Monday, May 15, 2006

Handing out grades

Before we examine how to go forward, it's only fair to address where we've been. On that note, it's time to evaluate how the roster performed in this most recent postseason.

Daniel Alfredsson C
Much will be written about Daniel Alfredsson’s performance in this series, and his future or lack there of with the organization, and I plan to give my two cents in due time, but if we’re evaluating how his playoffs went, the word that comes to mind, above all others, is disappointing. The effort was there, but he’s paid for execution, and he could not produce the way he’s supposed to. Alfredsson once again looked to be trying to do too much. The label of a choker is being to become more appropriate every year.

Jason Spezza B-
Spezza produced and tried, but too many of the same mistakes that we saw throughout the regular season and hoped he learned from reared their head for my liking. Ill-timed passes that lead to turnovers, bad decisions with the puck in the offensive zone, trying to force plays. All things I’ve written about throughout the season, and yet to see them emerge in identical forms makes me question if Spezza’s maturity level is where it needs to be for a #1 center.

Dany Heatley D
The most discouraging performance, his apologists are already pointing to his decent numbers as evidence he didn’t suck as much as we’re all saying. They’re wrong. Dany Heatley was terrible. He could not finish, was floating in his own end with regularity, and refused to be a consistently physical player. These are all things he was advertised as bringing to the table when Heatley was traded for Marian Hossa. I bet those of you would said Heater wouldn’t let us down in the playoffs the way Hoss did (he did?) feel pretty stupid, and you should.

Martin Havlat C
He was absolutely terrific in the first round against the Bolts, showing no signs of rust after missing the majority of the season with the shoulder injury, yet essentially disappeared in the second round. What happened? Havlat's playoff history is riddled with similar disappearing acts so you have to wonder about his makeup as a player. His return to the lineup was thought to bring the team another big scoring threat yet he was just another sniper who couldn’t score when it mattered most, and there is little else to Havlat's game besides offence. He doesn't hit, doesn't kill penalties, and doesn't take faceoffs.

Mike Fisher C+
Fisher had a breakout season, scoring 20 goals despite not playing all 82 games, and was thought to be one of the secondary scoring options who could chip in with timely goals when the big guns got shut down. Unfortunately, Fisher went down with them. I give him marks for never giving up and winning a lot of one-on-one battles but they needed more from Fisher, a guy who you would think would be a big playoff performer, and he didn’t come through.

Peter Schaefer C+
Schaefer's another who had a career year yet could not carry it over to the playoffs. Everything said about Fisher can be applied to him.

Bryan Smolinski C+

If I was able to look past my anti-Smoke bias, I might even grade him higher. Though Bryan Smolinski has never been popular in Ottawa and has been deservedly labeled a floater, I felt like he had a good postseason. Scored some goals, won a lot of the battles behind the net that led to chances, and was good in his own end.

Antoine Vermette C
Ottawa’s best penalty killer in the series, Vermette gets a low grade because he was given a shot to play on the big line and could not produce. This is not a new phenomenon for Vermette, as it’s happened basically every other time the team tried to give him an increased even strength role. Hopefully this quells the calls for Vermette to be on the top two lines. He’s proven himself to be most effective in a limited 5-on-5 role.

Patrick Eaves C
Eaves seemed overwhelmed for most of his first NHL playoffs. He didn’t go to the net with as much enthusiasm, wasn’t as physical, and joined the long list of Senators who were gripping their sticks too tightly and thus couldn’t score.

Chris Neil B+
Had a tremendous first round and tried his best to make an impact in the second. It was difficult when he was getting such limited minutes, and not used on the powerplay. Neil was probably Ottawa’s most consistent hitter and managed to get under the skins of the opposition, often drawing them into dumb penalties.

Christoph Schubert B
When called upon, he shined. Always hitting and relentless on the forecheck. In game 5 of the Sabres series, he missed a huge hit on a defenceman. You’d think after that he’d be gun shy but he continued to throw his body around throughout the game. He was good on the blueline in game 1 of the second round as well, subbing for the injured Pothier.

