During the second of what could best be characterized as the most mediocre four years, academically speaking, in the history of Carleton University (and that's saying something. Dan Akroyd went there!), I succeeded in what all men dream of, but few manage to achieve: I hooked up with one of, if not the hottest Co-Eds on campus.
I was at a frat party during the bacchanal known as Homecoming. She, a bedazzling vision of red hair, perfect breasts and legs long enough to make men alternately weep and go to war, all tucked into a black one piece lycra very mini-dress (this was 1991 after all) happened to be standing in front of me in line to the bathroom. And, as one is wont to do while waiting to void one's bladder, I struck up a converstation.
Now, whether it was my effortless...nay...brilliant...analysis of Homer's The Illiad as an allegory of Man's eternal struggle to return to the safety of His mother's womb (I'd heard she was a Classics major), or the fact that she thought I was retarded and took pity on me (I stammer a lot when I'm nervous), I'll never know. What I do know, is that we soon found ourselves groping and flailing among the coats, text books and scattered detritus of an empty bedroom, ripping at clothing, all panting and spit and tongues and passion. For twenty minutes this went on, each gasp and groan hungrier than the last, until, at the moment, the very instant our tryst was to be consummated...she flopped down on her back, and didn't move. Not a muscle.
Confused, I leapt to my feet, wondering if I should check for a pulse. "What's wrong?", she cooed. "Don't you want to?". Oh, lordy. Yes. Yes I did. And so, after another five minutes of grunts and french kisses and dancing fingers, I once again stood ready to claim her maiden head for Queen and Country. And once again, she dropped as if shot through the neck. "Don't you want me?", she asked from the side of her mouth. "What are you waiting for?" I didn't wait any longer. Afterwards, when a suitably lengthy cuddle period had passed and I was putting my pants back on, she said to me "That was SO nice! Thanks!" Um...yeah. Sure. No problem.
My point? This is exactly how last season felt to Sens fans.
Welcome to Your Totally Half-Assed 2008-2009 Season Preview, where we go line by line through the dressing room, endeavouring to answer that eternal question: Will things be better than last year, or will we, once again, spend six months getting hot and bothered, only to find out we're fucking a dead trout. I'll let you know come April.
1st Line: Heatly, Spezza, Alfredsson
You just couldn't leave well enough alone, could you Coach? After an off-season double dog swearing that you would find some way, any way, to spread the scoring around, you put them back together against a bunch of Hab scrubs in the second to last meaningless exhibition game. Three pretty shifts and a goal later, and they're starting the season as your number one unit. Again. And just like that, Giggles' new found commitment to defence evaporates. Again.
Like Saul, on the road to Damascus, your eyes have been opened. Alright. Fine. That's your prerogative as Head Whistle Blowing Dude. But ye be warned, Coach Craig. Unless the calendar reads "March" and we're more than four points out of a playoff spot, the very second you pull a Paddock and triple shift our 35 year old Captain and Living God because you need to dig yourself out of a 3-1 hole with two minutes to play, I will find you. Just a reminder...things didn't end so well for 'ole Saul either.
2nd Line: Vermette, Fisher, Winchester
Yes. Well. This is a good start isn't it?
Aside from a predeliction for lousy nicknames and...shall we say..."inconsistent" goaltending, the one thing that has plagued the Sens throughout history has been the total and utter absence of a second line potent enough to drive opposing coaches to drink...with the possible exception of Pat Quinn. Now, this may shock one, or maybe even both of you, but this year is no different. I know! Having Verms' speed on the wing should help, and assuming Fish can eventually assuage his owchy loins, my man crush for him should be completely vindicated the first time he drills Jeff Finger (HEE-HEE!! SUCKERS!!) on the forecheck.
No, the key to how effective this line will be, or even how long it stays together, rests entirely in the (presumably) soft hands of our out-of-nowhere 25 year old "rookie", Jesse Winchester. I'd be lying if I knew anything about him beyond his NCAA stats or the instant erection he seems to provoke in The Bryan, so I'm taking a firm and definitive "Gosh...here's hoping" stance on him. For now. That's just the kind of incisive analysis, you come here for, isn't it?
3rd Line: Kelly, Foligno, Neil
On paper, this should be as solid a checking line as any in the league. For those of you who haven't completely repressed the memory, Little Nicky was our best player against Crysby and Co. last April, although I'd be a happier little camper if he could find a way to put a little more meat on those bones. As for Mr. Kelly, he could very well rate some serious Selke consideration next spring. That is, if he stays healthy. And he'd better. Otherwise we're in deep trouble.
Then there's # 25. Here's what I wrote about Neiler and his fellow third liners a year ago. Um...yeah. Didn't quite work out like that, now did it? But as usual, I'm rather magnanimous in my magnanimity at this time of year, and therefore choose to lay the blame for that squarely at the feet of our late and unlamented "coach" who wouldn't have known how to properly use a third line if you sculpted it in iron and branded it on his forehead. But, Chris...if I may impart but one (har!) piece of advice this season it is this: Don't. Be. STUPID!
4th Line: Ruutu, Bass, Donovan/McAmmond/Schubert
Heavens to Betsy, is this line going to be fun to watch. Boy howdy! Dagnabbit! Egads! And all other manner of out-dated colloquialisms! We're rockin' it Old School, Yo!
