Sunday, 13 September 2009

Pez Days/A Somewhat Deranged Open-Letter-Rant to the Ottawa Senators

It is Jason Spezza Days
until the beginning of the hockey season!
Hello, Adorable!

I am feeling insanely lazy, so y'all can read all about him here. It occured to me today, during a conversation with a friend of mine, that I really must seem like I'm all about the Pittsburgh Penguins. While I love them dearly, and I am utterly infatuated with Kristopher Letang, this idea that the Penguins come first for me? That could not be further from the truth. Sure, they made the league's most incredible comeback of 2009. Sure, I cried at work when Sid raised the Cup. And sure, I fully kissed the Cup last month at the HHOF.

(In all fairness, it wasn't the REAL Cup, that was in Nova Scotia with a certain Mr. Sidney Crosby.)

You'd think that my loyalty was to the Penguins, but no. It would be too easy. I've been a Pens fans since the Cold War (since before said friend with whom I was conversing was born, actually). It would make sense if I could just cheer for them. I mean, I like winners. What better winners are there than Cup Champions? I even tried (for all of sixty utterly gut-wrenching minutes of play) to cheer for the Pens over the Senators in game 2 of the first round of the 2008 playoffs. Logically, I knew the Sens would lose. And yet, I could find no joy in the Pens scoring. None. Not even an iota of joy. I would break into wide smiles anytime the Pens turned over the puck or allowed a Senator a shot on goal. I knew the Sens were going to lose, but I couldn't cheer against them. I can't. Ever. It's like trying to root for the USA over Canada in the gold medal game of the Olympics. NEVER. GOING. TO. HAPPEN.

Did I mention, we got tickets to the Pens-Sens game in Mellon Arena on Christmas Eve Eve? Merry Christmas to ME!!! I get to see some of my best friends and my two favourite NHL teams all in one day! I honestly don't need anything else for Christmas. (Unless, you really want to buy my love and then I'll take a Sens hat-trick and a 2003 Lambo, but mostly that game should be gift enough for me :P)

Thing is, I will be wearing my Sens jersey, my HEATLEY jersey no less, in Mellon Arena. I'm prepared for the comments. I have my bodyguards enlisted. I hope they knew what they're in for... At some point, I'll take wagers on how many negative comments I get. Over-under is yet to be determined... but due to a very well-publicized trade the other day, I no longer have an easy-as-pie favourite Senator. This is problematic for me because I like having favourites.

After about 3 seconds of consideration, I decided that, on account of how he handled the shitstorm of criticism he took last season for not being God's One True Gift to Hockey, and by virtue of the fact that he took so much of said verbal abuse in stride and responded with unparralled calm and class, before answering his doubters by going out and playing his ass off, Jason Spezza is, until further notice, my new favourite Senator. And, to pre-empt the inevitable question, no, I don't care about the trade that made this new faovurite-ism necessary.

Okay, who am I even kidding?!? ... OBVIOUSLY, I CARE. My former-favourite-turned-league-wide-douche-bag-joke-show is gone. Goodbye and good riddance. I don't want to talk about how we gave up a 40-goal guy (who can be a 50-goal guy) for two 12-goal guys. In my heart of hearts, I know that this is still a good thing. I think. I hope. Even if we're the laughingstock of the league and we got bitch-slapped by the freaking SHARKS in the trade. At the end of the day, I know our season would have been shot to hell if Dany Heatley had stayed on the team, so cutting him loose, like amputating a limb infected with necrotizing faciitis, was a necessary sacrifice.

Cory, it's up to you to prove that this was in the best interest of the team. You better take us to a freaking conference final to prove that your decision not to play Heater last spring (therefor spurring his subsequent trade request) was done in the interest of the Greater Good.

This is the Greater Good.
This is always the Greater Good.

As much as it's been a lovely Summer of WOOOOO in Pittsburgh, we are now merely nineteen days away from a new hockey season, and in that new season I have not written off my boys in red. As of October 3rd, I do not want to hear about Sidney Crosby's day with the Cup. Or how he cut a fucking cake with a sword. I mean, WHO DOES THAT??? HONESTLY? No, I want to daydream about next summer, about how Nick Foligno will celebrate winnng the Cup by remembering his late mother, and how Ryan Shannon will take it home to some insignificant town in Conneticut and celebrate with school children and midget players, and how someone will leak photos of Daniel Alfredsson's kids dropping the Cup in their kiddie-pool.

