ChirpEd- Enough With the #FreeMika

SensChirp October 20, 2013 54
ChirpEd- Enough With the #FreeMika


I’ve never played hockey at a professional level, nor have I known anyone who was ‘inside-the-game’. I don’t know what goes on behind the scenes in Bryan Murray’s office, nor do I know exactly why Paul Maclean plays his roster as he does. I can claim that picking Matt Kassian through trade is a pointless move, I can blame Bryan Murray for not finding a way to keep Alfredsson in Ottawa, and I can shake my head at Maclean playing Zibanejad alongside Smith and Neil most of last year. But at the end of the day, after all my finger pointing, I remember one important thing. I am fan. I am the consumer. I am not more knowledgeable about anything Ottawa Senators than the Murrays and Maclean. And to that end, I have had enough with the #freeMika project.

The Ottawa Senators chose to start their 2013-2014 NHL season with Mika Zibanejad in the AHL. They chose to start their season with JG Pageau and Stephane Da Costa on their NHL roster.

If DJ-Zbad is in the AHL for financial reasons – ahem, we’re looking at you Mr. Melnyk – then there’s no amount of free-Mika hashtags that are going to change that. If Melnyk can’t afford to carry the player currently, then so be it. I’m not happy about it, but the finger pointing needs to be redirected. No amount of pressure on GM Bryan Murray can salvage what’s left of Melnyk’s empty pockets. If the issue lies here, it needs addressing.

If, on the other hand, money is not the issue (or, more likely, is not the only issue), this decision falls on our management team. And in that case, I have to remember that they’re the closest to the situation and have made this decision based on their inside knowledge of everything Senators. If Murray & co. believe that assigning Mika to the AHL and keeping JGP and SDC on the NHL roster is for the betterment of the Ottawa Senators organization overall (this year, next year…), then I bow my head to their knowledge and experience: how short-sighted of me it would be to assume I know better.

….Maybe they project Mika as a top-6 centre and would like to give him first line experience. Playing 20+ mins nightly and being the go-to guy on a team is something he has never done professionally. Recall he was playing 3rd line defensive minutes in the SEL before crossing the pond. The current Sens depth chart slots Mika as 3rd line centre at best. They could move him to the wing, but if the vision is for him to play C, then it would seem that the AHL is a perfect place for him to establish himself as a star among his peers. Remember the guy’s age, too….

….Maybe Murray is hoping that playing Da Costa in the NHL can up his trade value, eventually opening up a spot for the then-#freeMika. Da Costa has put in his time in the AHL, maybe the team thinks he’s plateaued….

….Maybe Mika needs a good kick in the pants. He may have thought he was entitled to a roster spot this year … and maybe that’s reasonable. But yet, if guys behind you on the depth chart outwork, outhustle, and outplay you at training camp (guys who play your position, mind you!), you don’t deserve a spot. The more hockey I watch, the more I realize that hustle and determination are vastly underrated assets. I’d rather have a hard working Pageau on my team (recall last year) than a slightly more talented but less hard-working Zibanejad. If complacency and entitlement got to him (which they very well might have, through no fault his own), then the current Senators roster is perfectly designed to afford the luxury or developing Zibanejad further in the minors.

Yes, I love the guy: I think he’ll be a hell of a player. But enough with the #freeMika. I trust my team’s management and decision making, and I trust they’ve considered every angle behind this decision. And so if they chose to start my future favourtie player in the AHL to start the year, I’ll start trying to understand the reasons behind their decision rather than whine about my team’s locked-up star after every loss.

  • HamadBo$$

    Well put JPW!!

    Instead of bitching about mika, we should really be criticizing the defense which has been horrible this year…

    • Mike Bauer

      Oh I agree 100%. But its also obvious that JGP and SDC are not NHL ready and I dont believe SDC will ever be. And these are two guys that Murray said “beat him for his job”. But the bottom line is they arent even close to the talent, skill and readiness to play NHL minutes as Mika. End of story.

