Back in the saddle today! Well, gingerly back in the saddle. And riding a very slow old Shetland pony. But, believe me, it's a saddle. And I'm in it. Or on it. Whatever. Hey, if you ever need a hernia repaired, take the doctor’s orders and buy jockey briefs. 'Nuff said.
Okay I’ve missed everything. Sens are out. Sweep. RC Cola and my red cords both suck. Old news now. Time now to leap into the “Gasp, what are we gonna do now” discussion.
First of all, I think it’s so hard for Cup finalists to match the hunger of other clubs the very next season. In 06, Tampa and Calgary were gone in round one. In ’07, Carolina and Edmonton both missed the playoffs. Here in ’08, Ottawa and Anaheim were gone quickly too.
Those teams, generally speaking, are still very good. But the NHL is thick with parity. Dynasties are dead. Cup finalists aren’t that much better than most teams and they certainly can’t match the hunger of a club which hasn’t even had a recent whiff of the mug.
I think that’s what did in the Ducks. I still love the makeup of that team. But everyone gunned for the Ducks all season. There were no easy games. By playoff time, Dallas just had more energy and desire.
That was part of Ottawa's story too. But the Sens still need to a facelift this summer. When Bryan Murray heads off to the market on Canada Day, thinking about his Stanley Cup recipe, the following should be part of his shopping list of required ingredients.
1. Two defencemen. A puck mover and an obnoxious banger. Niklas Lidstrom and Mike Komisarek would be fine, thank you. Unavailable? Of course. Find the next best available versions of them. The outgoing Wade Redden and Mike Commodore are not those guys.
2. One pitbull forward. Maybe two. The Gary Roberts factor. Pitbulls who are traditionally hard to play against at playoff time are mandatory. They’re usually not expensive because they don’t produce regular season points. Without them, opposing skill players have too much time and confidence and they will pick you apart. Pitbulls kill will and skill (and punch guys who turn lame phrases like that in the face).
They also chip in offensively because they crash the net and cannot be intimidated. Once other clubs get preoccupied by pitbulls (as Ottawa did early on with Roberts), it opens the door again for your snipers.
Sean Donovan and Mike Fisher will be great in the pitbull role next spring. But they need help. Chris Neil needs to be smarter. He takes too many dumb penalties, partly because he now has a reputation with officials. Fisher and Donovan will get away with crashing the net and other varied mayhem. Neil is penalized every time he gets nasty, limiting his effectiveness.
3. A limo to Ottawa for Jeff Glass. With Martin Gerber as mentor, begin grooming Glass or Brian Elliott to be your future number one. It probably won't happen as quickly as it did for Carey Price in Montreal. But Glass has the most potential to be a big game goalie. Like Price, he backstopped Canada to a gold medal (2005) at the World Juniors. Like Price, he was the CHL goalie of the year (2005). Glass had a 2.88 goals against average and a .913 save percentage in Bingo this year. Ray Emery can take his circus somewhere else.
4. Pat Burns. A local, bilingual, no-BS, proven, respected winner with a Stanley Cup ring? Oh yeah. Those guys grow on trees. Who needs that? Sign him today, Bryan. Mike Babcock isn’t gong anywhere.
That's it. I believe that’s all this club needs to do this summer. That and get some rest. Recharge. Get healthy. As Anaheim showed us, all the right ingredients, including a great finish to the season, guarantee nothing. It’s hockey. Stuff happens. But despite the terrible second half they had, the Sens are still very close.
Steve's in Trouble - Heard yesterday the owner isn’t very happy with me for having some morning show fun with the Game 3 pre game show last week. So be it. The whole city was emailing us with a negative and comical reaction to the centurion at centre ice yelling at Sens army to rise up. It wasn’t, you know...um...good.
Besides, the Sens already had the hype machine they needed that night. Daniel Alfredsson’s triumphant, unbelieveable return to the lineup. Just play a highlight package of the captain and you have the crowd going bananas. And I dunno, maybe put him in the starting line up too. You know, so the crowd can go bonkers during Stu’s announcements? That coveted atmosphere everyone keeps pining for? Didn’t happen. But what do I know?
Draft - The Sens’ early exit means a much earlier draft pick. At 18th pick, the Sens can keep it all local. Drafting in Ottawa, the Sens should grab Ottawa 67’s defenceman Tyler Cuma. Not just because of the local tie. But because he’s going to be an NHL star.
Farewell Reds - Wade Redden deserves kudos on his way out the door. Great guy. So good in the community with Wade’s world, a suite he paid for nightly for very deserving kids. His game is nowhere near where it needs to be, however. Perhaps he's been playing injured. Let's hope so, for his sake. At the rate his game is regressing, I believe he'll be out of hockey in three years.
Avery-Brodeur - There’s been a lot of debate about Martin Brodeur not shaking hands with Sean Avery. My colleagues on the show this week said it was a classless move by Brodeur. I don’t know what they’re basing that on. Unless you have the full story on what Avery has done and said to Brodeur, all opinions are uninformed.
Montreal celebration? - So Habs fans torched cop cars for a first round victory? What will they do if the Habs nail down their 25th Cup? Sheesh, simmer down. Thankfully, most Habs fans don't get involved with that garbage.
But here's a memo for the pile that did.
They'll be ready for you next time. There will be a much larger police presence with video cameras everywhere. This week, most of the nation is painted your city's fans with the same brush. Crazy and violent. Because of you. No city needs that reputation. If you're planning on an encore performance in a couple of weeks, plan on a healthy blast from a taser gun and 6 months in jail.