Five Thoughts For Friday

Hammond, Wiercioch and more in this week's edition!

[Hi everyone, this is Sheer Craziness. I've decided to go by my real name here at the site. Don't worry, you can still look forward to the same... uh, averageness of articles I normally write.]

1. The Hammond debate

I really feel for Dave Cameron these days. Everyone has an opinion on whether Andrew Hammond or Craig Anderson should start. On the one hand, Hammond got the team into a position to make the playoffs. On the other hand, Anderson is the starter whose good stats got the team this far before the new hotness showed up. Also, Anderson has years of being an NHL starter putting up good numbers. Hammond is likely riding luck, seeing as he was cut from junior and has been putting up sub-par numbers in the AHL.

Some arguments in favour of playing Hammond are pretty ridiculous. Ken Warren of the Citizen basically put it up to magic. The Hockey News compared benching Hammond against the Bruins to benching Tom Brady in the 2001 NFL season. But let me ask you this: if you were Dave Cameron, knowing you'd be held accountable for your decisions about starting goaltenders by Bryan Murray, what would you rather say after a loss? That you trusted your starter, or that you decided to go with "magic"? After all, the Senators lost to the Bruins not because of their goaltender, but because Tuukka Rask allowed one goal on 40 shots. The Sens beat the Canadiens not because of their goalie, but because they scored five goals on Carey Price. Hammond may have made a couple key saves, but the fact that he had four more goals of leeway certainly helped.

I agree with Cameron's decisions. The Sens are in the midst of a back-to-back, where you should switch up your goalies. Playing Hammond against the weaker offensive team seems good to me. I agreed with Warren's conclusion, I just don't believe in crediting magic.

2. Optimism

A month ago, every game ended with heated battles between #TeamTank and #TeamAntiTank. But in the last week or so, an interesting thing has happened: nobody argues anymore. It seems like everyone wants to see this team win. People argue about which goalie, defence pairing, forward lines, etc. allow the team the best chance of winning. And I have to admit, it's a lot more fun this way. Even if it's highly unlikely Ottawa makes the playoffs, games like last night's comeback are a tonne of fun. This franchise has been shrouded in gloom for 21 months now, so any glimmer of sunshine is more than welcome.

3. Wiercioch getting his chances

So it looks like Patrick Wiercioch is finally getting a real shot in the lineup. He lucked out earlier this year when Mark Borowiecki got hurt, giving him a few more chances to play. This time, a suspension to Jared Cowen gave him some playing time. Many of the statistically-inclined have been pointing out how much better Wiercioch makes Cody Ceci. To see Cowen scratched a couple more games because of the "flu", and then Eric Gryba scratched instead, it looks like Patty W may have got a longer leash from the coach.

Wiercioch doesn't use his size much, and his skating isn't great. But I've seen Cowen and Borowiecki put themselves out of position to make a hit, and neither of them seem to skate well either. With the offensive ability Wiercioch brings to the team, I'd like to see him given the same chance to prove himself as the other guys. It looks like he's finally getting that chance. The fact that management trusts Wiercioch for the stretch run instead of giving Fredrik Claesson or Chris Wideman chances as call-ups has to be a boost to his confidence. Especially after Murray went on the record saying Wideman would get a chance before the end of the season.

4. Condra flak

Erik Condra has missed a couple of gaping nets in his career. He deserves some flak for that. But I think it sometimes gets taken to extremes. In his last 13 games, he has 9 points. In the same span, Mika Zibanejad has 10. People have always said that Condra puts up good possession numbers but no points. I'm starting to wonder if giving him good linemates allows him to put up points too. Not at a first-line rate, but at an acceptable rate for a bottom-six forward. His offensive play of late combined with his penalty killing prowess with Jean-Gabriel Pageau has made him a crucial part of this recent run.

The only problem is this sudden flair may price him out of Ottawa's budget this coming summer.

5. On a much more serious note

**Trigger warning: this point discusses physical and sexual assault**

@NearldleLark on Twitter posted a disheartening, non-exhaustive list of recorded cases of misogynistic behaviour and violent behaviour, including sexual assault and rape, toward women by hockey hockey players from the junior to NHL level yesterday. Many of these instances never made it past the allegation stage and players have faced few consequences, legal or otherwise. It was drawn to my attention by our own site manager, and you can read some of her thoughts on it here and here.

There are some Sens connections on the list, in Jason Smith and Joe Corvo. Also some notable NHL names, including Drew Doughty and Mario Lemieux. In the wake of the recent sexual assault allegations against four QMJHL players, it's important to think about this. Hockey is an environment where things are done to help the players succeed. Players accused of rape are called "embattled". If things get too bad, they are often traded to a new team to get the fresh start they deserve. Teammates who witness assault will usually lie to support their teammates. We can't pretend all hockey players are saints, and we can't allow a culture in which things like this are still able to happen. No matter how talented a young man may be at hockey, he deserves punishment for unlawful actions.

I don't have any deep thoughts on this. It's shocking, it's deplorable, it needs to change, change will happen slowly, and being a cynic by nature I'm not sure it will happen. But change is so important that I try not to let my cynicism get in the way. A wise person once told me that once you gain information, it's stuck in your brain. From that point on, you either make decisions based on that information or in spite of that information. I'm hoping that if enough information gets out there, things will start to change.

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