Thursday, November 10, 2005

All is not well after all

With the Ottawa Senators the talk of the NHL, widely considered to be among the most exciting and dominant teams in the league, you'd think everything is going great and everyone is happy.

Not the case.

The rumblings of Vaclav Varada's unhappiness with his current role, a fourth line checker, have been bubbling lately, and came to the surface in today's Ottawa Sun, where Varada expressed his displeasure.

"If things are going to change, I will feel better," said Varada. "The situation is not good for me. I'm glad the guys are playing well and we are winning games.

"I just want to play more. I think I'm a better player than to just play five minutes a game. In the last game, I didn't have many shifts. What can you show the coach if you are not playing? I just have to try to do the best that I can do in this situation, but it's not easy because I want to play more...

"I like the fact that we're winning, but I would like to feel part of the winning," said Varada. "Right now, I'm not feeling like I'm part of it, but the guys in here have been great to me."

He's right. Varada makes too much money, $1.2 million, to be relegated to a fourth line role with 5 minutes of ice time a game. While he brings a certain intensity and some experience, in this new cash strapped NHL, where every dollar counts, it seems to me like it would make more sense to give that spot to a Denis Hamel, who can do a lot of the same things Varada can and would take up almost $800,000 less against the $39 million salary cap.

As the article notes, with the way the team is rolling, it's difficult to find a spot for Varada outside of that fourth line. Going into this year, the left wing position was said to be the weakness of the team, but the three players ahead of V on the depth chart, Dany Heatley, Peter Schaefer, and now Mike Fisher have been among the Senators' most consistent players night in and night out. Who do you remove to put Varada in?

In some ways, Varada has been spoiled since coming to Ottawa. When healthy, most often, he was paired up with Radek Bonk and Marian Hossa on one of the top two lines. Jacques Martin liked the grittiness he brought to that line, and for the most part, he was effective. Now, with both of them gone, he's been left without someone to combo with. Bryan Murray is a big advocate of chemistry and likes the idea of creating lines based on how players mesh. Jason Spezza with Heatley, Fisher with Chris Neil, Schaefer with Martin Havlat. Varada is left standing around.

And the truth is, it's not as if there are other dimensions to Varada's game that would justify keeping him around at that price on the fourth line. They tried using him on the second unit powerplay as the guy in front of the net causing trouble, a role that has served Neil very well, but it never amounted to any production. Unlike fellow fourth liner Chris Kelly, Varada does not kill penalties. He's simply not a good enough skater to play that part.

Senators GM John Muckler has talked about his frustration with the new NHL landscape as far as trades before, and notes that it's doubtful any deal will be made. But as Varada notes, if this trend doesn't change, it's hard to imagine he'll finish the year in the nation's capital.


At 12:26 AM, Blogger Jeff J said...

If Varada would be happier playing 10-15 minutes somewhere else than playing 5-10 minutes for the best team in the league, let him go. I'm sure there are plenty of capable players in the Sens' organization that would be happy to fill his shoes.

He was brought in to add toughness and grit. With Heatley on the top line and Neil getting a regular shift now, Varada is obsolete.

If he is moved, the sooner the better to free up as mush cap space as possible.

At 1:01 AM, Blogger Matt said...

I smell Peca trade bait!

At 1:35 AM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

You're determined to see Mike Peca in Ottawa, aren't you Matt? What did the city of Ottawa ever do to you, besides all that government stuff, to incur your wrath?


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