      • HamadBo$$

        Pageau is a hard worker, you need guys like him, but Da Costa is useless :P

  • Mike Bauer

    I have played hockey at a pro level and can tell you that Pageau and even worse, Da Costa are not what this team needs right now. Pageau will be good in time, but he caught lightning in a bottle last year and really there is no spot at this point for him. He shouldnt be on a 4th line. The team may as well have Jim Obrien filling that role. He can skate and plays two way, 4th line hockey. He has proven he can play a 4th line role at an NHL level and you are paying him NHL money to play in the minors. Pageau is a 2way deal, send him down and let him get more seasoning.

    And as for Da Costa, thinking that it will up his value isnt the thought process here. Trust me, this guy aint worth much at all and short of a Sean Monahan type start, his value wouldn’t go up…even with a Monahan start, NHL GMs wont be fooled into just giving away an asset for Da Costa because of that whole ‘lightning in a bottle’ thinking.

    Sure, MZ had an average camp, but his game is FAR more suited for the NHL than the two guys who apparently beat him out of his spot.

    If it were up to me, this would be my lines:

    Michalek – Spezza – Ryan
    MacCarthur – Turris – Greening
    Smith – MZ – Conacher
    Neil – Obrien – Condra
    ex: Kassian

    one of the guys who started the #FreeMika campaign.

  • Sensturion

    I’ve never understood the idea people have that “a player has paid his dues in the AHL and now deserves to play in the NHL”. I think that’s a BS mentality. “Hoffman has been in the AHL for a while now. He deserves a shot in the NHL.” or “Grant has been waiting to play in the NHL for years. Time for him to have a shot!”. This is a horrid way of thinking. The best players play. That’s the mentality people should have. In my eyes, Da Costa just isn’t cutting it. You could blame the line mates he’s been given, but the fact is, he’s not producing. Is Zibby the answer? Maybe, maybe not. What I do know is Zibanejad put up points last year while playing with Smith and Neil, something that DC seems unable to do.

    • Mike Bauer


  • karlssens

    At this point in time, Grant and Zibby deserve spots over da costa and pageau based on talent and what they bring to the team. But on attitude and work ethic, we will never know

    • Mike Bauer

      Why not Obrien. He’s being paid NHL money to play in the minors. He should be 4th lining it here in Ottawa. He has proven to be a valuable 4th line player at NHL level

      • karlssens

        Just from camp and what I’ve watched from bingo, Grant looks to be the better package.

  • JPW

    Whether Mika is more talented or more NHL ready than SDC or JGP is besides the point. Either a) Melnyk can’t afford to have Mika in the NHL, or b) Sens brass has deemed it better to start him in the AHL for various and sundry reasons.
    Are you claiming to know better than Mr. Murray?

    • Mike Bauer

      Yes. Yes I am.

      • JPW

        Fair enough. I respect your opinion.

        • Mike Bauer


    • Sensturion

      The point is that the goal of any sports team is to win. Unfortunately the Sens aren’t doing that and as such, minor tweaks need to be made. Da Costa hasn’t contributed to the team yet so why not try something else, AKA call up Zibanejad.

      • JPW

        I tend to believe that the team will call him up when they deem it the right time.
        And what is finances are the real reason behind his demotion? Then what?

        • Sensturion

          Then Melnyk needs to grow a pair and sell the team. If I were as rich as Melnyk says he is, I’d be ashamed if I couldn’t afford to pay 300k more for a player that could potentially make the team better.

          • JPW


  • Phil.

    Does anyone know if Zibby has played any wing in Bingo? He has often been named as an option for second line winger given the number of Cs on the team. I’d like to see that happen in the AHL first, personally.

  • karlssens

    By the way, we are so lucky to have a guy like Bobby Ryan on this team IMO. He has a great personality, and I have been thrilled with his off his personality. In his interview after the loss he seemed deeply troubled by it and didn’t just provide the usual “we need to be better next time” bs. I see a lot of leadership skills in him, and he also has 5 pts in 5 games when we are playing like SHIT. Future captain/ assistant? I hope so.

