Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Can Haz Ur Captain? How To Win Friends And Stick A Dagger Into The Back Of Your Archenemy

One of the more bizarre reasons being floated around this here series of tubes about why the Sens should hire Pat Quinn as Head Coach is that, in so doing, it will somehow exact some kind of revenge on the Laffs. This affront, the theory goes, will no doubt prompt legions of Leaf fans to drag themselves out of their beer and nacho induced stupors long enough to howl incoherently in impotent fury over the fact that their archenemy somehow stole the best coach they've known since Punch Imlach spent the late Sixties begging Dave Keon to touch his "fedora".

It's an interesting theory (and as Sens fans we have a sworn duty to listen to any and all ideas with an end goal of driving Laff Nation batshit), but when you consider that Patty was basically run out of town on a rail almost three years (and one coach and two GMs) ago for missing the playoffs, it tends to fall apart.

So that may not work the way we'd like. But this sure as hell would:
Mats Sundin raised some eyebrows when he hinted playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs wasn't his only option for next season. The Leafs captain, who accepted the Mark Messier Leadership Award on Wednesday, is an unrestricted free agent July 1.
Now, as many of us gleefully recall, Mats was the key member of the Geritol Cabal who all but sealed JFJ's fate when they refused to waive their no-trade clauses back in February. And now, after denying the Leafs the chance to rebuild, is talking about walking out, leaving the Laffs with nothing but broken hearts, and the fetid stink of eternal crapulence. I like the cut of your jib, son!

Of course, this may all be just a negotiating ploy on the part of the Sundin camp to try and squeeze MLSE for everything they can get, and that he really has no intention of going anywhere (Cliff "Get The Hell Off My Lawn!" Fletcher has announced that he'll be talking to Sundin in a couple of days...or when somebody finds his teeth. Whichever comes first). But if it isn't...

Make this happen Bryan. All it will cost you is a phone call...and roughly 7 to 8 million dollars. Or to put it another way, roughly the same amount you're saving by whacking Redden and Emery from the books. How convenient!

Sure it may not work out. These things rarely do. But if we can't win the Cup next year, please give us, at the very least, the consolation prize of hearing the ACC crowd boo a different Swede for a change. That is if they can stop crying into their beer long enough to do it.

Sundin: Leafs Just One Of Many Options For Next Season []

Saturday, May 24, 2008

My God! Hockey! In June! Oh, The Humanity!

Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here...actually, splash that. I do. It's what I (apparently) do best after all.

Some ado has been made, both by desperate sports writers with column space to fill and the chronically clueless (who are, in some cases, one and the same), about how the NHL playoffs go on until June. I have heard your plaints good citizens, and please believe that I mean this in all sincerity when I say: Tough shit. Either suck it up, or rip your fan card and blow it out your ear.

Is there something sacrosanct about the month of June about which I have hitherto been unaware? Will all 30 ice surfaces across the League spontaneously combust, or will the Cup suddenly vanish in a puff of pixie dust at the stroke of midnight on June 1st? No, although I would pay good money to see Gary Bettman turn into a pumpkin. Even if The Finals go seven games, the latest it can end is the seventh of June. So what, exactly, is the big deal?

Are you telling me that after sitting through a six month regular season (the length of that being an entirely different kettle of fish) to get to this, the point where the best hockey is being played with the highest of stakes, you're going to stop watching because it's now "summer"? Or that "June hockey" somehow interferes with your inalienable right to bitch about your begonias?

Come on, people. Who cares? Just enjoy it. I know I will.

Stanly Cup Finals: You Heard It Here Last!

The year was 2003. The Human Genome Project was completed, thus solving the mystery, once and for all, surrounding the exact genetic mutation responsible for Leaf Nation. The Iraq war was declared "over", thus compounding the mystery of the exact genetic mutation responsible for George W. Bush.

It was the last year that featured two American teams in the Stanley Cup Final, with New Jersey defeating the (then Mighty) Ducks in seven snooze-a-rific games, thus ushering in an era of defensive hockey so stifled and boring, the entire League would be forced to close shop for a year out of shame and self-loathing.

It was also the last year anyone in the Great USofA gave a rat's ass about the Stanley Cup. Until now. Detroit vs. Pittsburgh. Wily Veterans vs. The Wave of the Future. Original Six vs. Hockey Jesus (© MYFO). Remember, Herr Kommisar Bettman. If it lasts for more than four hours, you really should see a doctor.

