Jason Brough

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With big plans ahead, the Sens hire a new president and CEO

With no less than the future of the franchise at stake, the Ottawa Senators today announced the appointment of Tom Anselmi as the team’s president and CEO.

Anselmi will succeed Cyril Leeder, whom the club said will be stepping down.

Anselmi, most recently the president of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, is an experienced executive, and the Sens have a lot of things to get done in the next few years.

Chief among those things is getting a new arena built on LeBreton Flats

“Tom’s distinguished career in sports and his previous senior executive roles with two other Canadian NHL clubs will be invaluable as we continue our efforts to build an organization that will prepare us for the future and the exciting opportunities which lie ahead,” said Senators owner Eugene Melnyk in a statement.

This morning, Melnyk insisted to reporters that the change had nothing to do with attendance. But the fact remains, Sens attendance has lagged, and Melnyk has made no secret his frustration with the small crowds.

Last night, 16,683 was the announced attendance at Canadian Tire Centre to watch the Sens beat the Washington Capitals, 3-0.

Canadian Tire Centre, which opened in 1996, was built in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata, and Melnyk believes its location hurts attendance. Hence, the plan to build a new downtown arena. Hence, the hiring of Anselmi to oversee that plan.

Related: Melnyk says he won’t sell the Senators ‘at any price’

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    A ‘special player’ — Marleau’s latest goal gives Sharks sixth straight win

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    The day after his four-goal game in Denver, Patrick Marleau played the hero again in Winnipeg. His tally with just 4:33 remaining in the third period, after a fantastic feed from Ryan Carpenter, gave the San Jose Sharks a 4-3 win over the Jets.

    For Marleau, it was his 17th goal of the season. For the Sharks, it was their sixth straight victory.

    “He’s a special player,” said head coach Pete DeBoer, per the Mercury News. “He’s had an unbelievable career, and he looks like he’s still got a lot of gas in the tank.”

    At 37, Marleau is one of the oldest players in the NHL. Among the few that are older, only Marian Hossa is enjoying a goal-scoring season like he is.

    Marleau is also in the final year of his contract. Last season, there was speculation that he’d accept a trade out of San Jose. Granted, that speculation died down when the Sharks caught fire and made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

    But as a pending unrestricted free agent, it will be interesting to see what he decides. Suffice to say, he doesn’t look like a guy who needs to retire.

    “It’s fun when the puck’s finding you and you’re putting them in the net,” Marleau said. “It’s been really great. The main thing is we’re getting the wins.”

    Pre-game reading: Do the Leafs still need a No. 1 defenseman?

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    — Up top, watch NHLers auditioning for their roles in Sunday’s All-Star Game in Los Angeles. (Personally, we think Evgeni Malkin showed more range in that old car dealership ad, but he was pretty good in this too.)

    — Do the Toronto Maple Leafs still need a No. 1 defenseman? And if so, would they trade young William Nylander to get one? Pierre LeBrun tackles a topic that won’t go be going away anytime soon. The Leafs are a good, young team with tons of talent up front, but when most people look at their blue line, they see the need for at least one more top-4 d-man to join Morgan Rielly, Nikita Zaitsev and Jake Gardiner. (TSN)

    — In a potentially related story, if the Canucks are going to make a trade, it’s likely they’ll move a defenseman for help up front. We’re not sure if Erik Gudbranson would be of any interest to the Leafs, but he might be of interest to some team, and the situation on Vancouver’s blue line has definitely changed in the last year. (Daily Hive Vancouver)

    — The oral history of Fox’s glowing puck is a fun read. Here’s Brian Burke on the prototypes they tested: “I remember one of the first tests was in Boston. One of these pucks went into the crowd, we had to race over to them with some volunteer and say, ‘Here, we’ll give you another puck, and we’ll give you a T-shirt.’ The first two or three guys were like, ‘F— you. I’m keeping this puck.’ I think we lost $1,200 in that first game.” (Sports Business Journal)