Chris Kelly C+
Reliable in his own zone and very good on the powerplay, Kelly was put into a position he wasn’t ready for when paired with Spezza & Heatley on the top line. Chris Kelly is not a top six forward, and try as he might, he can’t do what a top six forward is supposed to do.

Vaclav Varada D
Was pulled from the line-up for a reason. In the limited minutes he got, Varada wasn’t able to be much of a factor one way or another. If nothing else, you’d expect him to mix it up and cause trouble, but he couldn’t even do that. His time as a Senator is over.

Wade Redden B
Redden was the best Ottawa Senator in the first round, by a wide margin, and therefore, he gets a good grade despite a subpar second round, though in comparison to the rest of the D, Redden was superb against the Sabres. He still made too many errors with the puck, but when you handle it as often as he does, against a strong forechecking team like Buffalo, that’s to be expected. Redden was playing with a heavy heart, and perhaps the adrenaline he was running on for the first round was tapped out and he came back down to Earth.

Zdeno Chara F
If you would have told me six months ago that Chara would quit on this team, I would’ve found that to be incredibly difficult to believe, yet that is what it looks like took place. Some have theorized that he was playing with a bad hand still, but a hurt paw doesn’t result in a diminished effort, and that is what we saw. He wasn’t hitting, he was consistently being outhustled and outworked, and with the puck, was a nightmare. In game 5, every time he got the rubber, my heart stopped. Zdeno Chara’s mind was clearly on the big bucks he’ll be getting in two months rather than doing what it took to win the Cup. And frankly, it’s not as if Chara has a sparkling playoff track record with this team for those who maintain he was injured to fall back on. Chara had one great game of the 10 postseason contests the Sens had, that’s just not acceptable given the responsibility this team has given him and the paycheck he cashed this season.

Chris Phillips C+
While I don’t buy the argument that Chara was hurt, I do think “The Big Rig” was, just because he’s been such a great playoff performer in the past. Even when the rest of the team was crumbling under pressure, Philly shined. He tweaked his knee in the Tampa series and it looked to be effecting his game. He wasn’t skating with as much vigor and shied away from contact in the corners more than he usually does. Even though he had more goals (2) in the playoffs than he did in the regular season (1)

Andrej Meszaros D
Another one I didn’t see coming. Meszaros might be given a mulligan because it was his first playoffs, but he played like such a season veteran all season long that we sometimes forgot he was a 20-year-old kid who might be overwhelmed by it all when the level of play was elevated. He could not deal with it all and became a liability too often, yet continued to get big minutes. Like Chara, when the puck was on his stick, my anxiety level increase significantly. Let’s hope he got all the playoff jitters out of his system.

Anton Volchenkov C
He recovered with a better second half of the series, and is getting a bum rap as far as goats because of one (incredibly) bad play, but he still did not have the playoffs he should have, and unlike Meszaros, cannot use the excuse that he has no experience.

Brian Pothier B
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the playoffs for Ottawa was the way Pothier stepped up. He was one of their best defenceman, which tells you the problem with the team. When your 6th defenceman is among your top blueliners, something is wrong. He scored two big goals, didn’t get outworked very often, was good on the powerplay, and didn’t turn the puck over too much.

Ray Emery B
A lot of the blame for the loss is being placed at his feet, because that’s apparently what we do as Sens fans, but Ray Emery should not be held responsible for the loss. Yeah, he gave up some bad goals, but on almost every one, a Senator in front of him let Emery down. In the deciding game Saturday night, he was too timid on the first two goals, but why was Chris Drury allowed to walk out in front untouched like that? The OT winner was not a good one, but how did Pomiville beat Alfredsson with such ease? Ray Emery did everything you could’ve asked of him, and in the first round and a couple games in the Sabres series, more. He was asked to make big saves and he did in games three and four, and even in game five. It wasn’t enough. The problem in this series was goal scoring, not goaltending.

Dominik Hasek F
Just cuz.


At 2:29 AM, Anonymous Lara said...

I'm starting to wonder if Meszaros' terrible play wasn't highly influenced bu the fact that the veteran D guys around him with the exception of Pothier and maybe Phillips played basically like total ass in the large majority of the playoffs (Round 1 Redden excluded). Can't imagine it's easy for a 20 year old kid coming into his first playoffs to try and learn how to elevate your game when the experienced guys around him fail to do so.

