Thursday, January 05, 2006

Boston 3 Ottawa 2

I didn't see much of the game, because, like a lot of you, I'm sure, I spent Thursday night watching Team Canada take apart the Russians to win the World Junior Championship, but what did I see, I didn't like. However, based on all reports, it wasn't a lack of effort that led to the loss, so there isthat positive.

The fact is, the team is horribly undermanned right now. They played without Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Martin Havlat, Brandon Bochenski, and Brian Pothier, who was a late scratch due to a foot injury. On the TV broadcast, it was reported that both Chris Neil and Peter Schaefer were playing through a flu bug that, if the team wasn't so banged up elsewhere, likely would've kept them out of the line-up all together.

This is one of those gut check moments. The great teams find ways to win regardless of the fact they have several key players on the sidelines hurt. If Ottawa is truly the great team many have labelled them, they too will find that way. The road won't be easy, though.

There is some good news on the way. Alfredsson has resumed skating and the most recent projections have him back maybe by next week, but more likely in two. That's more time than anyone, Alfredsson included I'm sure, would like, but considering how scary the injury looked when it occured, three weeks can't be seen as too severe.

There remains no timetable on Jason Spezza. To say I, as a fan, have grown tired of this soap opera would be a bit of an understatement. What frustrates me most about it, frankly, is the general shrug-of-the-shoulders "we'll see how it feels" attitude everyone seems to be taking. Yeah, it's not March, and there shouldn't be a rush to get him back if he's not healthy, but at the same time, the team is struggling on nights when he's not in the line-up. Jason Spezza has become a big part of this team, and asked for that role, yet doesn't seem willing to play through pain and show the toughness truly elite players have to display throughout a gruelling season. Man up already.

The fact the franchise isn't willing to bring in help for the team when they're playing shorthanded is also something that doesn't sit well with me.

Basically, the Ottawa Senators have a budget, and apparently, there is no exceeding it. That budget, right now anyway, is about $35 million. The $39 million salary cap doesn't apply in the nation's capital because we have one of our own, and thus, an increased cap next year will likely have little implications on whether or not the team can keep the key players around.

Back in the spring of 2003, when Eugene Melnyk bought the team, I recall many a times when he lamented that he was willing to spend whatever to win. That he viewed this team as a loss leader, and that his passion for the game exceeded his desire to have this organization be yet another profit earner for the billionaire.

Yet here we are, not even three years later, and Melnyk has changed his tune considerably. I don't think you have to be Kreskin to see what has happened. Back then, Melnyk was just a fan. One with a whole lot of money, true, but at his core, just a fan. He's since been around the rest of the NHL owners and Commissioner Gary Bettman, for whom the idea of willingly losing money has to be crazy, for a while, and has likely bought into their philosophies hook, line, and sinker.

So now Melnyk wants to make as much money as possible with this team. The Ottawa hockey fans have responded tremendously post-lockout, setting all sorts of attendance records. They're averaging over 19,000 a game at the Corel Centre this season and have already packed more than 20,000 into the building on a few occasions.

How has the organization responded? By saying, this is the team, like or not, we're not going to add any pieces, nor will we keep any extra players around. That has resulted in a few games this year where Ottawa had to play with only 17 skaters. Tonight in Boston was one of them.

The same way I want Jason Spezza to suck it up and get in there if it truly is a matter of his pain threshold, I want the folks who run this team to realize this kind of season isn't going to come around too often, if ever, and it would be foolish for them to squander it because a billionaire owner doesn't want to spend a few extra bucks to make sure there are enough players around to actually ice a full team every night of the season, let alone give the GM some money to improve the team when they become crippled with serious injuries.

I'm not panicking about the team's recent inconsistent play, because every year has peaks and valleys, and when you lose the kind of manpower they have, you're bound to struggle, but it should would be reassuring if the suits and ties of this club showed some desire to stop the bleeding before it spreads.

2 Comments:

At 12:44 AM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

First off, the game ended up 4-2, not 3-2. From what I saw the game was fairly evenly matched but that isn't saying much considering it was Boston. Ottawa's PP was once again a sore spot. They only had 1 shot on their first 3 PPs and didn't get much going on the 4th (don't know if they had a shot or not). Ottawa's best players were once again the guys who crash the net. Neil, Fisher, etc. Heatley (1 shot, -2) just doesn't look like the same player when he doesn't have a highly skilled player to play with (like Kovalchuk in his Atlanta days or Spezza/Alfredsson). Smolinski just doesn't cut it as a #1 center.

I am no CBA expert but as I understand it, most of the playoff revenues will be used as part of the revenue sharing plan. This means Ottawa can't recoup picking up a big salary by expecting to play an extra playoff round or two and they probably aren't going to get much, if anything, through revenue sharing. So, in essense, Ottawa might actually have less money to work with this year than in past years.

I do expect they will add a player at the trade deadline (especially if the injuries continue) but probably not a significant piece like a Dough Weight. They just don't want to give up that much in prospects and draft picks and mortgage the future.


Back in the spring of 2003, when Eugene Melnyk bought the team, I recall many a times when he lamented that he was willing to spend whatever to win. That he viewed this team as a loss leader, and that his passion for the game exceeded his desire to have this organization be yet another profit earner for the billionaire.


Don't believe everything you hear. If you want to sell season tickets (and Ottawa desperately needed to sell them back then) you have to come out and say you will spend money to make a winner. You won't sell season tickets by saying "we'll only spend to the extent we can afford even if that means losing key players"

 
At 6:03 PM, Blogger Andrew said...


There remains no timetable on Jason Spezza. To say I, as a fan, have grown tired of this soap opera would be a bit of an understatement. What frustrates me most about it, frankly, is the general shrug-of-the-shoulders "we'll see how it feels" attitude everyone seems to be taking. Yeah, it's not March, and there shouldn't be a rush to get him back if he's not healthy, but at the same time, the team is struggling on nights when he's not in the line-up. Jason Spezza has become a big part of this team, and asked for that role, yet doesn't seem willing to play through pain and show the toughness truly elite players have to display throughout a gruelling season. Man up already.


Chris, stop whining.

Would you prefer Spezza try to rush back like Redden did (while you were whining about him), and aggravate the injury even more? The path you're suggesting is one that will lead to Spezza playing less games, not more. Oh wait.... he already tried to come back after Alfie went down, and he obviously wasn't ready.

I would rather go into the playoffs as close to 100% healthy as possible even if it means losing games due to players taking a little extra time to heal up. Face it, playing thru the pain is something to do at the end of the season in the playoffs, but is beyond braindead in the regular season.

Getting healthy should be the Sens first priority - not trying to rush back to win games in the short term.

 

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