Tuesday Morning News and Notes

After a great time camping off the St. Lawrence in Long Sault this weekend, I should be in an excellent mood, but I’m not. I’m not sure how I could possibly remain upbeat knowing that the Ottawa Senators missed the boat on BJ Crombeen?

Well, considering he averaged 8:18 of ice-time per game and two seconds of cumulative specialty team ice-time per game last season, somehow, I believe I’ll be able to pull through.

Lately, there’s been so much digital ink wasted on the perceived lack of toughness on the Ottawa Senators’ roster; especially when contrasted with the personnel moves that some of the organization’s rivals in the Northeast Division have made this offseason. The Buffalo Sabres signed John Scott and traded Derek Roy to Dallas for Steve Ott. The Montreal Canadiens re-signed Ryan White and Travis Moen before inking Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong as unrestricted free agents. The Bruins are still the big, bad Bruins.

Compounded by the loss of Zenon Konopka and Matt Carkner to free agency, these additions exacerbate Ottawa’s lack of perceived ‘toughness’.

It’s all horseshit of course.

It’s not like any of these Northeast Division teams are without their flaws. The Habs were one of the worst teams in the league last season. The Buffalo Sabres are so weak down the middle that their first line center is… Steve Ott. And perhaps most importantly, Senators killer Tim Thomas has hung the Bruins out to dry.

At the very least, blaming Ottawa for a perceived lack of toughness is a discredit to the assembled talent that projected to be on the NHL roster. With names like Neil, Greening, Smith, Cowen and Borowiecki filling out the ranks, it’s not like the roster is without a number of candidates who should be more than willing to chuck knuckles in the event that liberties are taken against one of the team’s more talented offensive players.

Of course, having some tough role players means nothing unless the team’s best players are willing to pay the price, stick up for their teammates, engage the opposition or go to the high traffic areas.

Too often in Ottawa’s past, the team would be content to play on the perimeter and take low percentage shots. It’s an issue that plagued many of its skilled teams from the late ’90s and early 2000s but it’s not one that’s relevant to the current roster.

I suppose as the offseason buzz created by Andre Benoit’s signing continues to diminish with each day, there needs to be some kind of narrative to distract fans and maintain some level of hockey discussion in this city. Like a Mike Fisher wrister, whining about a lack of toughness however, misses the mark.

If the organization was truly fretful over the liberties that may be taken during some of these Northeast Division rival games, there is an internal option that could be useful. They could always recall Darren Kramer to fill those four to eight fourth line minutes. Besides, the local media headline writers would love it since it would open up the opportunity to work in as many peanut butter and jam references as possible. (Note: for the unawares, Kramer is in the process of patenting a new peanut butter jar design.)

Benoit Contract Details

Speaking of Andre Benoit, Capgeek listed his contract information. It’s a one-year, two-way deal worth a NHL salary of $650,000 and an AHL salary of $300,000.

Somewhere Wade Redden is reading Lindsay’s tweet thinking, “Wait, what about me?”

While it’s exciting to see the Senators bring in another veteran to augment Hugh Jessiman and Tyler Eckford on what’s expected to be a very young Binghamton team, I wonder how the blue line depth chart could be affected in the event of a lockout.

Looking back at the 2004-05 situation, a number of Ottawa’s youngest players — Volchenkov, Vermette, Emery and Spezza — opted to stay within Ottawa’s organization and play in Binghamton rather than pursue playing opportunities in Europe.

Players who are still on their ELCs — Silfverberg, Stone, and Cowen — could find themselves playing in Binghamton. While it may not happen, it is something to monitor.

Senators Add Depth to the Goaltending Position

In somewhat of a delayed personnel move, the Senators have finally acquired some veteran depth to complement the phenom, Robin Lehner.

Nathan Lawson has agreed to a one-year, two-way pact with the club and joins a list of illustrious names — Mike Brodeur, Barry Brust, Pascal Leclaire, Garrett Zemlak and Mike McKenna — that have shared the Binghamton crease with Lehner over the past two seasons.

According to the press release, Lawson, 28, spent the 2011-12 campaign with the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs. In 44 games with the Montreal Canadiens’ affiliate, he posted a record of 19-17-4 with a 2.57 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage while recording five shutout victories – the most of his professional career.

As a young but tenured professional player, the hope is that Lawson can push Lehner’s compete level. It’s a big year for the Swedish goaltender’s development. Over the past two AHL regular seasons, we’ve been waiting for Lehner to stay healthy and perform at the high level that he displayed during the 2011 Calder Cup championship run.

Speaking on the Team 1200, Senators goaltending coach Rick Wamsley had this to say about the highly touted netminder (h/t to Joy Lindsay for the transcribed comment):

“Obviously winning the Calder Cup was a good experience, and you learn that you can play championship-type hockey and give championship-type goaltending. I think young kids have a problem with different types of hangovers, and I thought Robin went through a hangover last year. He didn’t come into camp in the best of shape, didn’t come in with the best of attitudes, and I thought his play was very reflective of that. Robin has, during the two years I’ve been with him, has had tremendous short-term success where you see glimpses of what this guy can do, what he can be with the way he’s played in short periods. What he needs to do is just continue to even out the ride a little bit. Right now, it’s just too much of a roller coaster, where the highs are really high and the lows are too low. If we can even out that ride, I think he has a real good chance of being what we think he can be, and that’s a quality No. 1 guy.”

Axelsson to Return? 

Reports out of Sweden indicate that former Bruins forward PJ Axelsson is contemplating a move back to the NHL.

So why is this important from a Senators perspective?