Now, I know the Cup is a lot to ask for. So, it's not like I'm asking for THAT straight up. But keep your eye on the prize, boys... Eye. Prize. Stanley. CUP. (DOOOOO IIIITTTTTTT!!!) Realistically, if my boys in red can please just focus on winning a few dozen games, that would be awesome. Kthxbai.

Now, how, you ask, are we going to do that? Let me tell you how... or, well, why there is a faint hope that we can.

These fine young men are (from L to R): Sens goal- tending prospects, Robin Lehner, Linden Rowat and Andrew Volkening.

Hello my lovelies. Can you stop Mr. Puck? Please say yes. You'll be my new favourite Senators if you can shut down Sid and Geno. Also, Linden, sweetheart? You need to meet my friend Lauren. She will coddle you accordingly. Even if you are a Sens prospect.

Goal-tending. It's sort of a running joke (albeit a bad one than makes me want to raid Kylie's stash of Dramamine) that it's not Ottawa if there isn't a 'goal-tending situation.' Honestly, I can't tell you the last time, if ever, that I felt any degree of loyalty and/or faith in Ottawa's goalie. It may have been back for that split second when Dominik HaĊĦek played for us... and even then, he was getting old, one could even say past his prime. Still, looking at the roster that season makes me CRY. Look at the names... LOOK. AT. THE. NAMES.

HEATLEY. Alfredsson. Spezza. CHARA. EAVES. Fisher. Neil. HAVLAT. HASEK. McGRATTEN. Volchekov. REDDEN. So many names... good names...

For the most part, they were in their prime. But in Ottawa we are used to having our boys FAIL to live up to their potential. And we're even more used to having shit-all between the pipes. We do not have a bona fide starting goal-tender. We rotate through guys who will be career back-ups and we hope they can do the job long enough for us to find someone mediocre to pick up when their save percentage dips below 0.800... We've been doing this for years. And we wonder why we suck? We. Need. A. Franchise. Goalie.

Having a good, SOLID, goalie, even if he's not a Hall of Famer, is crucial. I mean, Chris Osgood is not the best goalie EVER, but he's SOLID. He's a keeper. Marc-Andre Fleury sits on the puck from time to time. Sometimes this strategy is not so great (2004 WJC and the 2008 SCF, anyone?) and sometimes it's not so bad (2009 SCF). But, to be fair, the kid has a Championship ring, so he can't be half bad. Even a guy like Rat Bastard Cam Ward, who won his first Cup in his ROOKIE SEASON, has clearly been doing something right. I mean, it's not RBCW's fault that the Canes' defence fell apart in the 2009 ECF or that the offence slept through being swept by the Pens. Cam was still awake. Poor guy was pretty much on his own though. He is SOLID. He has been with the team for four straight seasons. When was the last time Ottawa had the same starting goalie for two straight seasons?

If we review some of Ottawa's recent gems, what do we have? Ray Emery? Diva. Darth Gerber? Errrrrrrrrr... can we not go there? I don't want to be mean. Brian Elliot? Sort of solid. Maybe? Could be. But I feel like we should know by now. He's 24. And then there's Pascal Laclaire. The jokes I heard in Syracuse alone made me wary of this trade. Fine, he was out of a starting gig in Ohio because of Steve Mason, who has what may end up being generational talent between the pipes. But STILL. For a guy who was drafted eighth overall (and I am refering to Laclaire, NOT Mason, who went 69th OA) this is not the kind of demotion one wants to advertize on their resume. When I went to see the Crunch (three days after the trade-deadline) there were jokes about Laclaire missing games because of having colds. And breaking nails. And pulling muscles most of us don't know exist. I can't be sure if it was your usual slagging on your under-performing guy, or if it was indicative of a more systemic problem Laclaire has. Jury's out on Pascal. I'll reserve judgement until we're 20 games into the season, but so far, I'm not sold. Verdict? Ottawa goal-tending is about as solid as Delta, B.C. during the Big One.*

*For those of you who don't know Vancouver geography, Delta is aptly named because it is a river DELTA and therefor pretty much MUD. During the Big One, the ground will undoubtedly liquefy and we can kiss a massive municipailty in the Lower Mainland goodbye as it disintergrates into the Pacific Ocean. That is how solid Ottawa's goal-tending is.

