Friday, October 07, 2005

The most one-sided swap since Pederson-Neely

Earlier in the week I said good riddance to the news that Greg Millen had left the Sens broadcasting team. We’ve apparently traded one goalie for another, because now on board as the Ottawa region color commentator for Hockey Night In Canada is Ron Tugnutt.

Tugnutt spent four great years in a Senators uniform, and I would imagine his time in the nation’s capital was the highlight of his career. During his stint, the Sens’ maturation into an elite team hit full stride.

Despite always putting up great numbers in Ottawa (he averaged a 2.345 GAA and .906 SV% over the four season), Tugnutt was never perceived as a true number one goalie by a lot of the fans of the team. He often juggled the starter role with Damian Rhodes, but it seemed like when it came down it to, Tugnutt had the confidence of Jacques Martin more than “Dusty” and got the call in the big games. After stepping in for an injured Rhodes in the ’96-’97 season, and performing brilliantly, Tugnutt was a major reason the Sens even took the Sabres to overtime of game seven in their first ever playoff appearance. Derek Plante’s overtime winner, seemingly going right through “Tugger”’s glove, to this day remains one of the most heartbreaking moments in the history of the franchise.

You’d think an all-star selection and the third lowest NHL GAA in 50 years in ’98-’99 would’ve convinced the fans and management of the Ottawa Senators that there was no need to look elsewhere for a starter to guide them to the Cup, but you’d be wrong. In March of 2000, at the trade deadline, the team made their biggest deadline deal in history by sending Tugnutt and defenceman Janne Laukkanen to the Pittsburgh for Tom Barrasso and his two Cup rings. Tugnutt found out while sitting on the toilet and the TV on in the background, and though he expressed extreme disappointment at the reality of leaving Ottawa, Tugnutt departed Ottawa the same way he was for his entire tenure: a true class act.

With a playoff showdown against the Leafs on the horizon, they felt they need a proven winner. They lost in six games to Toronto, and though you’d be hard pressed to make the argument that Barrasso was why they lost, he certainly did not win them any games either, which was what we were sold on him being capable of doing.

It was poetic justice, then, that Tugnutt with the Pens went further into the playoffs than the Sens did with Barrasso. After leaving Ottawa, Tugnutt bounced from the Pens to the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he served as a stable force for an otherwise unstable expansion team, before finishing his career in Dallas last season.

Going right from the net to the booth seems like it would be a difficult transition, but Tugnutt seems confident.

Tugnutt will call the Senators-Sabres CBC regional telecast alongside Ottawa native Mark Lee.

"I'm kind of being thrown into the fire right away, but I'm looking forward to it," said Tugnutt, 37.

"I've been playing hockey my whole life. Talking about it shouldn't be too hard."

There is probably more to it than that, but Tugnutt, like another former fan favorite turned broadcaster Shaun Van Allen, always had a superb work ethic and if he applies himself to his new gig with the same tireless effort he did his hockey career, he’ll be a natural in no time I’m sure. Given that he was so popular in the community for his entire tenure in Ottawa, Sens fans will probably be more than willing to cut him a lot of slack.

I am a little worried about this though:

Tugnutt spent part of yesterday huddled In Peterborough with one of them -- former Senators analyst Greg Millen, an HNIC veteran.

Uh oh.


At 11:55 AM, Blogger Jes Gőlbez said...

A cat in heat would be less annoying than Greg Millen. Congrats on the trade up.

At 2:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tood bad he sucked worse than Millen. His voice is soooooo monotonous.

At 3:22 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Well it was his first game. I didn't see the broadcast but I heard he wasn't very good.

At 10:09 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Is Tugnutt taking over for millen on Sportsnet? I think Millen is still working with HNIC, just not Sportsnet.

At 6:10 PM, Anonymous Jordan said...

Tugnutt took over for Millen on HNIC. Millen has left for LeafsTV. Although Tugnutt was tentative his first time in the booth, you can blame some of that on HNIC as they had sound problems. Also, lets not forget how nerveracking it must be to speak in front of an audience that large for the first time.

I'm sure Tugger will watch the HNIC tape all week, and show a big improvement next Saturday. He's the kind of guy who has a hell of a work ethic.


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