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Howdy from Ottawa where the Union of bus drivers rejected the city's 'final' offer...ho hum. Hate to be so coy about this but if we've survived this long, then why not double our pleasure and turn the 31 days so far into 62!

Ok time for the mid-season report cards...oh joy.

Dany Heatley - leads the team in points, PP goals and has a few game winners. Is a minus 6 and has only 118 shots to date, David Booth and Ryan Callahan have more. On pace for 32 goals. He records a hit a game (Naslund has more) and has missed the net 49 times. Also has a large PIM total of 54 which is 3rd highest on the team. For a guy who should be a 45-55 goal scorer and a power forward, right now he is neither. C+

Daniel Alfredsson - 2nd on the team in scoring, leads in assists and a rare even +/- rating on this team. Has 37 giveaways (26th best or worst?) but counters that with 40 takeaways for 6th best in the league. Only has 94 shots to date (Vermette only has one less). His hits and blocked shots are on par with what a star player and a captin should atleast have considering neither are really his role. Averages 20+ mins a game, second to Heater. I would have given Alfie a higher rating than Heatley, but the fact he is on pace to barely crack 20 goals and finish with 72 points as well as his play of late I have to go with the same...guess I have to give Alfie his 'C'. C+

Jason Spezza - Leads team in goals (isn't he the setup guy?), GW'ers and tied for lead in SH goals. 2nd on team in shots...Spezza has the same amount of goals as Nash and more than Kane, Crosby or Zetterberg. Assists...different story with only 16 on the year...on pace for a mere 66 points and is a -7 so far. As a centre, his faceoff % is average at 51% which is compounded by the fact Hartsburg has him taking 33% of the teams draws, 9th highest in the league. As with Heatley more PIM's then you want to see with 30, tied for 4th on team. 4th in the league with 45 giveaways and his 15 hits are quite low. I know it is easy to follow everyone's lead and rip Spezza...but this season has made it extra easy to do. For a guy who should be a 90-100 point scorer, his 66 point pace without injury is very bad. Not to mention he does little else for the team. C-

Mike Fisher - Same amount of points as his minus rating of 12. 3 goals on 88 shots...bascially no offense what-so-ever. Cracks the NHL's top 20 in hits and leads team with 101 overall. While his 28 blocked shots are decent for a forward, Kelly has more. As a centre his faceoff numbers are brutal...50% on the year which would put him 171st in the league...and he is taking 23% of the teams draws. Coupled with Spezza, that's 56% of the teams faceoffs going to guys who are 50.5% on the draws...can't get the puck, cant score right? Decent number of Takeaways and a good +9 GvA/TkA ratio, though Tootoo has the same number. To be frank on Fisher, Chris Kelly has been better and if you discard the 8 point difference between Neil and 'Fish, Neil is as good as Fisher so far. Luckily I can't give Fisher a 'D' due to him dating Carrioe Underwood. C-

Antoine Vermette - Same amount of points as his minus rating of 12. 4 goals on 93 shots...bascially no offense what-so-ever. GvA/TkA ratio of +1 isn't very good. His 44 hits which is positive compared to last year, and 14 blocked shots is ok. His key contribution is his 61% faceoff rate which is close to best in the NHL...but he has taken 100 less draws then 50% man Fisher. Maybe more faceoffs should go Vermette's way, even if he's only on the ice to take draws. Would also help the PP if he was on the point and taking draws then having 'Fish out there. Overall Vermette is average, but with the lack of offense this year (he should be a 20-25 goal man, not an 8-12 goal boy) I have to downgrade him. C-

Nick Folingo - Almost the same amount of points as his minus rating of 13. 6 goals on 66 shots ain't bad but bascially no offense what-so-ever. Positive number of hits and has an excellent GvA/TkA ratio of +10. Only 10 blocked shots for a hard-nosed guy. I have to admit I'm disappointed in Folingo's point production, but maybe he is no better than a 3rd line guy. He has struggled a ton on the road this year, but because of effort he gets the same as Vermette and Fisher. C-

Chris Kelly - Only 11 points but isn't here to score. A -4 rating doesn't look that bad when you see the guys above. His 51 hits a good, his 31 blocked shots are excellent for an NHL forward and his GvA/TkA ratio is a whopping +18. He isn't much of a faceoff guy, running at 48%, but he isn't a centre by trade. Obviously would like to see more than 59 shots, but again...he isn't here to score. Kelly has been in my bad books since he was signed to over $2 million a season, however when you look at guys like Fisher and Vermette, Kelly clearly is beter than them overall. Hard to believe, but given the role Kelly is supposed to play on this team he is one of our best forwards right now. B+

Jarrko Ruutu - Looking past the bite, Ruutu has added some offense with 10 points and has a respectful -2 rating on a low scoring Sens team. Ruutu has landed 71 hits, blocked 20 shots and has a positive GvA/TkA ratio. He has even driven 46 pucks towards the net. He has been a good PK player and is as good home as he is away. 70 PIM's is par for the course with Jarrko, you know that when you sign him. Again like Kelly, given what Ruutu is on the Senators to do he is clearly doing his part. B

