, liberties would have been taken. I cannot imagine having to watch seven potential games that feature guys like Lucic making soft dumps into Karlsson’s corner, will be tough to stomach.

2) Going back to the first period of Sunday’s game against the Islanders, with the Senators already down 1-0 after an early goal, Robin Lehner made a flurry of saves during one Islanders’ offensive sequence causing Denis Potvin to remark that the young Ottawa goaltender had won the crowd. With each successive save, the smattering of applause only got louder, and louder and louder. To the point that when he stoned Marty Reasoner on a breakaway later in the game to keep the game out of reach, the crowd was fervently behind Lehner. Frankly, the last time the Senators fanbase cheered on a goaltender so enthusiastically was when CBC showed Patrick Lalime on the bench to start the second period in game seven of the 2004 Stanley Cup Quarterfinals.

My favorite moment from Sunday’s game came shortly after the announcement that Lehner was named the game’s first star. After doing the customary hockey stick giveaway, Lehner was skating back towards the Senators’ bench and as he hit center ice, another swell of applause befell the goaltender. Soaking up every second of it, the young Swede channeled his inner Chris Neil post-fight celebration and gestured for the crowd to get louder.

Even after the trade for Ben Bishop, Lehner is the guy that everyone wants to succeed and relish in the role. And after last night’s shutout of the Boston Bruins, a team that has historically given Ottawa some problems, the legend of Lehner continues to grow. ‘Lehnsanity’ is gripping this city.

3) After an uninspiring 11:12 performance on Saturday, at no point before, during or after the game should anyone have entertained the thought that Matt Carkner should have drawn back into the lineup against the Bruins.

4) Newest acquisition and Nicholas Cage doppelganger Matt Gilroy transitioned well into Ottawa’s bottom pairing. Logging over 14:54 of ice-time that included 1:07 on the power play, he looked comfortable. Mind you, I’m in favor of anything that removes Phillips from the power play and takes the onus off of him to move the rock up ice.

5) Erik Karlsson’s 15th goal of the season was only his second power play tally all season. Of the legitimate Norris Trophy candidates, he is the only one not to inflate his goal totals on special teams. For what it’s worth, of Shea Weber’s 14 goals, 8 have come on the power play. Per TSN’s Brent Wallace (@tsn_wally) vis-à-vis the Elias Sports Bureau, Karlsson is the first defenceman to register 18 points in 8 games since Ray Bourque tallied 19 in 8 games during his 1993/94 campaign.

6) After expressing his intent to fight Kyle Turris on Tuesday night and avenge the dangerous hit that the Senators center laid on him on Saturday night, Joe Corvo never followed through with his words. So what gives? Apparently Senators forward Colin Greening told Bruins defenceman Joe Corvo that Turris would not be fighting that night.

Instead of paying the piper, Turris responded with one of his better efforts in recent weeks. His 6 shots on net led the Senators and if the Senators are going to make any waves in the postseason, they’re going to need their second line to step up and produce offensively. The same second line that has conveniently gone cold at around the same time that Colin Greening was moved from an unproductive first line to flank Alfie and Turris. It this merely a coincidence? (Discuss in the comment thread.)

For the record, I just believe that the second line has just been uncharacteristically unfortunate. Despite Turris’ dip in production – his one goal and two assists in the month of February marked his lowest monthly point total since joining the Sens – his number of shots on goal in month of February (40) took a significant jump from previous months (26 in December and 28 in January).

Not even Daniel Alfredsson is without blame. In his last 15 games played, he has uncharacteristically turned the puck over 21 times. 

7) Erik Condra. Most. Egregious. Senators. Missed. Net. Ever?

8) With Robin Lehner’s on-ice success over the past two games, and I recognize that this is such a small sample size to analyze, I wondered whether Ottawa would have made the Ben Bishop trade if the NHL’s trade deadline was next week instead.

