Thursday, April 17, 2008

The End Of The Ottawas


So it ends, all of that promise of the last decade.
Leaf fans still call this team chokers although they went further last season then any Leaf team has gone in over forty years and Daniel Alfredsson had a spring last season like very few players ever have. Certainly Mats Sundin never has.
The Ottawas had such a terrific collection of talent back in the day but whether it was goaltending, lack of passion, lack of heart, coaching or just plain bad luck, things never came together for them. If Niedermeyer doesn't pop one off Lidstrom to force OT in Game 5 last year it would have likely been the Wings in the final and that is a series where matchups would have been more to Ottawa's favour then one against the Ducks, a team with a terrific shutdown line to play the Daniels.
Of course the ironic thing in all of this is that they said farewell to Bonk and Todd White and Havlat and Hossa and Chara and then they made it to the big one. Funny how that goes.
In the end though it was management and coaching that did them in, imo. The inability five years ago to address goaltending and the lack of muckers on the club. Jacques Martin's strange passionless coaching. And then when they decided to change the face of the club the thrashing about and questionable decisions, the biggest of which of course was choosing Wade Redden over Chara.
Now Redden will be gone too as will Emery. Alfredsson is getting up there and they have a pile of cash tied up in two guys who have, what, zero goals in their last ten playoff games? Something like that.
Last year's club played power vs power with the Pens, a little easier with a team that had no Hossa, no Sykora and an overwhelmed Malkin. Alfredsson's line faced Crosby, a matchup both coaches lived with for the most part. As the series wore on however there were times that Crosby took on the second line, Fisher, Schaeffer and Comrie, or a line of Kelly, Neil and Vermette.
A year later that whole second line was either gone or injured as were Kelly and Alfredsson. Not the same team and no surprise that the Pens wiped them out.
The question is what the future holds now for this franchise. The window for a team that had so much talent has now officially closed.

20 comments:

Navin Vaswani said...

it's funny that after your team gets thoroughly embarrassed and thoroughly outplayed the first thing you do is trash the Leafs and Sundin. typical senators fan. last season was last season, and sundin is what alfredsson dreams about being.

but whatever makes you feel better.

Black Dog said...

Um, yeah I'm not a Sens fan pal. And I actually think Sundin is terrific.

But you're obviously a Leafs fan. How's that working out for you?

Bruce said...

For the first time in several years it is very difficult to look at the Senators with optimism for their future. They did a fine job building through the draft, made one killer off-season deal (Yashin for Chara and Spezza) and one pretty OK one (Hossa for Heatley), but mostly this team was built from within. The cap era hit them just as the group was maturing, forcing the departure of Chara and the trade of Havlat for peanuts, but they were still a force to be reckoned with.

They fared poorly in in-season trades, going after all sorts of fifth wheels and spare parts from Rob Ray to Brad May to Vaclav Varada to Tyler Arnason to Martin Lapointe, but those guys never seemed to make a (positive) impact. And they never adequately addressed the goaltending situation: the likes of Ron Tugnutt, Damian Rhodes, Tom Barrasso, Patrick Lalime, Ray Emery and Martin Gerber were the second best goalie on the ice in far too many playoff series.

The decision that bit them the hardest IMO was the one to retain Redden over Chara. While some people felt Ottawa had too many Europeans to be successful -- and that may even have been a factor in the decision -- Chara (and Alfredsson) brought lots of passion to the table, while Redden has consistently been found wanting. His career record of +159 in the regular season and -13 in the playoffs tells a story. I still remember Redden and his partner (Karel Rachunek?) blowing a simple two-on-two cover late in Game 7 against the Devils in '03 when perhaps the best Senators team missed a chance to go to the finals. Redden, supposedly the Sens' cool, calm defensive leader, left his man to try to double cover Rachunek's, and wham! A terrible blunder at the worst possible time. And last year when they finally made it to the SCF Redden and a couple of other of hotshots (notably Spezza) looked like deer in the headlights. (I certainly hope the Oilers never do anything more than kick the tires when this guy goes on the open market this summer.)

Enough has been said about Ray Emery already that I won't dwell on it, other than to say that the whole mess exposed the lack of leadership in the Ottawa organization, not just in the locker room but right to the top. The very top, judging by the vote of confidence that Eugene Melnyk gave Brian Murray last night after an utterly disastrous first season as Sens' GM.

Mr DeBakey said...

How dare you trash the greatest captain in Leaves' history!!

In Punch Imlach's book
[I think it was called - A Man in the Wrong Century],
Punch justifies his fucking over of Darryl Sittler by noting the Sittler had lead the Leaves precisely nowhere.

Lucky for Mats that ol' Punch has run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile.

