It's time for Five Thoughts for Friday, amigos. Normally the last week of August is a bit of a sleepy time for hockey news, but not this year. In fact, this week served as a happy reminder that the NHL season is less than two months away, and gave us some Sens specific news to boot.
Let's get to it:
1. Anderson and Lehner Poised to Battle for Starting Job
With the announcement of Craig Anderson's 3 year contract extension, one of the first things to come to mind was: what does this mean for Robin Lehner? Anderson and Lehner are saying all the right things so far, but it's also safe to say both want to be the team's number one goalie. Although Lehner did finish the year with a better save percentage than Anderson, .913 to .911, there was a lingering feeling that he didn't quite live up to the hype. The low point came during a four game stretch in mid-March, with Craig Anderson injured, during which the Senators gained only one point, essentially eliminating the team from playoff contention. Lehner was brutal, posting an .857 save percentage and allowing a whopping 18 goals. He did bounce back at the end of the year, yet you can't help but feel the damage was done to management's perception; maybe he wasn't ready to assume the mantle of number one goalie just quite yet.
Just a hunch, but my suspicion is that if Lehner had run off a string of great games as "the man", and the Sens squeaked into the playoffs last year, that there's a good chance Anderson's early extension doesn't happen. I know the team likes him, he's been a good citizen, etc. Just a gut feeling I've got. Anyways, the competition is the first of what may be several training camp battles to come pending the outcome of this first one. May the best man win.
With news breaking that the NHL could be poised to expand by as many as four (?!) teams, there's been a lot of chatter in the hockey community. I'm not a sports economist by any stretch, so maybe expansion is the right tact to grow the league's revenues. Frankly, I just wouldn't know. What I do know is that I'm not keen on the dilution of the on-ice product. As a fan of a somewhat recent expansion team it's sour grapes to complain too vociferously about this, but damn if I wouldn't much rather twenty-six teams before I see thirty-four. Here at S7S, we ran a fun little piece asking readers to choose which Senators players they would protect in the case of an expansion draft. The results are telling: any new franchise would be building its' lineup with the cast-offs of the league and filling the rest of their rosters with ECHL and AHL guys. That's the calibre of player those teams would be fielding for at least their first few years of existence. And as the talent is gradually more evenly distributed they would get better at the expense of depth around the NHL.Maybe the money aspect makes sense, but spreading the skilled players even more thinly across the league is just not an idea that appeals to me.
3. Rookie Camp
The Senators recently announced the invitees for the upcoming rookie camp, set for September 13th to 15th in London, ON. You can check out the full list in the team's press release here. Luke Richardson has been tapped to lead his young charges through the mini-camp and tournament, another sign of how highly prized he is as a coach in the organization. Taking a quick glance at the potential attendees, there are a lot of familiar names among the forwards but considerably less star power on the blueline. With Lazar, Prince, Puempel, Nick Paul and co. going up against a defense group whose only real player of note is Claesson, I expect the scrimmages to be particularly high scoring. For some of these kids, this is a big chance to impress the organization and establish themselves in the farm system's pecking order. If you're a Sens fan in the London area, I'd highly recommend checking it out.
4. Ownership Prank (?)
There was a moment last night when a minor kerfuffle broke out in the Sens Twitterverse around a tweet from former Ottawa Citizen writer Allen Panzeri:
Stop the presses: Frank Magazine says new minority partner of the Ottawa Senators is Minto's Dan Greenberg.— Allen Panzeri (@allenpanzeri2) August 28, 2014
And it's true, Frank Magazine does say as much in this article that you can find behind their paywall. For those not familiar with Frank, they're best described as a political satire magazine. It would have been an usual place for this type of news to break, but stranger things have happened. Dan Greenberg spent some time on Twitter Thursday denying the reports. A sampling:
It WAS fun while it lasted, Dan. A local businessman super fan with deep pockets buying a stake in the team? It sounded good enough to get fans daydreaming, and hoping, if only for a short while.
5. Sports Drama
This last thought has a bit of a backstory: I was reading a Deadspin article about how college football has this amazing power to redeem its' terribleness with incredible moments like the 2013 Iron Bowl. Which led me to watch the below video:
To give you the proper context for how incredible this was: the Iron Bowl is the annual rivalry game between Alabama and Auburn. To describe the rivalry as important is to undersell how much these two schools don't like each other, but also how incredibly popular football is in Alabama. They play each other once a year in a game so important it's called the Iron Bowl for Pete's Sake. So when Auburn returned a missed field goal attempt 109 yards with no time left on the clock to break a tie you can imagine their fans lost their marbles. It was just an unbelievable, surreal, impossible moment.
So: that got me thinking about the most impossible moments of joy for Sens fans. My personal pick is Daniel Alfredsson's goal to tie game 3 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Semi-Final against Pittsburgh. You may remember it:
The Sens were down by a goal, there was less than a minute remaining, and they were shorthanded. So of course, OF COURSE, Daniel Alfredsson scores the tying goal to push it to overtime. I live in Toronto, so I was at Grace O'Malley's (one of the few Sens fan friendly establishments in the city) and the place went ballastic. Hooting, hollering, spontaneous chants of "Alfie, Alfie". Fast forward about an hour and Greening wins it in overtime, the place goes crazy again, the tables get put away, the beer starts flowing, the music starts blaring and we have a little dance party to cap the night. Another great reason to be a sports fan, and a Sens fan in particular.
So as a fun little bit heading into the long weekend, let's hear about your most incredible, amazing, unlikely moments as a Sens fan (or even just as a sports fan if you've got a good one from another sport).
And remember, only 40 days until the start of the season!