First, there's our boy Cody, or as my friend Erin of The Universal Cynic fame, refers to him...The Man, The Legend, The T-Shirt. There is much love for this manchild (watching him pummel the puny Penguins last spring did indeed warm the cockles), and there will be more to follow rather shortly, but for now, just remember this: C-Bass. Roll that over the tongue a bit...C-Bass. There ya go.
Shean and Dean will in all probability be plattooning on the wing for this line, swapping speed for grit and vice-versa as creaky knees, concussed skulls or the situation and opponent warrants. The good news is there will be little in the way of noticeable drop-off between either of them. The bad news? There will be little in the way of noticeable improvement between either of them.
And, with apologies to Vaclav Verada, who spent most nights looking like he wanted to be somewhere else, in Mr. Ruutu, our New Uberpesting Overlord, we finally have a genuine, top-flight, Class-A shit disturber. I can't wait for the first close-up of Guy Carbonneau's mug when that smug, shit eating smirk slowly dissolves into a rictus of pain and anguish as it slowly dawns on him that every Mike Komisarek cheap shot shall be revisited upon his team tenfold.
Take Donovon or McAmmond out and throw Schubie-Doo onto this line with Cody and Roto Ruutu and opposing coaches will be chewing holes through the boards in impotent and ultimately futile rage while their team parades to the penalty box. Yeah, that'll be sweet.
Chris Philips, Anton Volchenkov:
Big Rig and A-Train. The only part of the Senators this season that doesn't worry me in the least. They will do what they do, all will be well, and as a result, I will have nothing to rale against except the paucity of cool nicknames. Seriously. Adding a "y" to everybody's last name just ain't cutting it anymore gentlemen.
Filip Kuba, Jason Smith
A few more years ago than I care to admit, I took a last round flyer on a kid named Filip Kuba in my one and only venture into fantasy league hockey. Everybody around the table, grizzled veterans that they were, laughed their asses off at my expense. Turns out, they were right...and wrong. He was fair to middling during the regular season, but completely disappeared on me in the playoffs. But ten years later, that's okay. Other than being our one faint hope for any kind of back line offence (and our power play "quarterback"...Jesus wept), his real job will be to keep Swiss Pastry from imploding in a cloud of inconsolable self doubt. Pssst...dude. You're 6'5, 240lbs. Think you can use some of what God gave you? Just a thought.
Speaking of cool nicknames...good morning Mr. Smith! I'll admit, I was rather excited about signing Gator (with slight edits to reflect the jettison of some dead weight):
He isn't the fastest defenceman in the league. He won't make the sweet break-out pass to a streaking Vermette. Hell, he may not score a goal for us at all. But by God, if, at the very least, he shows Messrs. Lee,I still stand by that, and because I'm a lazy bastard, will let it speak for itself.
NycholatPicard and (especially) MeszarosKuba that weak ass, Redden-esque stick checks around your own crease are no longer acceptable, then he's worth every penny we're paying him.
Brian Lee, Luke Richardson/Alexandre Picard
As you might recall, after his third game in the NHL, The Bryan descended from on high to declare that Brian Lee had "played his last game in the minors". And I saw nothing in his game last year to contradict the GM's enthusiasm, especially as he was our best defenceman in the first round (yet another of the kids. I'm sensing a theme here). That said, Brian, your main job on the third pairing can be summarized thusly: Don't fuck it up. And that goes for the other two, while we're at it.
Martin Gerber, Alex Auld
Sweet Mary and Joseph, but I'm sick to death over these two. If Pastry has somehow found a way to keep himself from drifting halfway to the press box on the initial save, then a return to Darth Gerber form is possible. If not...well there's always Alex Auld, right? He of the four teams in six years? Yeah. Him. But on the upside, and unlike last year, I'd be very surprised if either of them will end up opposite Michael Landsberg's plastic face addressing ugly rumours about doing rails off a stripper's thighs. So there's that.
The Creamy Middle:
For the benefit of the kind souls who've read this far (and bless you if you have), I'll get this out of the way right now: We WILL make the playoffs. Got that? Good. But on the way, there will be much gnashing of teeth, the odd naughty word and, yes, even a blind panic or two. The offence is still largely the same group that finished first overall in Goals For last year. Unfortunately, that had and still has, more to do with the three guys on the top line than anything else. But, the defence (24th overall in Goals Against) is about as different as you could ever find from the collection of jello and silly putty we had patrolling the blue line last year.
So what does it all mean? The Bryan finally has his team. The sting of being pushed around by Anaheim in the Finals two years ago can still be felt, and he's rebuilt the Sens accordingly. This is the toughest Senators team to play against that I can remember. But the margin for error is razor thin. Expect to see a pile of 3-1 and 4-2 games, and unless our boys come with their best effort and highest work ethic every single night, we'll be on the losing end of those scores more often than I'd care to admit at the moment.
The days of blowing the doors off our opponents in the first period and then coasting for forty minutes are long gone gentlemen. And that's absolutley fine by me. I like my hockey a touch more robust, you see. Full speed, all the time. Do that, and we're in pretty decent shape.
So to the rest of the league, I say this...if there is but one thing you can count on this season, it's that every win, every goal, every inch of ice you take from us, will be bought in sweat and blood. You bring the puck. We'll bring the pain.