Black Dog said...

bruce - never figured how hiring a guy known for regular season excellence and playoff failures fit into the plan

mr d - I do like Sundin a lot but Alfredsson was absolutely brilliant last spring - all world really, reminded me of Iginla in '04 and Bourque the first year the Bruins beat the Habs in the playoffs in 20 or so chances - late 80s or early 90s it was I think

can't help but tweak the Leaf fans - I'm surrounded by them - next up, flooding the streets after a regular season victory

Sean said...

"I don't think it's fans, I think it's media coverage, you know, there's not really a whole lot in Ottawa going on other than this hockey team."

-Ray Emery, class act.

I guess he doesn't follow politics.

Jonathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan said...

My previous comment (since deleted) was based on Emery's quotation without looking at the surrounding context. Emery's right in a lot of ways, that it isn't solely his fault or even mostly his fault. However, he's really got to figure out that he's supposed to be a professional hockey player.

rickibear said...

Jonathan: You are taught by your leaders (Players and management.)We got to watch examples of that all season.(in Ottawa and here)

Slipper said...

Poor Mats Sundin.

So much is expected from him and he's been given so little to work with.

Jonathan said...

//Jonathan: You are taught by your leaders (Players and management.)We got to watch examples of that all season.(in Ottawa and here)//

My complete thoughts on this are on my blog, and address what you're saying somewhat. I think, reading the Emery press conference transcript, that there is a disturbing tendency in Ottawa to have a double standard for players based on their performance. Emery talked about how his misbehaviour was excused when he was winning games, and he mentioned other guys who showed up late and never got called on it. Its an interesting sounding culture around that organization anyway.

IceDragoon said...

"they went further last season then any Leaf team has gone in over forty years"

Good day, Pat.

If I may?
:-)

The quoted statement above should read...

"they went further last season then any Leaf team has ever gone."

I rather like that four letter word, but if you don't, I guess all you really need is the period.
;-D

The Leafs only had to win 8 games to hoist the Stanley in 1967. Since then they've made it as far as losing the Conference Finals four times.

Louise

Black Dog said...

jonathan - I didn't catch Emery's comments but it sounds like something is rotten there

where he ends up next year will be interesting, obviously GMs love to blow the money (see Samsonov) but he is a coachkiller and he played poorly this year if he gets bought out he will still have a couple of million in the bank to run through

Europe? The minors? Can't see a team taking a chance on him unless its a deal at minimum and they tell him he's cut loose at the first sign of trouble

slipper - what, Jonus Hoglund wasn't a player? ;)

Sean said...

Whatever the problems are in Ottawa, hopefully free agents will no longer think Edmonton is the worst place in the NHL to play. And the winters are worse there too.

Bruce said...

The Leafs only had to win 8 games to hoist the Stanley in 1967. Since then they've made it as far as losing the Conference Finals four times.

Louise: Fwiw, the 1932 Leafs had to win three series to take the Cup. Odd six-team playoff system in those days, the regular season champs of the Canadian and American divisions faced off immediately in a best-of-five semi-final, while #2 played #2 and #3 played #3 in two-game-total-goal quarterfinals, with the winners playing another 2GTG to qualify for the best-of-five finals. Leafs finished second in the Canadian Division (has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?) so had to go the three-series route.

But to win it all the Leafs only played 7 games, compiling a 5-1-1 record. So to compare their accomplishment in winning three series to that of the 2007 Senators is a stretch. OTOH, those Leafs actually did win the Cup.

And just in case you think Leafs fans (I'm not one but I used to be) hang on to ancient history like 1932, the Senators haven't won the Cup since 1927. Of course Ottawa didn't have a team for about 60 years, whereas Toronto has only lacked a team for 40. :)

DeBakey said...

Bruce,
Was Bob Cole able to keep up with the play, and remember the player's names, during the '27 Final that the Senators won?

Jonathan said...

//jonathan - I didn't catch Emery's comments but it sounds like something is rotten there//

The snippets that are reported sound worse than the whole interview in context. There's an article in the National Post on it, most of which I've got quoted here:
http://coppernblue.blogspot.com/2008/04/ray-emery.html

Bruce said...

Was Bob Cole able to keep up with the play, and remember the player's names, during the '27 Final that the Senators won?

Mr. D: I don't remember. :D

Black Dog said...

I'll have to take a look at that, jonathan; when I say rotten though I'm referring to the club as a whole

bruce and mr.d - I saw Bob Cole at Halifax airport in February of 95 - it was a Sunday and I was flying to St. John's - he looked ancient then, we're talking on death's doorstep

he still has a fine voice though

Jonathan said...

//I'll have to take a look at that, jonathan; when I say rotten though I'm referring to the club as a whole//

Then, yes, definitely there's something fishy in Denmark.