Using Twitter, I recently asked our followers how many NHL teams could actually afford to withstand the loss of their number one guy. Obviously teams like Boston, Los Angeles, Vancouver spring to mind and a few others – most notably, Florida, Minnesota, and Nashville – can be debated. However, the point rests in the fact that it’s a pretty exclusive group that has the luxury of being able to rely on three capable guys.

Around the nation’s capital of late, ‘goaltending depth’ is the new thing. I hate saying it but this pressing need that Ottawa had for it is reminiscent of the organization’s one-time need for a puck-moving defencemen that saw them acquire Chris Campoli and Mike Comrie in exchange for a first round pick and Dean McAmmond. At the time, it seemed like a steep price to pay for a commodity that they could have waited until the offseason to acquire and I feel like the same thing rings true for Bishop.

Similar to Campoli, what Bishop does represent is an asset that the organization could eventually parlay in another separate deal. Will the organization be able to recoup full value or Bishop? Or is he subject to become part of some larger offseason trade package to bring in a more high-profile trade target?

It remains to be seen but at the very least, fans should be keeping an eye on how other organizations’ goaltending situations shake themselves out. Personally, I’m intrigued by how the Islanders handle their predicament. With two UFAs in Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov and a broken Rick DiPietro, the Island could be a viable trade partner for Ottawa.

9) The confusion over Ben Bishop’s waiver exemption status moving forward is something that’s been plaguing the fan base and media since the moment he joined the organization and signed a one year, one-way contract.

Why is this important?

With the way in which Robin Lehner has stepped in and stood on his head thus far, even as we look towards the future,

Much of the uncertainty stems from the legalese within the CBA itself when contrasted with the information provided on the hockey contract resource Capgeek.com.

Per the CBA:

The first season in which a Player who is age 20 or older plays in one (1) or more Professional Games shall constitute the first year for calculating the number of years he is exempt from Regular Waivers and Re-Entry Waivers.

As a 21-year old, Ben Bishop signed his first professional contract in March of 2008. Shortly thereafter, he went on to play in five games for Peoria in the AHL at the conclusion of the 2007/08 season. Based on the specific context of the previous paragraph and the fact that the CBA stipulates that a “year” of exemption shall mean a playing season, I assumed that 2007/08 would constitute the first year for determining the number of years that he would be exempt from waivers.

Looking at Bishop’s profile on Capgeek, the site disregards his 2007/08 season as the first of his career. Since they utilize the 2008/09 campaign to signify the first of Bishop’s entry level contract, much of the confusion for Bishop’s waiver exemption stems from Capgeek’s waiver calculator that requires a few inputs to determine his status. In asking “What was the calendar year on June 30 preceding the first season of his first NHL contract?”, we are left trying to determine whether we should use 2007 (according to the context that the CBA provides) or 2008 (as Capgeek determined) as the proper calendar year.

In an effort to resolve the issue, I’ve corresponded with a league source who has confirmed that the 2011/12 season is the last year of waiver exemption for Bishop. With that being the case, if we’re looking at Ottawa’s goaltending situation next season, it’s clear that Robin Lehner is the only goaltender under contract who affords the Senators organization some roster flexibility. So it begs the question, if he performs well down the stretch, what does the organization do?

10) Late last night, the Interwebs were abuzz after the Ottawa Citizen’s Lee Greenberg published an article outlining the province’s Liberal minority government’s intent to scrap tax exemption that allows businesses to write off sports tickets. It’s estimated this policy costs the province 15M$ a year.

In response to the news, Senators President Cyril Leeder responded by saying:

“We need that to survive. We cannot have another whack to our ability to operate here. You could take away incentives in bigger cities in sports and those teams would find a way to make it work, but the ones that are not in the major markets won’t survive.”

Whether or not you believe that Leeder’s comments are overstated, the concerns about how much it could affect the season ticket base and revenue stream are very real. Although even in their worst season on the ice in over a decade the Senators remained an above average ticket revenue team, a metric that excludes revenue from suite sales.

Fortunately, the Liberals today have downplayed the proposal by saying that it is not a done deal — it’s just something the province is discussing with the federal government.

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