So who's going to win? Join me now for my in-depth analysis of this titanic struggle, as I compare relative strengths and weakness based on rock solid facts and a complete algorithmic study of all possible statistics, while also peering into the very souls of the coaching staff in order to determine, with an accuracy verging on witchcraft, the inevitable outcome!

Um...yeah. Just kidding. Wings in 7.

Why? Because it's too soon, dammit! You are the '83 Oilers to their Islanders. A bunch of kids with abundant talent and a future absolutely sick with promise, but who first needs to lose in order to figure out how to win. So, sorry Pittsburgh. No Cup for you this year. It will happen, of that I have no doubt. But at least this way, I can pretend for another year that the Senators will contend for an Eastern Title again in my lifetime. And you wouldn't want to take that away from me, would you??

You would? Fine. Screw you too. Go Wings!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Bryan Cares Not For Nature's Abhorence Of Vacuums -- Part 1: The Interviews

Many names have popped up in connection with the Senators' Head Coaching vacancy of late, some surprising, some not, some terrifying and others the obvious byproduct of someone's alcohol fueled imaginings (Paul Maurice? Really?). However, as the Cone Of Silence seems to have once again descended over 1000 Palladium Drive, we are left with little more than speculation and rumour as to how The Bryan intends to fill that vacancy (before the draft!, as soon as possible! quick!...eventually!) and with whom. Which of course're in my wheelhouse now, baby.

Through a combination of luck, guile, booze and a few of those funny smelling plants we found in Grandma's herb garden, we here at Five For Smiting have managed to infiltrate the throbbing heart of the Ottawa Senators organization. Join us now as we travel to The Bryan's underground bunker deep beneath ScotiaBank Place. Many stick boys have died to bring us this information.

Today: The Interview--Elimination Round.

The Bryan: "Good evening all, and welcome. You may remove your blindfolds. I trust the cavity searches weren't too uncomfortable? Good, good. We can never be too careful to keep our discussions here in utmost confidence, you understand. The media, and their bastard offspring *shudder* bloggers, are everywhere. Please also allow me to apologize for strapping you into your chairs. The reason for this slight inconvenience will become clear shortly. Now then, allow me to introduce the other members of our search committee. To my left, El Presidente For Life, Roy Mlakar. Say hi Roy.

Roy Mlakar: "Gooot eeeeevenink..."

The Bryan: "Roy is here as penance for his signing off on that rather ill received Spartan Warrior intro before Game 3 last month, aren't you Roy? Yes, yes you are. Shame, Roy! I want to see shame!! There. That's a good boy. And to my right, I have the great honour of introducing our Tremendous Leader, Emperor Eugene. You will address him as either "Your Omnipotence" or "Mister Magnificent". Please do NOT gaze directly upon his visage."

Randy Cunneyworth: "What? That's crap! If I'm gonna work for somebody I'm at least gonna know what he looks li--AAAAAIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEE!! IT BURNS!!!!! OH GOD!!!!!!!"

The Bryan: "Hmmm...most unfortunate. Randy was in our top three. Don't worry gentlemen, the smoke will clear shortly. In the meantime, Eli here will dispose of the corpse. Eli? Would you be so kind? Thank you.

"Now then. To business. Each of you have been brought here because we think that you are among those best suited to taking over as Head Coach thus restoring the glory of a talented franchise that has somewhat, admittedly, lost its way. To that end, we have devised a single question which will be posed to the ten of...oops, my the nine of you in turn. The top three candidates, as judged by our little panel here, will move on to a second, more in depth interview in the coming days. The remaining six will disappear forever into the Alexander Daigle Pit Of Eternal Irrelevance, through the trap doors beneath your chairs, there to be digested slowly over a thousand years in the stomach acids of Steve Simmons. Hence the restraints."

"Now, before we begin, are there any questions? No? Really? Nothing along the lines of "Are you crazy??", or "Has Gary okayed this?", or even my favourite..."You'll never get away with this Bryan!!" Really? Well, then, I'll just have to demonstrate by pressing this button. Goodbye Mr. Maurice."

