It's Friday. Here are some thoughts for your enjoyment ahead of All-Star Weekend.
Turning a corner
Who could have possibly guessed that the Ottawa Senators would suddenly become good in the second half of the season after completely tanking their chances in the first few months? Oh, anyone who’s been watching this team for the last three years? Right.
I’m so tired of this, but maybe this time around there’s finally hope. As Trevor wrote in the longform earlier this week, Ottawa’s underlying numbers have gotten a lot better. Also the team is actually pulling off comebacks and staying in games late. It feels less like what we’ve seen over the last few years and more like Jacques Martin’s influence finally being felt.
Hopefully they can show some real improvement down the stretch, but man, it’s going to be a long 9 months before they can redeem themselves next November.
The concerns have quieted down a little bit after the last two games, but the goaltending has been under a lot of scrutiny recently. While there's an argument to be made that the skaters have been improving year after year, the goaltending simply hasn’t, with all Ottawa goalies currently ranking amongst the worst in the league.
I don’t think Ottawa’s goaltending problem is simply a problem of bad defence, but I also don’t think the solution is as simple as getting new personnel, either. The team has tried out so many different goaltenders in recent years that I feel like there must be an issue with the organization, whether it’s with the systems, the goaltending coaches, or even just the front office’s ability to scout goalies. Maybe one more trade could fix this, but I feel like this issue runs deeper than the personnel in net.
Tim Stützle simply cannot shake the diving allegations.
He got in trouble again on Wednesday night when he fell down just a little bit too dramatically while trying to get around a Red Wings player. He drew a penalty on the play, but the Red Wings’ coach believed he was diving.
I completely understand why this stuff bothers opponents, but it’s also kind of hilarious to watch, especially if you watch a lot of Tim Stützle hockey. He’s a shifty player, and not particularly good at staying on his feet. He even fell down during the “fastest skater” competition at Sens Skills last year. The amount of times this guy falls down when there is no one anywhere near him, or when he actually has a chance to score, should completely disprove the notion that he’s falling down deliberately to get calls. He’s just like that.
The incident from the Red Wings game is actually a good example of exactly that. If you watch the video, you can see that Stützle is clearly trying to get around the Red Wings defenseman so he can go on a breakaway. It’s a tricky move - one that only a few players would have had the guts to attempt - and he fails because he clips the opponent’s skate while he’s already off-balance. Was it the other player’s fault? No. Was it a dive? Also no.
Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde was calling a dive on Tim Stützle 👀 pic.twitter.com/CWF2B97Y91— Gino Hard (@GinoHard_) February 1, 2024
Timmy should probably work on keeping his balance, but I don’t want him to stop trying these types of moves because he’s afraid of falling down and being called a diver. It’s not that serious.
At least they did an All-Star Draft?
Look. The All-Star weekend sucks these days. It used to be that the game itself was awful but the other events - the draft and the skills competition - were amazing. I'll give the NHL this: all the changes they've implemented over the last few years have, in fact, made the game itself more entertaining... it just happened at the expense of every other aspect of the event.
What is the point of sending one player from each team if only a few of them compete in the skills competition? Why are there so many Canucks there? Why are there so few actual stars? It's a mess.
I was genuinely looking forward to last night's draft, because that used to be a really fun event, and the celebrity captain aspect sounded fun. However, while there were some good moments, like players discussing strategy without realizing their mics were still on and Michael Bublé admitting to having been high on shrooms the whole time - as a whole, it really lacked the energy of previous drafts. Why aren't they all hammered? Why won't they let someone get picked last? And again, why aren't we doing this with all the actual best players in the league?
Anyways, let's revisit this wonderful moment:
Can't repost this clip from my old account but THIS is what the all-star draft should look like. All the league's talent faced with a couple hundred drunken Senators fans in a Gatineau theatre chanting "Leafs suck!" at the top of their lungs every chance they got. Peak cinema pic.twitter.com/d3mIaMTtAr— Mr Booth (@MrBooth07) February 2, 2024
Akane Shiga is so awesome
If you’re subscribed to The Athletic and you haven’t read Hailey Salvian’s fantastic piece about PWHL Ottawa forward Akane Shiga yet, go ahead and do that because it’s a great read. It goes through Shiga’s experience moving to Ottawa without speaking any English, and how her team has welcomed her. Apparently the team has hired a player from the Carleton University men’s hockey team as her translator, and the players are also picking up a few words of Japanese.
It’s hard to believe that the speedy young forward hasn’t scored her first PWHL goal yet, because she’s been so visible in every game she’s played. She has an amazing shot, and she’s so good at getting around defenders. I feel like the one issue I have noticed is that she sometimes takes her shots from a bit too far out and sometimes looks a bit overwhelmed by the more physical style of play in the PWHL, but really, it’s only a matter of time before she finds the back of the net.
It’s going to be such a treat to watch her develop in this league. She’d better re-sign, because I think she’ll be a fan favourite for years to come.