At 2:34 AM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

That's a fair point.

At 3:10 AM, Anonymous SensGuy said...

Mez looked bad from the final 10 or so games of the season on. I think he just wore down, and to a lesser extent, Volchenkov as well. Those two played more games than any other defenseman on the blueline if you include the Olympics and pre-season.

Overall, just very disappointing. And what's this I'm hearing about Hasek possibly being cleared to play a week before the regular season ended?

At 3:22 AM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Meszaros played even more when you remember he played in the rookie tourament as well.

At 3:24 AM, Anonymous tomd said...

You underestimate Vermette and what he can bring to the table...he was the worst utilized player on the team

watching havlat that last game has me converted to the idea that we should trade him while his stock value is high

At 3:40 AM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

You and many others have been championing this cause for Vermette on the top lines. Give it up. The guy, at this point in his career, is not built for it.

At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Rob Wiebe said...

Not related to your post, sorry, but just thought you might like to sign the "Fire Bob Cole" petition

At 9:59 AM, Blogger Jeff J said...

I don't get all this Alfie-bashing. Doesn't anyone remember his goalpost with 1 second left in game 3? An inch or two to the right and he's the hero. If you want to blame a player, blame Headcase Hasek.

As for Alfie getting beat by Pominville? Blame Murray. That was downright stupid. The Habs had the #5 PP in the league this year, and you could count on your hands the number of times they used a forward on the point. And Montreal's defense isn't exactly the calibre of the Sens' in terms of offensive ability. I can understand putting Alfie back there against Grier or Gaustad, but not Pominville and Roy.

For the series as a whole, the Sens outplayed the Sabres. They had a solid edge in shots and territorial play. The problem was Miller was vastly better than Emery. If you want to argue that Ottawa should have outplayed Buffalo by a wider margin to make up for their goaltending deficiency, then again I think you can blame Murray. There were times when you could see the same blasé dipsy-doodling they were guilty of in the regular season, while Buffalo (just like all the other successful playoff teams this year) were keeping it simple but going gung-ho every single shift. The Sens just didn't have the same urgency or reckless abandon.

At 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anshu said...

In the end, I think changes on this team will be driven by self-preservation on the part of the GM. After last season, it was easy to fire Jacques Martin and say he didn't play an aggressive enough style. It was also easy to dump Lalime, and say he's just not an elite goaltender.

However, the guys coming in to replace those two didn't deliver the cup. Nor did Heatley, or Tyler Arnason. At the trade deadline, the Sens clearly did not improve.

For Muckler to protect himself, he needs a new scapegoat, and I think that scapegoat will be Alfredsson.

The image of Alfredsson getting beat for the short-handed winner is going to stick in people's minds, and the case against Alfredsson is quite strong. I think Alfredsson has played his last game as a Senator.

At 11:23 AM, Blogger girlysportsrant said...

Think the scape goat should be Murray. The Murray brothers are notorious for being terrible coaches and underachiving. They both have terrible playoff records, mostly with teams that get upset. Very good report card but you forgot to give the coach a grade: F.

I couldnt believe Heatley just disappeared too. He did so in the World Cup and Olympics also. Maybe he just isnt a big game player.

And I do agree the main problem in Ottawa is #11, just like in Vancouver it's #19.

At 11:38 AM, Blogger Don said...

I would not be surpised to see those two traded - Bertuzzi for Alfredsson.

At 12:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You talk about how close the series was between Buffalo and Ottawa but how come you don't take into consideration the refs playing a huge factor in the series...Even your beloved Don Cherry addressed this issue talking about how unfair it was to give Ottawa so many 2 man advantages to none for the Sabres...Why don't you address the fact that other than game 1, Ottawa couldn't get any goals straight up and they also got away with anything they wanted in the series....I think had the officiating been more fair you would have seen bigger margins of vistory by the Sabres and you wouldn't be talking about how close the Sens came to winning all the games.

At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much money was wasted curbing favor with the officiating?

All that money spent on 2 man advantages....What a waste of money!

Chris Neil's Stick to Ryan Miller's Head....What Stick?