Paul Maurice: "AAAAAAAHHHHhhhhhhhhhhh craaap..."

The Bryan: There, now that you know we're serious, here is the question for the remaining eight of you: How would you have handled the small bit of unpleasantness that was last year's Ray Emery Situation? I'll begin with you, Mr. Wilson."

Ron Wilson: "His behaviour was obviously the result of a hyper inflated ego. And since there isn't enough room in the dressing room for more than one of those, my innate sense of entitlement, not to mention my natural genius for these things would have --AAAAAAAAHHHHHHRRRRGHHHH..."

The Bryan: "Guh. In all honesty gentlemen, I never had any intention of hiring that blowhard. I just needed a reason to get him here. THAT'S PAYBACK FOR THAT LINE BRAWL THREE YEARS AGO, BITCH!! Ahem, yes. Well. Moving on. How about you, Mr. Burns?"

Pat Burns: "Er...well...Ray had obviously become a problem before the season had even begun, so I would have pulled him aside in training camp and set out exactly what I expected of him and what the consequences would be if he failed to live up to those expectations. I would have sent him down to the minors."

The Bryan: "Excellent answer Mr. Burns! Truly excellent. Barring something better from the rest of the candidates, I believe I can speak for the panel when I say congratulations! You've made it through! Mr. Quenneville?"

Joel Quenneville: "Well as you know, Mr. Murray, I've always been of the opinion that if you treat your players with respect, as adults, then they would return the favour. With Ray, a little heart-to-heart would have, I think..."

The Bryan: Moving finger toward button...

Joel Quenneville: "SENT HIM DOWN!! I WOULD HAVE SENT HIM DOWN!! Please...please don't..." *sobbing*

The Bryan: "Hmmm...Such quick reflexes. I admire a man who can toady under duress. You can stay. Now then., is it? Mr. Dineen."

Kevin Dineen: "No way would I have allowed that shit to go on. Just like I've told all of my AHL players, NOBODY is bigger than--"

The Bryan: "I'm sorry. Did you say AHL players?"

Kevin Dineen: "Um...yeah. AHL players."

The Bryan: "So you have no experience coaching big leaguers who make more money in a year than you'll see in a lifetime? Who may see you as someone...shall we say...less important?"

Kevin Dineen: "Er, not as such."

The Bryan: "Oh, I'm terribly sorry."


The Bryan: "Such promise snuffed out so prematurely. Pity really. Mr. Tortorella?"

John Tortorella: "Fucking goalies. Head cases every fucking one. Who the hell needs them, I say! Just grab any crazy bastard off the str-- AAAAAAAHHHHHHHRRRRRGGGGHHHH... "

Roy Mlakar: "Um...Bryan? Torts was still technically under contract with Tampa. They're going to want him back. Or at least know where he is..."

The Bryan: "Pffft...they don't care. It's freakin' Florida! What do they know? I just did them a favour. Next! Mister....Hartsburg. You're up."

Craig Hartsburg: "Well, the question of what to do with a recalcitrant player is a complex one that -- AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhh...."

The Bryan: "What the hell?? What happened??"

Roy Mlakar: "Ooops. Sorry Bry. I was reaching for another cruller and I must have hit the button by mistake. My bad."

The Bryan: "Oh for the love wonder we have to kidnap candidates, instead of say...just ASK them. *sigh* Okay, who's next. Quinn?"

Pat Quinn: "The mistake you guys made was not cutting his ass the second he started slacking in practice. You sent a message to the rest of those overpaid prima donnas that half-assing it was okay. When I was in Toronto--"

The Bryan: "Oooo...sorry, Pat. That's just not going to fly with our fans. Beat us four straight times in the playoffs. Sorry about--"

Emperor Eugene (eyes glowing from beneath his black cowl): "WAIT!"

The Bryan: "Yes...My Lord?"

Emperor Eugene: "The...Quinn...Will...Stay."

The Bryan: "As you wish My Lord. So...that makes three. Mr. Burns, Mr. Quenneville and Mr. Quinn. A fine crop indeed. I look forward to the second part of this process. In the meantime, please allow me to treat you all to dinner, won't you? Come gentlemen! While The Emperor retreats to his regeneration chamber, we can amuse ourselves by having Eli here stumble around drunkenly for our enjoyment! Roy, get the lights on the way out, will you?"