  • karlssens

    I think Zibanejad is perfect for that second line wing spot. Makes our third line that much for deadly when you add Conacher to pageau and greening.. Small line for the most part but really fast

  • argun31

    Michalek – Spezza – Ryan
    MacArthur – Turris – Zibanejad
    Conacher – Pageau – Condra
    Greening – Smith – Neil

    • hq8

      sorry pageau at centre is turning out to be a bad experiment: 30% at faceoffs. with playoff aspirations, can’t continue like that. all other teams in the division have much stronger centremen at 3C: bolland/mcclement(TOR), emerton/helm(DET), kelly/soderberg(BOS), desharnais/galchenyuk/eller/briere(MTL), gomez/matthias(FLA).
      the sens need to make up their mind and fast. maybe the can:

      1. put Z.Smith at 3C and bring JOB back up at 4C
      2. bring up Zbad at 3C and let ZSmith be 4C.

      i dont care how badly Zbad performed in the preseason, fact is he was the teams 2nd highest scorer last year and one of the main reasons the sens were able to maintain credible performance to make the playoffs and get past 1st round. he played 2C/3C all of last season. the decision by the sens to dump a guy who performed all of last season is murky at best. i believed sens management at first, but now, i feel this is a dubious decision.

      if Zbad is not the answer right now for whatever bum reason (given his performance last year), then its more troubling because that means insufficient centre depth for the NHL roster.

      • hq8

        also, im not making any judgements 5 games in, but the divisional pecking order right now looks very very very bad for the sens. yea maybe not time to panic, but its definitely a start in the extremely wrong direction. every pundit thought toronto, montreal will struggle, and that ottawa will persevere, going as high as third in the conference. well, 5 games in the trajectories seem to be going in the complete opposite direction.
        this is very very frustrating to even write, because the reason the sens are sucking has nothing to do with the paper roster put together, its to do with the worst in-game execution seen from the senators in 2+ years of Paul MacLean’s tenure.

      • SebFromHawk

        If ANYONE needs more time in Bingo to work on their game, it’s Jean-Gatineau Pageau. I love the kid and am grateful of his contributions throughout last season’s playoffs but Jeeze-Louise he ain’t ripe.

    • Guest

      THIS! #FreeMika

  • jtf927

    great post Chirp. you brought to light that it is really a Melnyk/financial problem vs coaching. i also pondered the idea that playing JGP and Dacosta might be a way to attract a trade.

    i knew Melnyk’s tirades would come back to bite us in the rearview. the guy has ostracized the whole city and potential investors.

    • Phil.

      Has there been any evidence that the motivation for sending Zibby to the AHL is financial? I ask because I have not seen any, just speculation.

      • JPW

        Well, Melnyk did publicly say that the team was over budget… and sending Z down to the minors saves the team some money.

        • Phil.

          That is a huge stretch to me. Yes, he said the team was over budget, but he didn’t say he instructed Murray to find ways to save money immediately even if it’s bad for the team. Other moves such as keeping Pageau instead of O’Brien cost more money, so the money theory is just very weak to me.

          • hq8

            yup, i think its been said a lot of times that the total money saved from sending down Zbad is not significant.

            its a hokey move. i do believe it when sens management and coaching says that Zbad slumped in the pre-season. but i think its clear that pageau in particular is having a really hard time grasping the 3C or 4C role. cant win faceoffs – thats a major major issue for a bottom 6 centerman and it causes a serious breakdown in the possession system. all possession teams in the league boast crazy faceoff stats and ottawa cannot stake the claim this year due to the downward trend. Smith and spezza are hovering over 50%. turris is at 43%. pageau, Dacosta both just a smidge over 30%. thats not going to cut it. and this burnt the sens yesterday where a 2-1 game became a 4-1 game because of two bungled faceoffs on pageau. the first of those two being against getzlaf too – i dont know if that was after an icing but that was big-time being caught in a bad bad spot.