Take away all the timely 2 man advantages and constant power plays and how many goals would the Senators even score....Then you wouldn't have the one goal losses to fall back on...."Well at least they were close to winning all the games and the Sabres got the lucky goal or bounce." Riiiiight....Try even with the refs in their back pocket the Sabres still fought through it with heart and perservered through it all....The better team definitely won....The refs made it look closer than it was....Try scoring when it's five on five and tell me how close it is....

I don't know if it was the league pushing the refs to keep a canadien team in the playoffs because it's good for hockey or if the Sens footed the bill but it didn't work....One down One left.

And if it was the Sens that paid then maybe they should have spent their money on players that care and play with a little passion....Just a thought.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Boy, if Mucks traded Alfie for Bertuzzi, it'd be the last thing he ever does in Ottawa. As I've said before, any trade involving Alfredsson will involve Ottawa getting the short end. Havlat for Bertuzzi, maybe. I say Ottawa keeps Alfie, lets Chara go, deals Havlat for a beefy center or a veteran role player (with Cup ring, ideally), and we take it from there.

At 7:00 PM, Anonymous TomDechastelain said...

me and "many others" far as I know i was the only to make an issue of Vermette not being properly utilized.

I certaibnly never wanted him with Spezza and Heatley and am on record forever on the regular season showed there is only one player who clicked with those two and that was Alfie

Vermette has the most upside of our forwards and the most unrealized potential...put him in his natural position at center and a lot of good things will happen.

Mind you, and I am not up on free agency rules, I am also on record of saying that if Murray stays, Vermette will take his first opportuntiy to pull pole and go elsewhere

At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Zamboner said...

Some of these comments are hilarious.

Bertuzzi for Alfredsson?


At 9:57 AM, Anonymous Dennis Prouse said...

In fairness to Fisher, that was a pretty serious injury he was battling through. Playing with the broken orbital bone in his grill, and having to wear the mask to boot, couldn't have been easy. It's tough to expect a lot of offensive production from a guy under those circumstances.

Chara, OTOH, was perfectly awful. You want to talk about a guy NOT stepping up in the playoffs? There's your poster boy. Compare his play to the way Chris Pronger is carrying the Oilers on the back end right now, then consider that the two of them will probably be earning the same salary next season. Where's the justice in that?

Despite all our whining, I would be hesitant to detonate this team just yet. Making panic-stricken decisions after a playoff disappointment is a sure fire way to make your team worse, not better. Obviously you let Chara walk, slotting in Schubert full time. I would then take the savings and get Martin Havlat's name on a long term deal. (I'm going to assume the team is committed to paying market rate for Redden -- ideally, you get him locked up before July 1.)

At 7:52 PM, Blogger Jes Gőlbez said...

While I don’t buy the argument that Chara was hurt, I do think “The Big Rig” was,

Why is that? Is it because Chara is European and Philips is a good ol' Canadian kid? Cmon, Chara's heart should never be questioned. Few Senators have ever brought as much to the table as he has.

At 9:24 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Because Chara has sucked in the playoffs before where as this is the first time Phillips has been less than great in the postseason.

Chara quit on this team. Period. Has nothing to do with him being Slovakian.

If you read this blog with any regularity (which you clearly don't), you'd know I'm hardly work from an anti-Euro slant.

But if someone sucks and plays like shit, I'm going to call them on, regardless of where they're from.

At 12:17 AM, Anonymous MT said...

These are bang on, with one exception, in my view. A "B" for Emery? The problem was not just goal scoring - it was having a goalie who let in 3 goals on 4 OT shots. That ain't no B grade performance.

At 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with every grade up there but I think that Fisher deserves at least a "B" because he was one of the very Senators out there who gave 110% when it mattered. I don't think Fisher is meant to be a Goal scorer on the Line that he's on, he's the tough guy, defencive forward, Scheafer is the play maker, and Havlat is SUPPOSED to be scoring the goals.

I think Emery did alright even though it is true he gave up 3 goals on 4 shots in OT but every shot was a result of a huge fuck up by the senators defence allowing someone to just walk in with ease and have a clear shot to the net that there's a slim to none chance that he would have had.


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