*sounds of laughter from down the hall...fading...gone*

Bob Hartley: "Hello? Anybody?? I'd like to get out of these straps please. Anyone? My water dish is empty! I gotta pee..."

So there you are Sens fans. The search for our next coach is well and truly underway! Stay tuned for Part 2, as we crown the winner! Coming tomorrow! Or maybe Wednesday. Um...possibly this week. Whenever we, you know...get around to it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

We Have The Technology! Court Rules Double Amputee Eligible For Beijing

Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Other than finally washing my Officially Licensed Original Game Worn Ottawa Senators Athletic Supporter, one of the small joys I derive from the NHL offseason (what "other" series?? What the hell are you talking about??), is the freedom it affords me to opine, soliloquize, and otherwise wax poetic about whatever sporting tidbit happens to catch my attention. After all, as I've noted in the profile you can see to your immediate right, I enjoy ALL of the meats of our cultural sports stew (except cricket. I'll never understand cricket).

This is one such tidbit:

Lausanne, Switzerland (Sports Network) - Double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius will have a chance to qualify for the Beijing Olympics after the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned a January ruling by track and field's governing body that said prosthetic blades give the South African an unfair advantage over able-bodied runners.
Personally, I think this is a fantastic idea. Think of the implications! Who knows, Mr. Pistorius' pioneering spirit may well open the door to even more disabled athletes (like, say...Steve Downie?) and allow them to enjoy the full Olympic experience.

And to those nations who will inevitably suffer the embarassment of having one of your athletes thrown out of the upcoming Beijing games for using "a performance enhancing substance" because they misread the label on a bottle of cough syrup, I say to you, tough shit! You should have packed some carbon fiber. And a hacksaw.

Pistorius Wins Right To Try For Olympic Spot []

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Great One Opts For Seppuku Over MLSE

I have to admit to a certain morbid fascination with the Leafs continuing search for a new general manager. It's like passing a train wreck, or an incredibly ugly person. You don't want to, but you can't help but stare.

To recap: MLSE hung the last one out to dry, spending most of last summer trying to recruit a "mentor" for him before finally giving up (because no one wanted the job), but not before calling him "a mistake" two months into the season, which, of course, didn't stop them from keeping him on for another two. After finally, mercifully euthanizing firing JFJ, 116 year old Cliff Fletcher was brought in on an "interim" basis with the sole task of rebuilding a once proud franchise. But that didn't work out so well either, what with no trade clauses and a predilection for talking to potted ferns having a somewhat deleterious effect on one's ability to fulfill one's mandate. And yet, the "interim" still sits in the big corner office arguing with the ghost of Conn Smythe, while the search for his replacement continues.

So how bad has it gotten in Toronto? Putting aside Brian Burke's baffling insistence on talking himself out of any job for the moment, you know things are bad when the greatest hockey player in the history of everything holds a press conference to A) preemptively refuse a job he hasn't been publicly offered yet and B) prefers staying in Phoenix, the NHL's ode to apathetic mediocrity to tilting at the windmill that is the Byzantine corporate culture of MLSE.
You can cross the Great One's name off the list of potential candidates to take over the hockey operations of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Wayne Gretzky will be staying in Phoenix.

"I have always been a big fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and wish them luck in the future. Right now my focus is on the Phoenix Coyotes and developing our young talent"
Loosely translated? "I would rather have Janet gouge out my testes with a rusty ice cream scoop than come within a hundred miles of anything to do with Richard Peddie, Larry Tanenbaum, or that God forsaken ownership fuck-up that is Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment!" Sounds reasonable enough.

Gretzky's Focus Remains In Phoenix, Not Toronto []

Farewell To Nova Scotia (But We'll Be Wanting Heater Back, If That's OK)

Having just returned from that sea bound coast (let your hotties dark and beery be), I have but one thing to impart to all of you. Get on a plane. Get on a plane right now and getcher to da coast B'y!