    • SensChirp

      Just to clarify, this post was written by a reader.

      But ya, Melnyk is an issue for sure.

      • Phil.

        Out of curiosity, are you saying “Melnyk is an issue” in general or are you saying you believe Zibanejad was sent to the minors for financial reasons?

        • SensChirp

          I think he’s an issue in general and think if not for the budget, the Sens would have carried 23 to start the season.

          • Phil.

            Fair enough and thanks for the reply. I am just not sure Zibanejad would be #23. I don’t think BM, TM and PM would lie/mislead as to why Z was sent down nor do I think they would send him down if it wasn’t in his/the team’s best interest (to save <0.5% of the budget).

  • Tim

    Great editorial. From a perspective down here over the years it got really hard to watch guys who got first dibs based on where they were drafted and not how they produced in the AHL. It’s why I will always be fans of the Andre Benoits/Matt Carkners of the league and not the entitled whiney Brian Lee’s ect…

  • Sandy

    Good post.. enjoyable read.

    We can ask ourselves this. IF it wasn’t for all of the injuries in Ottawa last season, would Mika have even played a game in Ottawa or would he spent the year in Binghamton? He probably needs help on his defensive game… and Richardson will certainly help there.

    Right now he can not replace Turris & Spezza. But I think he would be better than DaCosta… but would he have made a difference in the win/loss record on this road trip?

    With the close scoreboard in 3 of those losses.. IF the Sens would have taken less penalties.. they may have won 1 or 2 of those games.. and the Sens fans would not be panicking..
    They played 2 bad games against 2 really good teams on a tough road trip. That’s it in a nutshell…

  • Gordon Ramsli

    Great post! I couldn’t agree more!

    My opinion on Zbad being sent to Bingo is just to simply light a fire under him, It’s the franchise telling him we expect 110% out of you every night and if you don’t perform you wont be playing.

    Originally last year he played a bigger role due to injuries, With a healthy roster and I personally think Zbad walked into camp thinking he was assured a spot on the NHL roster, It was a move to simply put him back down to earth.

    We have played 5 games this season and off to a slow start mainly due to our horrible luck playing out in the west coast, I expect by game 10 or emergency recalled you will see Zbad back in playing.
    My thought is if Spezza needs to be out for a while our long term plan will be making Zibanejad cover Spezza’s role as 1st line Center.
    If all goes good and Spezza continues to play and can knock his injury issues off Zibby will go 3rd line.

    This is just my opinion


  • NickofTime

    Are you trying to take the fun out of it for those of us who should be the GM of the team? Don’t you know that we know more about what should have been done after the game then before the game? With all do respect our way of critizing the team after a loss & praising the team after a win is much more enjoyable for us than saying nothing & allowing the experts in the organization to run things the way they see fit & have all the fun. We know what’s best for this team the next day after every loss much better than any expert, so stop trying to ruin our fun. BTW when do you think they will bring Zibanejad back up? #FreeStone&Grant&Hoffman&Robinson ….

    • Jacques

      Well said, love it! That’s the fun part about being a fan, thinking we know it all. We go to the games and cheer for our team through thick and thin, but in here we bitch and want this guy and that guy traded. Makes this long 82 game season more fun to go through.

    • H POTTER

      I totally agree here. Since when is being a fan means that you gotta keep the smile and be happy the team “participated”. It’s about winning. Even if we don’t have the crosbys, ovys, toews, kanes, datsuks, and I I could go on and on, we still expect the team to be competitive if not win a decent amount of games to make it to the playoffs and if you’re a true Sens fan, wish they go all the way! Since their last run to the cup, I do believe that it’s not impossible for us to win it all

  • Jer6

    I seriously can’t wait until we play at home, sens will really need the support! GOOOSEEENSGOOO

  • TookieIs100PercentRight

    Win and play well defensively and we’ll stop.
    TOOKS100% OUT!!!!!!!!!