What has rekindled my faint semblance of faith in this alltogether hopeless situation, is due to the burst of raw talent Robin Lehner, the Sens' second-round pick last June, showed in the Kitchener Prospect Tournament last week. If this is some indication of what we have to look forward to, we might have someone decent in goal in the 2011-2012 season. Or sooner.

If the prospects tournament games are any indication, Robin Lehner is catching onto the the 'North American game' a lot faster than anyone thought he would. In a couple of solid games in the Kitchener Prospects Tournament (the other teams participating were the Baby Bruins, Baby Leafs, and Baby Penguins), Lehner stopped 40 of the Pens' 41 shots, helping the Sens to a 4-1 win, then stopped 26 of 27 shots in a game against the Leafs three nights later. The Sens won 7-1. Oh, how I wish I could say that more often.

Until further notice, and as insanely unrealistic as it is to do so, I am rooting for Robin Lehner to start in net in Ottawa. Sorry Brian Elliot. Screw you, Pascal Laclaire. I like my goalies young and hot and capable of making 66 saves on 68 shots in two games. I don't give a shit if he's only 18. I also don't care if this was just a prospects tourney. And I REALLY don't care if he's never played in North America. He'll learn fast. He clearly already is learning fast. I don't want to lose him to the Soo Greyhounds. Oh, and add him on facebook. Just for kicks.

Speaking of fun Sens-related-stuff, Nick Foligno has a blog this season. It's almost as good as a Heatley Twitter would be if it was in the spirit of the pre-2009-trade-deadline Brian Burke Twitter. I am so not funny enough to do a parody twitter, or I'd have one of Dany Dearest (the @*#&er).

Right, so, back to the point which was Jason Spezza.

Jason, darling,
I have great expectations of you this season. I think the the demise of the CASH line is a blessing in disguise. For you, in particular. Last season you took a lot of criticism, with a touch of class I did not know you had. I was impressed. I've always had a bit of trouble with you getting cute with the puck and dangling it a little too dangerously as you try (unsuccessfully) to channel Mario Lemieux or Sidney Crosby, and I feel like sometimes you need a kick in the ass and a reminder to keep it simple. That all said, I did appreciate your work ethic last year. I also appreciate how you've just kept to yourself and worked your butt off this summer as your former-linemate has been the centre of the most ridiculous NHL media-circus NOT involving the American judicial system. And, if you'll post a point a game through the first half of the season, I can even forgive you the hideous house you bought in Westboro and how it kind of uglies up my old neighbourhood.

Talk to Cheechoo about the scoring thing. I'm sure he'd like to have another 50-goal season. Figure something out. You're a good play-maker. You made Heater a wicked sniper, you can do the same for Cheech.

Now, can we talk about attitude, please? Jason, I love your attitude and how you are always so freaking happy-go-lucky. Now, how can we get some of those good vibes in the locker room? You guys have so much experience in that dressing room right now, it hurts me. It doesn't matter that we're down a 50-goal guy (it's not like he's done it since 2007 anyways). Hockey is a team sport for a reason. So find some chemistry (I know it's there somewhere) and tell the coaches to take some chances on some young guys. I mean look at who just won the Cup. Look at their roster. Look at how young they are. You have Alfie and Kovie to play big-daddy to the team. Now all you need are some gritty little f*ckers like TK and Max Tablot. Nick Foligno and Ryan Shannon aren't QUITE that calibre of kick-ass, but honestly, Shannon plays like he's got nothing to lose and everything to prove, and I love that.

Oh, and please tell Cory to give Jared Cowen a chance. WAC will hate seeing him in a Sens sweater, but she'd hate seeing him suck even more. I'd rather she has to hate seeing him succeed than have her disappointed by him never making it to the big league. And I know she's enough of a hockey fan to want him to make it, even if she loathes the team he's been drafted to. Plus, I promised to coddle him and make him one of my favourites. And we need some young blood. Badly. I know he's VERY young for a d-man... but pretty please? At least ask Cory to give him a good shot?

Thanks Jason. Really. You're my favourite Senator now. (Okay, so maybe I love Alfie and Ryan Shannon and Mike Fisher, too, but I'll defend you most vehemently when haters start their ranting.) Please don't let me down.



Val said...

As long as there is no gold body painting involved, Spezza will be the man...

Mer, you can rant anytime, you have the gift :)

mer said...

Val, you might need to email me the explanation of that body paint comment. ????? so, utterly, confused.

And, gift or not, I will rant a lot this season... I can feel it.