Not only is the city ridiculously beautiful, but by virtue of being Canada's largest commercial port, home to three universities, a couple of colleges, not to mention a huge ass naval base, she comes by her reputation as a party town honestly. A man could quite happily die of a combination of alcohol poisoning and a chronic erection while never making it out of the two square kilometers that make up the entertainment district. And that's on a Tuesday afternoon. Now add the spectacle/traveling circus that is the IIHF World Hockey Championships, and you reach a critical mass of riotous inebriation (the good, head-noogy, "I fushin love youse guyshhhh" version, not the other, "Hey, a cop car! Let's burn it!" kind) the likes of which your humble scribe has never before been fortunate enough to be a part.

Night after night, roving bands of European fans wind their way through the downtown. Huge groups, twenty to thirty strong (or if it's the Latvians, a hundred strong, complete with a brass band and percussion section), go marauding through the bar district, waving flags, singing songs (win or lose) until, following a signal only they can hear, they invade the closest pub, en masse. The songs get louder, the chants grow deafening, sixty pints of beer are consumed and out they march, almost as quickly as they came, to the next establishment, leaving behind bemused locals, an exhausted bar staff and the vague feeling that you should simultaneously light a cigarette and check your special places for chafing. Ten minutes later, another group storms the draft taps, and it starts all over again.

We Canadians have always treated the World Championships as a pleasant diversion played over there, while the real tournament for Lord Stanley raged here at home. Something to watch during Playoff off-days. If we win...awww...that's super. Nice to see the boys without a shot at the Cup get something. How cute. If we don't, who cares? It's not like it's a real tournament, is it?

But over there, is over here now. And may well be again, as early as 2012. I'm telling you. Re-mortgage your house. Sell the kids into indentured servitude. Prostitute your dog. Anything. Whatever it takes, get your ass there and stay for the duration.

Sure, there's always the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, but that's serious business, with no room for such frivolity. But if you're looking for a place where you can shake Mike Keenan's hand (he's a lot shorter...and drunker...than I expected) while simultaneously being touched inappropriately by an intoxicated German wearing a cardboard helmet on his head, the IIHF Men's World Hockey Championships are for you.

Take this advice as you would a gift from a friend. And what do I ask in return? Easy, b'y. Stay where you're to, 'till I comes where you're at.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Naturally, Buzz Blamed The Irish. Hanged More Than A Few

I know I had promised the second half of my team review, but I changed my mind. I did so for a few reasons. One, the first half took so long, it resulted in the premature depletion of my beer reserves, and with the nearest open beer store twenty kilometers away, that's a chance I just can't take on a Sunday. Two, it was really fucking boring, even to me. Three, the prospect of a closer examination of the play/character/issues of Messrs. Emery, Redden, Meszaros, and Gerber, not to mention re-hashing the bloody reign of the Teflon John, filled me with a sense of nauseous dread and shame, the intensity of which I hadn't felt since being publicly rejected by my Grade 8 crush after asking her out to the spring dance (do they even have those anymore?). Four, it's my site and I can do, say, write anything I damn well want, so nyaaah! (I keed! I keed from love! No, wait! Come back! Shit...). And finally, did I mention it was boring?

No, what I'd like to do here is to add my infinitesimally small two cents to the "Blog vs. MSM" maelstrom now raging through the interwebs following the appearance on HBO's CostasNow of Will Leitch, founder, editor and Dear Leader of that most magnificent of cults (of which I am a proud, occasionally funny, card carrying member),

Aside from the pitiable sight of a Pullitzer Prize winning author losing his mind to the point of destroying virtually all of his once formidable credibility (if you're going to scream at an author for the "full of shit" content of something you've found egregiously offensive, it's always good to make sure the author you're screaming at actually, you know, wrote it), the piece has mainly served to re-open all of the same (and now rather tiresome) arguments between the Old, "cigar chomping dinosaurs banging away on their old Olivetti typewriters" and New "bunch of unemployed slackers living in their mom's basement" writers.

Notice I didn't say "media" or "journalists" but "writers". It's an important distinction that I think has gotten lost in all the chest thumping. Do I consider myself a journalist? Of course not. I don't have the education or the training. I haven't a clue about the rules that govern the profession other than "if you're going to put out something bad about someone, you'd damn well better be able to back it up." I have no "sources", no leads and certainly no "scoops". Hell, almost all of the issues that I opine on here (aside from my game recaps) are drawn from stories written by...gosh!...journalists.

