Well the Leafs are back home after being held up in Carolina. Two more players are out of the lineup as John Pohl (disgusting ankle injury) and Antropov (rage) will be out of action tonight. In their stead Robbie Earl has made the jump to the Leafs while Boyd Devereaux will play with a heavily taped wrist so that the Marlies aren't left with a barebones squad.
In honour of tonight's first Battle of Ontario of 2008 I put Senators Lost Cojones of the wonderful Five For Smiting and Sherry from Scarlett Ice to the test with 5 questions about their rapidly imploding team. Thanks to them for taking part and please take the time to read their answers and visit their sites because it never hurts to know more about the opposition and they are shining lights of reason in the morass that is the senators' fanbase.
Anyway, after the senators 15-2-0 start to the year they have gone 17-14-4. Guess what game started the slide to mediocrity? The 3-0 lesson that the Leafs gave the senators the last time they played in Toronto on a Saturday night. So even though the Leafs won't make the playoffs we can at least comfort ourselves with the knowledge that the boys in blue and white derailed the senators' express train to titletown with one game. The Leafs are awesome.
Anyway, this is also your game thread so put your SPG guesses in the comments and try to think of all of the creative ways in which players will manage to get hurt ensuring that the Leafs are more Marlies than foliage. To read the 5 Questions and the answers and to comment click on "Full Story". GO LEAFS GO!
Sherry:I'd like to say "one controversial mask" away but the truth is until our goaltending situation gets sorted out we're kind of handcuffed right now. Gerber hasn't taken advantage of the opportunity so unless Bryan Murray performs some sort of hypnotism or memory loss procedure on some other poor GM we're stuck with him. Ed.'s Note: Ha! JFJ's gone so that plan is out the window!
SLC: I'm done with Emery. If another GM calls with an offer of a 50lb bag of potatoes and Dave Semenko's old jock strap for Emery, I'd take it in a heart beat if only to get his salary off the books. As I've said before, my biggest beef is that, unlike last year, his crap is affecting the team on the ice, which is Cardinal Sin #1 in team sports. You know, it's at times like this that I really miss JFJ.
2. So it's looking once again like the senators are setting up to have the same issue in the playoffs as last year: insufficient secondary scoring. Spezza has gone scoreless in 6 of his last 9 games which is notable because in those games he was missing his security Heatley and Alfie's turning out to be the Swedish Captain of an Ontario-based NHL team that has a wonky hip (maybe Simmons misheard his Deep Throat on the phone). What would be your ideal (and realistic) trade to shore up that gap?
Sherry: I'm really bad at putting together these fantasy trade deals but the one I like the most that's bandied about is Corvo plus spare parts for Erik Cole. I actually think our defense might be more of an issue than our offense, but with Cole you get a legitimate second liner and you can unload Corvo at the same time. As much as I like Mike Fisher, his style is more suited for a third-line role and clearly his wingers don't help him much in the scoring department. I also think Vermette could be viable trade bait. On the one hand, his speed and his glimmer of offensive spark makes him hard to part with, not to mention he's our token Frenchie, but there's just no more time to wait for him to wake up and hope for offense from him. He's become a very valuable defensive forward but Chris Kelly can kill these penalties in his sleep (and I bet he does!).
SLC: I'm basing this on the assumption that our goaltending problems evaporate and Swiss Pastry (or Swiss Cheese as he's known in the PPP/BoO corners of the interwebs) Ed.'s Note: My favourite is The Gerbatross for his contract. starts playing like the second coming of Turk Broda (see what I did there?). I think the most realistic trade possibility involves a certain lanky Swede playing in your own backyard right now (number 13 in your program ladies and gents). How does Vermette, a prospect or two and two first round picks sound Mr. Fletcher? Ed.'s Note: It would literally be over my dead body. That said, signing Forsberg and his bionic ankle later this month would take care of any need to trade away one of our roster players quite nicely. Ed.'s Note: His season-ending injury on February 27th would be the ultimate schadenfreude.
3. So, the senators will once again make it to the playoffs without having to fear having the Leafs add a fifth notch to their belt in the Battle of Ontario. How happy has this year's debacle made the two of you?
Sherry: I suppose this is where I have people questioning my loyalties when I say that this year's edition of the Leafs has not made me as overly ecstatic as I thought it would. I grew up and still live in Leafs Nation so I'm already quite familiar with what a mess that organization is so I don't see why the press is all of a sudden acting like this is news. Around the clock, front-page news even. A part of me even feels slightly sorry for them. Ed.'s Note: Pity hurts so much more than irrational hatred.