Chris Neil - Not much of a scorer, although he has more goals than McAmmond and one less then Fisher. His -10 rating is not pretty however. Is on pace for 160+ hits this season and is this teams only fighting threat. Not many blocked shots, but not much ice time...though he has a +12 GvA/TkA ratio. Given his role and being the only guy who's answers the bell night in and night out you have to respect that. But the -10 rating does bump him down a grading. B-

Jesse Winchester - 10 points on the year and a -3 rating. Has 53 hits, 10 blocked shots and a positive GvA/TkA ratio. Has even dropped the gloves twice. Not bad for a former CJHLer. As one person who messaged me pointed out, Jesse hasn't cost us a game this year and given the lack of any forwards in 'Bingo I guess Winchester has a spot on this team. B

Shean Donovan - 7 points and the rare even rating on this club. More takeaways than giveaways and 11 blocked shots in minimal ice time, yet only 11 hits. Donovan could be bringing more to the club but given his PK role, ice time and salary here is his grade. C+

Dean McAmmond - The former 1st rd pick has 4 points in 28 games, averaging nearly 10 mins of ice per contest. An even rating yes, but for a centre his 44% just doesnt cut it. 13 hits and 4 blocked shots aren't too sexy either. I have always liked Dean, but this season his play has really gone down. Maybe in the second half he picks it up. C-

Cody Bass, Ilya Zubov, Ryan Shannon, and Zack Smith - Bass is really the only defensive/physical presence out of this group and to be honest the Sens miss him as all the heavy lifting has been put on Neil's shoulders. In 25 total games this group has just 3 assists and is -4. While I think highly of Bass and believe if not for injury Shannon could have been a point producer, Zubov has been a big disappointment. And to be honest here folks if just one of these above mentioned players got points in back-to-back games they could have wrote there ticket to atleast a 20-game look from the team. When you're trying to break an NHL roster 3 assists from 5 players won't cut it. D

Filip Kuba - Best Senator so far this season. 22 points, +8 rating on the worst offensive team in the league and is the best puck mover from the 'D' on the club. Same number of PP points as Alfredsson. You can clearly see he is missed every game he is out...was playing the most mins on the team. He clearly could hit more, but his 54 blocked shots make up for it. Had he not got injuried...and this wouldnt have happened as it isn't a sexy pick...but I would have voted him as the Senators All-Star rep. For all the heat Bryan Murray gets, he was right in getting Kuba...now just re-sign him. A

Chris Phillips - 60 hits, 58 blocked shots, 22:30 a game and plays both PP and PK. Only has 8 points, but he is the shutdown defensemen. Most disheartning though is his -19 on the year. There is no way to breakdown -19 and spin it positive. It's a brutal number and 4th worst in the league. We need more from Chris...he wears a letter and should be able to command some leadership in the room. He is a player that has always been good in the playoffs, if not our best defender...he needs to be that player NOW. C+

Anton Volchenkov - 3 points and a minus 13. But points arent his game and alot of his minus woes have come paired with Phillips. Injuries haven't helped his cause, but he gets hurt working hard. 91 hits and 87 blocked shots are a testament to that. His GvA/TkA ratio is best among OTT defenders. Overall you have to say where would this team be defensively without the 31 games Anton played? But also the -13 can't go unnoticed. B

Jason Smith - Apparently one of the best leaders in hockey (we could use some of that to right this ship) has had a solid year in terms of what he does best...75 hits, 90 blocks. But everywhere else he fails...no offense and a -21 GvA/TkA ratio. Atleast his -5 doesn't look to bad considering he is playing 18 mins a night, which in my opinion is 3 mins too much. A bad signing my Murray overall...he lets Pressing go and trades Corvo (puck-moving defensmen) then signs this guy to save $600-700 thousand? And now apparently wants Pressing back? Sorry for the rant, as for Smith he has lost a step (which any Flyers fan could have told you last year) but hits and blocks shots so I can't grade him overly poorly. C+

Alexandre Picard - An even player and with his 5 goals and 13 points has been a plesant surprise. 42 hits and 39 blocked shots aren't great for a d-man and his -23 GvA/TkA ratio is horrible but you can't overlook his 9 PPP...now with Kuba out Picard is our best defensmen on the PP. I give a 75% chance Picard will never live up to his draft-day potential, but on this team in this season he has been a welcome addition. B

Christoph Schubert - 4 points in 27 games (2 PPP's) after being benched for 12-13 games. A minus 6 rating and a minus 9 GvA/TkA ratio. 43 hits and 24 blocked shots are poor for a defensemen of Schubert's size. He has cut down his PIM's with only 9 minors so far. All told though, Schubert has been a major disappointment. Yes he prolly has a bruised ego from the benching, but this club needs defensemen and he could have stepped up and filled a top 4 spot. All signs point to him not being with this team much longer. C-