Okay, so do I consider myself a writer? Yes. Yes I do, if only a fair-to-middling hobbyist. I mean really, why the hell else would I be doing this if not to see my own words in "print" and share them with a larger audience? After all, sites like Blogger or WordPress are nothing if not the world's biggest vanity presses. Otherwise, I'd just hang out on the HF message boards, typing things like "WooOO!! OMg! LeaFS SUXX!! LOL!!" with my elbows.

It's that distinction that seems to elude Buzz and those of his ilk who decry the "death of sports journalism by blog" and insist that the rise of an amateur class of writers signals the death knell of western civilization as we know it. They're using the medium to dismiss the message. If I could, I would ask them how what I'm doing, or Four Habs Fans or anybody else who cares passionately enough about a given subject to say something, and say it well in as public a way as possible is any different from what you'd find in any sports section in any newspaper in North America. The short answer is nothing (except I can, and often do, swear. With enthusiasm). It's opinion, plain and simple. The fact that it doesn't appear in a newspaper renders it no less valid. It's my opinion and if you don't like it, you're free to tell me so, and/or move on.

Costas makes an interesting point at about the 11:50 mark of the segment (although Buzz buries Will's answer to it almost immediately) in which he says that his problem isn't with the "well written, insightful and funny sports blogs" but with "the very large percentage that where the quality is poor and the tone is abusive". It's true that there is a majority of blogs, especially sports blogs, that are absolute crap. Hell, some may even count me among them. But Will is correct. The bad ones will eventually die away, just as, a hundred years ago, glorified gossip rags dressed up as newspapers were displaced by The New York Times, The Globe & Mail or the Washington Post.

The mystery to me, is why well educated, smart and for the most part, admirable people involved in "serious" journalism, can't see the difference, to mentally separate the wheat from the chaff as it were, just because the delivery device doesn't leave ink on your fingers.

p.s.: I'll be heading off to the lovely city of Halifax for the next week (on business, not for the World Championships unfortunately), so my posting ability may be somewhat limited. Not because you can't access the web from Halifax (although that may well be true) but because Her Majesty may not like my using her computers to post dick jokes and rants about douchebags. So, I'll see you when I get back. If I'm lucky, I'll run into a few drunken Latvians.)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Your Totally Half-Assed Season Review! Forward Edition

Both of my remaining readers (Hi Mom!) may well be asking themselves why I would waste their time posting a largely irrelevant and utterly meaningless season review for a failing team now two weeks dead, when there are so many other topical items over which I could be a) incredulous to the point of physical illness at the mere mention of the slightest possibility of it happening, or b) threatening, with absolute justification, to key The Bryan's car. Fair question.

There's a scene in Titanic (the cool, FX laden second half, not the sappy, love-story strapped, not-at-all-emasculating first half) where the string quartet (I will not call them "the orchestra"...orchestras have tubas) plays bravely on while all about them is a wild, careening mass of panicky lemmings. "Why bother?", the cellist asks after taking yet another elbow in the junk. "No one is listening." Their fearless leader responds "Well, they don't listen to us at dinner either. C'mon. It'll keep us warm".

And that's what I'm doing. Because sometimes, not often mind you, but sometimes, a man needs just a little more than the sight of Kate Winslet's magnificent breasts (link NSFW) to stay warm. Although that helps.

Welcome to your Totally Half-Assed Season Review, Forwards Edition! Let's rearrange the deck chairs, shall we?

Forwards (in descending order of the author's man-crush):

Daniel Alfredsson: Our Captain, our Leader, our Living God. One season removed from having the Conn Smythe trophy stolen from him, he spent most of this season as a genuine MVP candidate. And after forcing himself to come back for the last two games of the Pittsburgh series on a bad back and a knee held together with elastics and binder twine, I will have strong words for any man who accuses him of being soft from here on out.

Keep/Trade/Shoot Behind The Barn?:
What, are you new? Ten seconds after he retires a Senator, his jersey is hanging from the rafters and a bronze statue is erected for the benefit of generations of clueless American tourists.

Dany Heatly: If not for a mid-season shoulder injury, he would have been a lock for a third straight 50 goal season. While his disappearing act in the playoffs was disappointing, it was also out of character, so I'll give him a (very grudging) pass. Just don't do it again.

He's sold us his soul for the next six years folks, and we should be glad to have him, if for no other reason than the fact that he absolutely owns the Leafs.