Somehow, it doesn't feel like a true Senators victory unless we stomp over the Leafs along the way, but simply put the team doesn't deserve to make it to the post-season, so we'll just stomp over you some other time. Ed.'s Note: Or never. 4-0!
SLC: Schadenfreude is a lovely word, isn't it? Truth be told, at the beginning of the season, I had really hoped we'd get to curb stomp the Leafs in the playoffs, if only to FINALLY get the more obnoxious members of the Nation to shut the hell up. Ed.'s Note: Actually, that would only put the sens 3 playoff series wins away from shutting Leaf fans up. Then I realized that that wouldn't happen anyway. Then we started playing like a Bantam house league team and the possibility of losing a fifth series to Leaf Nation, however remote, makes me nauseous. In short, I am enjoying it immensely, if only to see Peddie get what he so richly deserves.
4. You both live in pretty terrible towns (Hamilton and ottawa respectively). How much of that played a part in your becoming fans of the sens?
Sherry: Hey, I only moved to Hamilton when I started university! Ed.'s Note: There's no excuse. Go Argos!
But I did grow up in Mississauga, and I did used to be a Leafs fan but you know what? The Leafs had everything to do with me becoming a Senators fan. I was tired of being disappointed, tired of losses and indifferent management. I fell out of love with hockey because of them and the Senators helped me fall in love with hockey again.
SLC: I should get a break here. Not only do I work in Ottawa (I live about 45 mins outside of the city limits actually) but I was born in Hamilton.
Anyway, I became a Sens fan the day of the Florida press conference where Zeigler announced we'd be getting an expansion team. I grew up in Cornwall, before moving to Ottawa to go to Carleton so I'd always felt more attached to Ottawa than anywhere else (Go Riders!). It came pretty naturally really. Plus, the original #13 Jamie Baker jersey hanging in my closet gives me an iron clad defence to any accusations of johnny-come-lately bandwagon jumping.
5. SLC has had some epic rants about (and by) Paddock but what are your feelings on the move from Murray to Paddock. How much has his history with some of the guys in Bingo affected the team this year? Specifically, the reported problems with Emery and his insane repeated calling out of Spezza in public.
Sherry: I don't know if his history with some of the guys in Binghamton has anything to do with the team's performance so much as the fact that his coaching style is um...quite questionable. He doesn't have a winning record as a head coach and he completely ignores the fact that he has a full bench to work with on most nights. I always have reservations when an assistant coach moves into the head coach role because the dynamics of the room are now completely different but at the start of the season I really did believe Paddock was good for this team. Now I'm not so sure. His tendency to throw the lines into a blender and see what comes out is troubling and his unbalanced ice-time might be part of the reason why Alfie's already showing signs of wear and tear. And he has horrible suits. And only one facial expression.
Paddock's familiar with Emery and his prickly personality and having experience dealing with it in Binghamton I can understand why he has considerably less tolerance for it now. That's what all of those months riding the buses and playing in mostly empty arenas on a minor league salary was supposed to knock out of you. In Spezza's case, he knows first hand how much work it took for Spezza to play more responsibly and he probably sees it as a personal failure when he sees him forgetting that sometimes the blind passes are not a good idea. To put a positive spin on it though, Spezza's familiar with Paddock enough to not be taken off-guard when Paddock makes these comments publicly. Ed.'s Note: Who needs the Ducks to save hockey when John Paddock might do it even earlier.
SLC: As you've pointed out, PPP, I'm probably not on Paddock's Christmas card list anymore. As the season has gone on, the more I've come to realize he's a terrible coach which honestly surprised me for the very reason you mention: his history in Bingo with most of our lineup. But watching him tear the team apart, both on and off the ice, is killing me. Something changed in him after that 16-3 start. Coach's are just as susceptible to Big Head Syndrome as the players are I guess and right now Paddock's ego is running away with our title shot (I counted seven different line combos in the first ten minutes of the 2nd period on Thursday. And those were on the faceoffs, not changing on the fly. WTF??) Let me tell you, if this season goes down in flames the way it's looking like it will, I'll be the first guy outside the Bank with my torch and pitchfork. Bryan, come back!! Ed.'s Note: I am buying up www.keepjohnpaddock.com as we speak.