Monday, September 29, 2008

Swedenpalooza 1.

The Senators great Swedish adventure is underway. The plane ride over was uneventful although I envy those who can fall fast asleep on planes. It makes a 6 hour time change so much easier to take.

The first surprise when we landed in Göteborg (Gothenburg) was the smiling immigration officers. The ones in Ottawa are very good and very polite but our policies require filling out forms. Not a big deal but I have never landed in a country where they simply look at your passport; stamp and it welcome you to Sweden. Not forms to fill out at all.

The first thing we noticed when driving from the airport to the hotel was the landscape. We could have been on a trip to Sudbury. Pine trees lined the highway which was often cut through rock that looked exactly like the chunks of the Canadian Shield which were blasted out to make the highway into Sudbury.

The city is about the same size as Ottawa and in many ways is very similar. I now understand why Daniel Alfredsson often says Ottawa reminds him of his home. The weather is apparently standard Göteborg fall weather. Cool (about 12 degrees during the day), cloudy and periods of rain forecast for each day we are here.

The Senators had a light practice in the afternoon just to get the players legs moving after the long flight. The local media was out in full force to see Alfredsson. He is like a rock star here. His old club team Frölunda was playing tonight against a club called Rögle BK (the team Kenny Jonsson plays on). During the first intermission they unveiled Frölunda’s first Pillar of fame. They don’t really have a wall of fame. Alfredsson is the first to have a pillar on the concourse adorned with his image, story, signed stick and action shots. The 2nd player to be honored will be Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist who is also a Frölunda alum. This is a rare thing. Swedish hockey reflects Swedish life which is to rarely accentuate the individual over the team.

I have to say the Frölunda game was lots of fun to watch. The Euro fans bring drums and sing and clap through most of the game. Fireworks and flags that cover an entire section of seats are rolled out after each goal. Things you just don’t see at North American games.

The other thing you really don’t see much of in North America is the type of logo the Frolunda Indians have. It’s the head of an Indian chief in full head dress. We all know on our continent the political correctness debate about the logo’s of the Chicago Blackhawk’s and the Atlanta Braves.

The final thing for today is our hotel. The rooms are just like they were taken out of the displays at Ikea. They really do use this stuff over here in everyday life.

Tomorrow the agenda features something very interesting. After Senators practice Alfredsson is going to take the media on a walking tour of his home town. It is heartwarming to see how proud Daniel is of his home and how much of it he wants us all to see. This might be the first and last time this will happen during his career and he is clearly enjoying all of it.

See you at the rink.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Senator questions??????

The Senator's training camp is now in full swing. There isn’t a day that goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about what I think of this year’s team. It is no different from any other year. Everyone asks the people they meet the same questions. They want to debate the changes, they want to hope, they want to dream, they want to worry, they want to keep caring. That is one of the most wonderful things about living in a Canadian NHL city. There are very few people you meet who do not care about hockey and who don’t care about this team.

I have to say I have a very good feeling about the forwards on this team. Lots of skill, lots of size, lots of speed. Proven scorers and proven checkers. Ottawa like every other team in the NHL except Detroit would love to have another affordable, veteran scorer who is proven and playoff tested. No small task in finding that without blowing the budget.

I also don’t have any great issues with goaltending and I believe that puts me in the minority after having daily discussions with friends in the stands and hockey fans at the supermarket. I think Gerber will be what he has always been. A very good, steady veteran goaltender. Not an all-star but a solid hard working pro. Alex Auld is the wild card. The book on him everywhere he has been is that he is great until he realizes he is the number #1 guy and then the pressure gets to him. A little older, a little more experience and maybe now he is ready to take the heat if he ever gets a real shot at the #1 job in Ottawa.

My questions are on defence. I think this new group will be bigger, tougher and harder to play against but I still wonder about their ability to move the puck. You can say what you want about Wade Redden and Andrej Mezaros but they were both better puck movers than anyone left on this Ottawa roster from last years team. If you look over his career Filip Kuba should help a great deal in that regard and Brian Lee showed some promise in that area as well but I an still interested to see how it works overall. Bryan Murray has made no secret about his on-going search for an affordable, veteran puck moving defenceman but again, get in line with just about every other team in the league. Anaheim seems to be the only team that doesn’t need more. They simply can’t sign forward Teemu Selanne until they free up cap space by moving Mathieu Schneider. You have to think Bryan Murray would love to get him, but it would have to be at half price and the problem for Murray is there will be several teams in line ahead of him.

We will know more as training camp continues and the exhibition games begin, but right now looking at it on paper, the Senators look to be a team that will still score more than their fair share and likely be a lot nastier in their own end, but might have some problems developing a lot of their offence off the rush without a solid first-pass defenceman unless Kuba is that guy. We will have a good idea about that in short order with the pre-season close at hand.

See you at the rink.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Do us all a favor and just quit Mats

Mats Sundin told a Toronto radio station this week that he has not yet decided “IF” he wants to play hockey anymore let alone where he wants to play. The former Leaf Captain continues to struggle with that heavy decision.

It really isn’t a decision at all then is it. If you are in September and you still cant decide if you even want to play hockey anymore doesn’t that mean that you don’t. If you get to September and that burn to get on the ice and compete isn’t there then maybe the question has been answered already.

Fans are waiting, teams are waiting and other players are waiting and Mats it appears could care less. Several NHL teams have been saving a roster spot and a big hunk of cash in case Mats wants to play and he wants to play for them. Other players will be moved to accommodate that. They would love to know what is happening with their careers too, but that's no concern to Mats.

Last season when Sundin turned down several requests from Toronto to waive his no trade clause one of his reasons was the full season issue. He believes players should finish the season with the team they started with and anything less is simply a rental and he didn't want to be a rental. OK, so a full season includes a training camp and exhibition games. Camps open in less than 2 weeks and Mats is still deciding if he wants to play? If he decides he does but not until December was last years reasoning a smoke screen for something else?

Mats has no money issues in his life. Over his career he has earned over 74 million dollars plus endorsements and investments. Mats and generations of his family will never have to worry about money. So the issue is really desire and he seems to have a complete lack of it.

For that reason should NHL teams be lining up to try and lure him back? Just like the teams which were wary of his drive to win when he refused to waive his no trade clause in Toronto last year, he seems to be completely lacking in the kind of push you need to play in the NHL at the highest level.

Mats has never been a dog player. He has never mailed it in and maybe that’s his biggest fear. Maybe he is scared that with this lack of excited anticipation for the start of the season he see’s himself as a player who might not be able to push himself to be the player he has always been. No shame in that. The shame is waiting for some epiphany or some magic voice inside Sundin’s head to tell him that he does or doesn’t want to be an NHL player anymore.

This waffling is not only infuriating for those teams who have set aside money to sign the big Swede should he return and pick them as the winners of the Mats lottery. It is an insult to every hockey lover who would give anything for one day of his gifted life. When the fans watching the game care more about Mats playing than he does there is something very wrong with the wires that spark his hockey DNA. Maybe those wires are no longer connected.

Come back or go away I don’t much care anymore. Just stop the waffling. Retire and fade away and then if you decide in a year (or maybe by Christmas) you do want to play again just un-retire. The NFL has the Brett Favre flip-flop Mats can be ours.

See you at the rink.