Mike Fisher: Yes, he went through long stretches without a goal. Yes, he missed the playoffs after becoming yet another victim of Mark Bell's total asshatery. And yes, we may have benefited from a little more leadership from him in L'Affaire Fuckstick. But take him out of the lineup and we're out of the playoffs, probably by Groundhog day. His dedication and fearlessness, not to mention his connection to one of the major deities, are that important.

Keep/Trade/Drop a Dump Truck On His Head, 'Cause That's What It Would Take?:
Another core member I would just as soon have someone carve out my spleen with a spork than lose.

Antoine Vermette: A breakout year for our favourite flying Frenchman (Whee!! Alliteration is awesome!) Stupid fast and a lethal threat for a short handed goal, he's done nothing but get better every year. Plus, he was one of the very few who bothered showing up in the Pittsburgh series, so there's that.

Keep/Trade/Paint A Fake Train Tunnel Entrance On The Side Of A Cliff (for those of you under the age of 30, look it up)?:
The Bryan knows we'd be stupid not to keep him. Unfortunately, that may not be entirely up to him. Unless a new contract is signed before the deadline, expect to see a ridiculous offer sheet from another team (Hellllooooo....Kevin Lowe). Anything over $3 million plus, and we may have no choice but to swallow hard and say "Thanks for the memories...and the draft picks".

Chris Kelly: Mortal lock for the title of Most Underrated Senator Never To Have Had Carnal Knowledge of Hillary Duff. The Yin to Verm's Yang on the penalty kill, he was one of our only consistent fore, back, and mother-checking forwards. Put some meat on that skinny frame to better prepare himself to back up his delicious yapping, and we've got something special.

Keep/Trade/Sacrifice To The Salary Cap Gods In A Fit Of Shortsighted Stupidity?: Unrestricted as of Canada Day (thanks to last year's fit of pique which resulted in 1-year contract), it would be a shame if we lost him. But...we can't break the bank to prevent it. While a genuine defensive forward is gold in this league, anything more than $2 to $2.5M is too rich for a third line centre.

Cory Stillman: We've now reached the "Meh" section of this evening's program. Because he only joined the team a couple of weeks before the trade deadline, I'm reserving judgment on Mr. Stillman. While giving us glimpses of the genuine second line scoring threat we so desperately need, it just wasn't there often enough to rate him any higher.

Keep/Trade/Shake Hands And Give Him A "Thanks For Coming Out" Lapel Pin?: A UFA as of July 1st who has expressed a desire to re-sign with Ottawa, I'll put him squarely in the "we'll see" file. After all, my expectations may have been a tad high in the euphoria of the deal that brought him here in the first place. While it can't hurt to have him, the price has to be right.

Jason Spezza: The last of the Gigantic Cap Gobbling Four, and the most frustrating infuriating what the fuck was he thinking?!?!? enigmatic. Magnificent when he wants to be, invisible when he doesn't feel the love, I wouldn't be looking for a letter on his jersey anytime soon.

Keep/Trade/Jam A Cattle Prod Up His Ass Every Time He Does Something Stupid?: There have been mutterings of dangling him as trade bait for a certain Italian-Canadian goaltender now toiling in the wilds of British Columbia, and I have to admit, the thought is a seductive one. With five full seasons under his jockstrap, his dumb-ass drop passes, blind passes through the middle and the non-existent physical game ain't cute anymore. "That's just our Giggles!" doesn't cut it mi amici, capice?

Chris Neil: I was really hoping I'd be right about him. A million years ago (okay, last October) I predicted a breakout year, with visions of some sort of Chris Draper/Tie Domi hybrid dancing in my head. Um...Not so much. An okay year, followed by a baffling disappearing act in the playoffs, does not a valuable grinder make.

Keep/Trade/Feed Raw Meat In A Possibly Futile Attempt To Recapture The Anger?: Tough call. Without a return to the fearless, body crunching uberpest with decent hands we've all come to know and love, I can't see him making it past next year's trade deadline, though I must say, it would kill me to see him go. Now repeat after me Chris: NEILER SMASH!

Dean McAmmond: Rough year. First he gets his brain scrambled by someone who should, by all rights, be somebody's prison bitch, then suffers through Teflon's inability to trust anyone not named Spezzssoneatly. After The Bryan's purge, he started to find his legs, but by then, as with everything else, it was too little too late.