Brendan Bell - Bell is playing 17 mins a game and has recorded 5 points (3 on the PP). This from an 'offensive' defensemen. The former '67 has 15 hits and 13 blocked shots which is below average even in a 20 game span. He is also a minus 9 in the GvA/TkA ratio. I don't think he is an NHL defensemen, but given the Sens situation they have no choice at the moment. He is a servicable d-man if you have no other options. C

Brian Lee - Not much of a hitter, but his 22 blocked shots jump out at you over just 15 games. A young guy, he has to work on his minus 9 GvA/TkA ratio. Lee has only 5 pts so far and is a minus 4. 2 PPP's though and he is getting 17 mins per game. I am high on Lee and think as of right now he is better than Bell and Schubert and just a little under Picard. If given the PP time Picard gets, I think Lee would have more pts. then him. B-

Matt Carkner and Luke Richardson - Not much to grade on Carkner, only 4 mins of ice time this season...but he is 6'4. Luke on the other hand a) should have retired and b) should have never been signed by Murray. In his 25 total mins of ice time over 2 games he was a minus 3, gave the puck up twice and landed two misely hits. D

Alex Auld - Earlier in the year Auld was this team's white knight if you will. A cheap, underappreciated career backup on a struggling team who had a sparkling GAA and SV%. Now though after 25 games of Senators hockey his GAA is up to 2.64 and is 9-11-5. His SV% is still solid at .907. Maybe Auld has another 2-4 weeks of great goaltending in him, but there is no way he can be expected to be this team's #1 and lead them to the post season. He was brought here to backup Gerber and has been forced to be alot more. He has struggled of late but just think of what our club's record would look like had not for the early season play of Auld. B

Martin Gerber - 4-9-1, 2.86 GAA and a .899 SV %. Gerber is a good NHL backup and nothing more. John Muckler got ripped off big time on this one. Earlier in the year I would have cut Gerber some slack as the team in front of him stunk...but this guy does not have the ability to atleast steal one game for his struggling team. And at his current contract rate he is here till the Sens last game. D

Craig Hartsburg - They say it's all about timing and for Hartsburg he may have just by one season read his watch wrong. It is looking more and more like this franchise will have to start some sort of rebuild next season...which would be the perfect situation for Craig's patience. However he is the totally wrong fit now coaching this current squad that was expected to be atleast a playoff team but now is a 13th place team. After game 41 and regulation loss 6 of an 8 game road trip he just now calls out his star players. He has kept impact players like Neil, Kelly and Ruutu's mins down, while giving Winchester, Vermette and Fisher all the time they could want. He has been hard on Folingo when he should have been softer and soft on mistakes from the backend when he should have been hard. His tough-love stance with Schubert did this team no favours as now it needs Schubert due to injury. The PK has slipped alot from its solid start, and the PP has been mostly down all year. He can't be blamed for the lack of scoring that's on Murray for the personnel and the star players for vastly underachieving. Also cannot be blamed for Gerber's massive struggles...he has done things correctly overall in his treatment of the goalies, unlike Paddock. But it all comes back to timing. Hartsburg would have been the best candidate next season to coach this team...but I don;t think he'll get that chance due to this season. C

Bryan Murray - We won't see his draft impact while he is still GM, but from the early returns it is NOTHING like the Anaheim class he drafted. And I don;t mean the no-brainers like Getzlaf and Perry...look at the 'Bingo roster and the cupboard is bare. He dealt Eaves in that misguided Stillman-Commodore move and wouldn't pay Meszaros (who has struggled on an even worse TB team). Thinking back he gave up on Boechenski, wouldn't give either Folingo, Bass or Lee ice time until the team was too injuried and had no choice. Quite frankly he thought 'his boys' were good enough and that no rookie should crack the top 20. Well that thinking was ultimately wrong in the long run as now this franchise has not one good offensive prospect and Brian Lee as it's only serviceable NHL-caliber defensemen. As for player personnel moves, it has been hit or miss. The Carilona trade was bad, signing Jason Smith hasn't helped and the overpaying of Kelly and Vermette now look silly. Ruutu was a good deal as was the Tampe trade, however remember that Kuba is a UFA at the end of the season and will be getting a raise. Sure the team is underachieving but Murray wanted a team with more grit...now he has it and it's 13th place even lower than the Leafs who don't have near the talent level. It is clear as day Murray is gone at the end of the season at the very latest, but even after 41 games not a deal done in a desperate attempt to right the ship. Maybe there isn't a deal to be done...or maybe it's just that like always Murray values 'his boys' way more than anyone else. If the rumours are true Melnyk won't let Murray make moves, then you can't totally fault him but then you read from damn-near every hockey news source that Spezza to CGY for Regher and Lombardi....you see why Eugene would say no. As I've written before that deal is like trading Spezza for Phillips and Fisher...would anyone in there right mind do that deal right now? UM NO. D

Colin Jeffrey - [email]colin_jeffrey@hotmail.com[/email]

www.mvn.com/senatorsrow
Filed Under:   Ottawa Senators   NHL  
January 10, 2009 9:19 PM ET | Delete
Lots of passing grades on potentially the worst team in the league.
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