July 2, 2012
Questions about revamped Sens
By DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency
OTTAWA - At least one of us who happened to see Tie Domi at Sensplex chatting with Bryan Murray Monday admittedly jumped to conclusions.
After losing tough guys Matt Carkner and Zenon Konopka on Day 1 of free agency — along with trading scrappy Nick Foligno — could the Senators GM be trying to coax the third-highest man on the career PIM list out of retirement?
Seems Murray has been talking to just about everybody else lately in an attempt to upgrade his team, right? Why not old Hardhead?
Alas, the 42-year old Domi was simply checking out the Senators development camp and catching up with acquaintances in between tournament games for one of his sons.
So as of now, Chris Neil will basically be left to fight the good fight alone for the Senators next season — not counting some assistance from the still-evolving Zack Smith.
Sorry to disappoint you yet again, folks.
I already feel bad enough having led you to believe the Senators had a shot at Rick Nash, then Justin Schultz, and even a prayer of landing Zach Parise. But believe me, they a) did with Nash until the Blue Jackets sniper ridiculously refused to include Ottawa on the list of teams to which he’d accept a trade, b) were runners-up on the Schultz bidding before losing out to the former Wisconsin Badger’s desire to feed passes to a group of talented young Edmonton Oilers and c) realized just how absurd Parise’s contract demands were becoming.
Murray does deserve credit for his efforts. However, the bottom line is the Senators may have actually gotten worse while other teams improved on July 1.
Needing a replacement for Filip Kuba on the blueline, some say they “settled” for a downgrade by acquiring Marc Methot for Nick Foligno. I mean, I’ll like Methot better than Kuba. At least he hits people. But players insisted Kuba was a keeper, that he significantly helped make them tick last season. Methot may actually have big skates to fill.
And while there were complaints about Foligno’s inconsistencies, at least we knew what we were getting with the 24-year-old winger — a good man who would occasionally flash signs of brilliance and could be counted on for 15 goals and 40 points.
His replacement, Guillaume Latendresse, is a gamble. He has the potential to score 30 goals, but if he runs into the injury problems that have limited him to 27 games over the last two years — or if he shows up to camp out of shape, as has been the knock on him in the past — Latendresse won’t have a spot on the roster.
Now, the Senators will argue the assertion that they haven’t improved. They’ll say Mike Lundin, a veteran of 241 NHL games, will help their defence. There are legitimate concerns about Carkner’s knee — and no way was Ottawa going to give him the three-year, $4.5-million deal the reckless New York Islanders did — but even if he only plays 50 games, “Big Country” is still one of the most feared men in the league. At least that’s being best at something.
The Senators will also say they have a bevy of prized prospects who will challenge for spots on the forward lines. Jakob Silfverberg will be given an opportunity to play on the first line. Along with Latendresse, Mika Zibanejad, Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman will be considered for a spot (two, if Daniel Alfredsson retires) on the second line. But Zibanejad, Stone and Hoffman, like Silfverberg, will also be rookies. Asking them to take on such a load could be a little much. More gambles.
Perhaps to somewhat appease the ruthless media here, Murray and director of player personnel Pierre Dorion raved about the play of Zibanejad and Hoffman on the final day of development camp.
Zibanejad did score a couple of goals in the semi-final and the winner, a beauty, in the championship game of a 3-on-3 scrimmage. But after Thursday’s 5-on-5, coach Paul MacLean said he would’ve liked to have seen more from the 2011 first-rounder.
“It’s a good way to end this week, and a smart way to end a tough week,” Zibanejad said of his play Monday. “Obviously, you’ve got to believe what you’re doing. I have to believe I can make it. You have to have that mindset that you are going to make it. It’s tough, both mentally and physically. You just have to fight every day and fight even harder every day.”
Hoffman, a speedster who led Binghamton in scoring last season, also aims to unpack his bags here in October.
“That’s my goal, coming into training camp, to work as hard as I can and push for a spot this year,” said the former MVP of the QMJHL. “I think I’m right there. Time will just tell.”
Indeed it will, as it will tell if the Senators have taken a step backward going forward.