  • Andersonfan40

    I would like to see Murray trade for a top four defencemen.
    Also I would like to see Murray trade for Matt Moulson.

  • GoSensGoEh

    I had to work and didn’t see the game, but based on TOI and +/- it looks like MacLean reduced some players icetime. Condra averaged 13:33 in the first four games and then dropped to 7:54, more than 5 minutes less. Pageau averaged 12:51 in the first four games and then dropped to 3:02, more than 9 minutes less. They were -3 and -2 respectively.

    I wasn’t a supporter of Zibanejad’s demotion, but he’s there, let him finish what he went there for.

    If the bottom 6 has holes in it, and Zibanejad is working on his top 6 skills, who can we expect to see called up, if there is a callup? Grant is looking like a good candidate right now. I consider him a slightly lesser version of Smith. Dziurzynski is a possibility also.

    The defence will need either a trade, or a lot more time to improve. Karlsson may be a 2nd pairing guy right now, until he gets back to 100%, and Methot is also a 2nd pairing guy who is a good compliment to Karlsson when they are 1st line. Cowen is still improving into a 2nd pairing guy, as is Wiercioch. It seems Ottawa is missing a top pairing right now.

    • Jacques

      Grant a lesser version than smith? Grant has 9 short handed goals in a season and of couple of games in bingo? he was Bingo’s leading GOAL scorer a year ago. Time to stop the charade this guy is better than smith.

      • Dan Hill

        Grants stats are AHL Smith is NHL
        no matter how you slice it
        there is no comparison

      • GoSensGoEh

        Grant is a decent player and Grant should be the one to be called up right now. These are positives about this player. It is not a bad thing to be similar to an NHL player, and nearly as good. I think Grant could do a better job then O’Brien, and I think Grant slots between Smith and O’Brien on the depth chart.

  • GoSensGoEh
  • Icemen11

    Guys this is a non factor at the end of the day. For the time being at least. Here’s why…. Mika isn’t the greatest in his own end. We already give up 40 plus shots a game, and we have been loosing by 2 or more goals. If or when we get our act together and play tighter and start dictating the play and consistantly loose by 1 goal. Maybe then we can call up Mika for some added scoring punch. But for now in my mind save some money, let him develop down there, when we can turn things around and start being competitive he will get called up trust me!!!!

  • Dan Hill

    Good read……….and on the mark

  • NickofTime

    I would send Pageau to Bingo & try & trade Da Costa & Condra & if I couldn’t I’d waive them or buy them out, if still possible. Condra is a servicable player but he just doesn’t do enough offensively for my liking & he is small & soft. Conacher is the next guy on the block once Stone recovers & if BM/PM is still pissed with JOB I would bring Grant up.

    Greening – Spezza – Michalek – they were good two yrs ago
    MacArthur – Turris – Ryan
    Conacher – Zibanejad – Robinson
    Z. Smith – JOB – Neil/Kassian
    I would also try & make a deal with Toronto to acquire Franson. I would give them the chance to pick three of these guys (Condra, Conacher, Da Costa, Petersson, Hoffman, Corvo or JOB). Of course, it’s doubtful they would trade with us though unless we could arrange something with a third team & I’m not sure if three of these guys is worth Franson or all 7 of them.
    Methot – Karlsson
    Cowen – Franson
    Phillips – Wiercioch/Gryba

  • Merchaholic

    #FreeMika was that actually a thing? I never seen it on twitter land.

  • SebFromHawk

    Don’t want to brag here (or do I?), but I believe I am a founding father of the #FreeMika campaign and will not cease to lobby. I could elaborate long-ly about why I believe Mika is a better option than 5 of our on-team players right now but that would be seen as self-absorbed BS. His time will come sooner than later and I think a lot of non-believers will bite their tongues. Good evening!