For years, Axelsson has been linked to the Senators because of his friendship with Alfie. So although Axelsson’s agent alluded to the Rick Nash negotiations and indicated that his client would be a suitable replacement for whatever assets or roster players are given up to acquire Nash, inevitably, someone will use a potential Axelsson return to fan the Alfie’s return flames.

Tuesday Morning News and Notes

With yesterday’s debut of Sens TV’s Senate Reform and the need to put out Sunday’s podcast recording, I missed out on commenting on a bunch of Senators related newsworthy bits. So without further ado…

Jason Spezza Drawing Inquiries?

A little bit late in posting this on the website but I did use Twitter to address the news. (Speaking of which, if you’re not following the site on Twitter, what are you waiting for? Click here to start following the site today.) In the New York Post, Larry Brooks mentioned that the New York Rangers will not be eager to bend on a whim and write a blank cheque for Brad Richards to ensure that this year’s top free agent prize inks a contract with the Blueshirts on July 1st.

Brooks went on to suggest that the Rangers will examine the market and explore all potential scenarios in the event that Richards does not sign with the team. As an example, he goes on to cite the Rangers interest in Senators center Jason Spezza as possible trade trade target.

 After being inundated with trade rumours in seemingly every offseason in recent memory, the mere mention of Spezza’s name in NHL trade rumours is enough to draw the ire from some of the most passionate Sens fans.

And as fucking ridiculous as it sounds to believe that the Senators would even consider moving an asset like Jason Spezza when the organization dealt for Craig Anderson and extended Chris Phillips late last season, you can chalk up the idea to the kind of due diligence every team typically explores during the offseason. And Brooks himself acknowledges that it would be counter-intuitive for the organization to make a play on Spezza since the cost of acquiring the Senators first line center would be too high a price to pay.

The Rangers will look at Jason Spezza, 28 next week and who has three years at $7 million per remaining on his deal with Ottawa that includes a no-trade clause. Even if Spezza would agree to waive it to come to New York, even if the Senators would move him, chances are GM Bryan Murray would demand far too much in return. ~ Larry Brooks, the New York Post

In other words, Spezza’s going nowhere. So unless Ron Hextall and the rest of those Los Angeles Kings braintrust arsonists pull out a proverbial gas can and torch Spezza’s reputation like he’s the second coming of Dany Heatley, we can rest easy and take pride in the fact that such a core player is desirable around the league.

Back Surgery For Alfie

According to Le Droit’s Marc Brassard, the Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson will undergo a surgical back procedure this week that typically characterized by a four-to-six week recovery period. It’s the latest twist in the saga to determine whether or not Alfredsson will even be healthy enough to play next season.

Bob Boughner Interviewed

According to ESPN’s Pierre Lebrun, former Columbus Blue Jackets assistant coach Bob Boughner was interviewed for Ottawa’s vacant head coaching position. Boughner, if you’ll remember, left his position earlier in the offseason citing that the travel and time away from his family wore on him.

Boughner joins the likes of Paul MacLean, Dave Cameron, Kirk Muller, Kurt Kleinendorst, Gerard Gallant and Craig MacTavish as potential candidates to replace Cory Clouston. Unlike some of the other names on Bryan Murray’s list, Boughner has the distinction of some nostalgic lore that reminds me of the days when the Senators played at the Civic Centre.

Back in those days, there was this one fan who sat in that single row of seats that outlined the boards that was just within the Senators own blueline. You couldn’t miss this guy. He never missed a game and would always wear a fedora. And in the event that you could actually ignore the hat, he was one of those types who desperately sought the praise and admiration of those around him – making wisecracks in his outdoor voice, laughing at his jokes and then turning around to see which nearby fans were actually paying attention to what he had to say. Anyways, there was this one game in particular in which Boughner, then with the Buffalo Sabres, threw a bodycheck along the sideboards directly in front of fedora man.

Never one to miss an opportunity to heckle an opponent, he bellowed, “You suck Bob Booger!”

The nickname “Booger” stuck for the remaining period and a half. The final buzzer couldn’t come soon enough.

And sticking with Senators coaching candidates, the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman wrote in his weekly 30 Thoughts blog pieces that he saw Saw Sportsnet’s Ian Mendes in Vancouver last Tuesday and asked him who he thought would get the coaching job in Ottawa. He said, “Paul MacLean.” Think Ian’s nailed this one. And, just like Mike Babcock helped sell Guy Boucher to Steve Yzerman, he’s selling MacLean to his old boss, Bryan Murray.

99% Chance Ottawa Selects One of…

According to the Ottawa Sun’s Don Brennan, director of player personnel Pierre Dorion believes that there’s a 99% certainty that Ottawa selects one of Ryan Strome, Mika Zibanejad, Sean Couturier, Gabriel Landeskog, Dougie Hamilton or Jonathan Huberdeau.

I suppose an optimist will look at that 1% chance and continue to believe that the Senators could still trade up for a higher draft pick but Strome, Zibanejad and Couturier were worked out by the Senators yesterday afternoon and I don’t think too many Senators fans would mind seeing the organization package some second rounders with the Nashville pick to acquire a second top ten pick and get two of these three players in a Senators jersey.

That might be tougher than people think though because according to Kevin Allen’s Twitter (@kausatoday), he heard that prospect Mika Zibanejad could go as high as No. 3 overall.

Gabriel Landeskog and Jonathan Huberdeau will work out for the Senators this afternoon and for what it’s worth, Ryan Strome in particular had some glowing things to say about the city via Twitter (@strome18), “Having an unbelievable time in Ottawa so far. Great city, great people and a fantastic organization!” and “Enjoyed my time in Ottawa. Meeting Alfredsson and the Sens staff was great.”

Keep buttering us up Ryan…

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