    — Sounds like deputy commissioner Bill Daly had a good trip to China, where the NHL soon hopes to hold some preseason games. “It seems that the NBA, having brought games over there, has been a game-changer over there as far as basketball is concerned. Now everybody is excited about the prospect of NHL teams coming over. So, we’re obviously trying to make that happen as soon as possible. We’re still holding out hope it can happen (this year) but if that doesn’t happen I expect it’ll happen the following year.” (Postmedia)

    — A profile of 96-year-old John “Chick” Webster, believed to be the NHL’s oldest ex-player. Webster lives in a small Ontario town called Mattawa, where he’s been known to make cracks like, “I don’t even buy green bananas at my age.” Webster played 14 games for the Rangers during the 1949-50 season. (boston.com)

    Enjoy the games!

    Sens nab Wingels in trade with Sharks

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    The Ottawa Senators have acquired forward Tommy Wingels from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for two AHL forwards, Buddy Robinson and Zack Stortini, and a 2017 seventh-round draft pick.

    The Sens announced the trade via Twitter. As part of the deal, the Sharks will retain 30 percent of Wingels’ $2.6 million salary this season. The 28-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent. His total cap hit is $2.475 million.

    Wingels has just five goals and three assists in 37 games this season, and his average ice time under head coach Pete DeBoer had fallen from 13:38 last season to just 10:03.

    Perhaps he’ll find a bigger role now under Guy Boucher. Wingels is expected to join the Sens tomorrow in Ottawa.

    In a press release, Sharks GM Doug Wilson called Wingels “a valuable member of our franchise for many years, a phenomenal teammate and a true role model on and off the ice for our organization and the NHL.”

    Wilson added, “As a team evolves and younger players push for roster spots, unfortunately tough decisions have to be made. We wish Tommy and his wife, Molly, nothing but success in the future.

    “We also want to welcome Buddy and Zach to our organization. They add size and depth to our reserve list and we look forward to having them in San Jose.”

    It’s crunch time for the Lightning

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning are desperate for wins.

    How desperate?

    Well, it’s estimated they’ll have to win around 21 of their final 34 games in order to make the playoffs.

    So, pretty darn desperate.

    It is shocking, frankly, that the Lightning have found themselves in this position. After 48 games, they sit dead last in the Eastern Conference with a record of 21-22-5. Even without Steven Stamkos, most observers thought they’d hang in there.

    But if it’s not one thing (allowing too many goals), it’s been another (not scoring enough) for Jon Cooper’s bunch. Heading into tonight’s game in Chicago, the Bolts have just two wins in their last 10 games.

    Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the Coyotes, one of the NHL’s worst teams, was a low point.

    “Disappointing is probably not even the right word,” veteran forward Brian Boyle said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “We’ve got to do a better job in (the room), I guess, especially the veteran guys. It’s got to be way better from the start, maybe in preparation? Obviously, our focus wasn’t where it needed to be. That’s a hard one to swallow.”

    The Lightning outshot the Coyotes by a big margin, 48-23, but for the 13th time this season they lost a game in regulation despite finishing ahead on the shot clock. Only Carolina (17) and Boston (15) have lost more games that way. 

    In a related story, Ben Bishop‘s save percentage has fallen from .926 last season, when he was a Vezina Trophy finalist, to .905. He was pulled Saturday after allowing five goals on just 17 shots.

    To be fair, Bishop had played well in his three previous starts since returning from an injury. But Saturday was a bad time to have a bad game. Those were two points the Lightning really needed, and they didn’t even get one.

    Tampa Bay has two games before the All-Star break — tonight in Chicago and Thursday at the Panthers in Sunrise.

    That game Thursday will be huge for both teams, each of which went into the season with high hopes, before injuries and other frustrations arose.

    The reality now is that both Florida clubs are likely to miss the playoffs. Yes, there’s still time to climb out of their respective holes, but the odds say they’ll probably fail.