Keep/Trade/Encase In Carbonite For Entire Summer In Order To Prevent Further Head Injury?: For two years running, we've lost guys we didn't realize we needed. The first was Brian Smolinski (no, really!). The second was Mike Comrie. We'll pin those on the senile delusions of a cranky old man. But Bryan, unless Dean tells you he's retiring to a Tibetan monastery to contemplate life from the perspective of a dung beetle, don't let it happen a third time.

Nick Foligno: Decent to surprisingly competent while with the Big Club, Spawn of Mike looked more comfortable as the season went on (a mid season exile to the land of buses and road side diners will do that). Being one of the better Sens during the Pittsburgh series means I will reserve my initial judgment that he was destined to become another third line plugger on a team full of them.

Keep/Trade/Damn With Faint Praise Until Daddy Demands His Release?:
Considering the rape and pillage of our farm system under Muckler The Meek, the answer is pretty obvious. But if I could offer one thing by way of suggestion Nicky, you need a better goal celebration. Your dad made the Awkwardly Dorky White Guy Leap fashionable. You may want to try skating on your hands.

Martin Lapointe: The latest in the Senators illustrious Trade Deadline history, joining such luminaries as Tyler Arnason, Oleg Suprykin, Petr Bondra, and Tom Barasso, he at least achieved what none of the others had managed. He actually looked like he was happy to be here. Based on that alone, I'm kinda fond of the big lug.

Keep/Trade/Release Him To Fulfill His Hollywood Destiny As "Mongol Horde Member #3"?: Bring him back, I say. He's got a few years left in those 34 year-old legs, with the added bonus that he single handedly drags the "number of natural teeth on the fourth line" back down to acceptable levels. Plus, if there's one guy guaranteed to drive Darcy Fucking Tucker batshit crazy, it's him.

Shean Donovan: Another of The Bryan's signings in his never ending quest to bring some crash and bang to the team, what we ended up with was mostly nudge and fizzle. On the flip side, he too was a victim of Teflon's Reign of Error. So...what does that leave us with? I haven't a fucking clue.

Keep/Trade/File Under Free Agent Bust And Move On?: There was a reason Bryan brought him here. Sure, to our untrained, non-hockey-dude eyes, that reason remains a bit of a mystery, but we were told one actually exists. So let's put him as a solid...maybe. I'm with HockeySchlock Al here: "The Shean Donovan we had in this regular season is a dime a dozen."

Brian McGratten: By all accounts, a stand up guy, beloved by teammates, trainers and small children throughout the Greater Ottawa Area. Likes puppies. Great. Um...that's all I got.

Keep/Trade/Admit It's Time We See Other People?: Sorry Gratz. I really am. 38 of 82 games played. 46 penalty minutes, 11 shots, three assists. Good luck with free agency Brian. We can still hang out and stuff...

Randy Robitaille: Rescued from the dung heap that is third tier Euro "hockey", he was so grateful, he gave us...well...a very good reason he had been exiled to said dung heap to begin with. So, Randy. Feel like doing a little scouting for us?

Keep/Tra...Awww Who The Hell Am I Kidding?: Excuse me...pardon me. Comin' through here...excuse--HEY RANDY!! Ahem...Sorry, buddy. Nothing personal, you understand, but you're kind of in the way. Right this way, Mr. Bass...

The more astute among you (at least those of you nice enough to have made it this far...I cherish your pity) may notice that there are a few guys missing. This was done for two reasons. First, those I've left off, namely Cody Bass, Jesse Winchester, Ilya Zubov, Josh Hennessey and Alexander Nikulin weren't with the team long enough to pick up the tab at the rookie dinner, let alone earn enough of my ire to get dragged into the muck with the usual suspects. And secondly, this thing is already way longer than I meant it to be, and my typing fingers are getting all crampy.

So, I'll leave you to ruminate for now. Tomorrow, I'll be pulling the scab off the putrid, staph-infected pustule that was our defence and goaltending. I'm sterilizing my hazmat suit as we speak.

Senators Could Use Some Re-Leaf [Ottawa Citizen]
'Safe is Death' Tortorella in Lightning Limbo [Ottawa Citizen]