"When you're losing, you have to take risks, push yourself to the limit. And we always seem to be afraid of taking the puck, making a pass, driving forward. There is some sort of fear. There is no consistency. " ~ Alexei Kovalev, Puck Daddy
I'll paraphrase for Kovalev -- As the injuries continue to mount, the talent deprived Senators have to outplay their opponents to have any chance at outscoring them. The run and gun days from the 2005-07 era are over. This is a team that lacks confidence and is too dependent on their big three. Without Alfie, Michalek and Spezza, this roster simply stinks. With four straight losses, these are trying times for the Ottawa Senators and things aren't going to get any easier as this depleted squad continues their 5-game road trip. From the outset, the games against the Hurricanes and Thrashers were supposed to be the winnable games before having to play the red hot Rangers, a dickheaded Habs squad and that fat savante known as Tim Thomas. From there, the schedule for the rest of the month gets worse. As a fan and writer, there's always a knee-jerk temptation to write an article after some catastrophic loss that dismisses the team completely. It's this can't see the forest for the tree phenomena that has caused me to try and step back and view this recent losing streak objectively. And believe me, I've tried to rationalize everything but it's been a back and forth process.
- My initial reaction: This team sucks.
- Okay. They're not that bad. Injuries have had a negative impact on the product.
- Even before the injuries, this team was characterized by an inefficient power play, bad goaltending and a mediocre blueline.
- But the team was winning in spite of these things. A power play and the soft, deflating goals can be remedied.
- Or the team's record is flattering because it is inflated by the team's strong play on home ice.
- Going back to the injuries have highlighted a concern that the Ottawa's two dynamic offensive talents who make their linemates better are aged 36 and 37. And aside from Peter Regin, no young prospect or player who is ready to assume top six minutes and contribute.
- Would this team be willing to trim the fat and retool?
- No, there's this perpetuated Canadian stigma attached to organizations that fans will not pay to see a loser.
- Aside from the Maple Leafs, do Canadian owners own a team to make money? I'd say no. It's about the social aspect that allows them to brag that they own an NHL team in Canada. Besides, fans aren't paying to watch a team that's meddling in the middle of the Eastern Conference. Today's Senators fans are smarter. It's not so much about wins and losses as it is about being entertained and building a contender.
- But is there any reason to assume that Bryan Murray would retool since last season's precedence shows that he's comfortable sticking with the status quo?
- With the way the next month of the schedule sets itself up, these next few weeks of the season will make or break this team's chance to get into the playoffs. So what happens now? Even I'm a bit conflicted here.
It wasn't until I read a recent Larry Brooks article that I found myself nodding my head in agreement with what he had to say.
This is about the big picture. Management cannot afford to be shortsighted here. Making the playoffs for a fifth straight season is a nice little accomplishment, but ultimately means next to nothing if the achievement isn't a stepping stone to contention. ~ Larry Brooks, NY Post
Truer words have not been spoken and there are parallels that can be drawn between the two meddling franchises. Bad contracts? Yep. Overpaid vets? You bet. A roster with easily recognizable holes? Indeed. A young forward or two to gravitate to and throw your hope behind? Absolutely not.
This is the new NHL. A time when teams are reluctant to trade NHL-ready talent. It doesn't help matters that Ottawa no longer has the assets or the personnel to acquire skilled young talent without paying a premium like Toronto did for Phil Kessel. It seems like the only way to acquire these skilled players is to draft and develop your own. And with a General Manager and scouting department whose trade record is spotty but is lauded for its drafting, when is it time to ask ourselves -- why aren't these guys playing to their strength?
"Right now, what can go wrong, is going wrong." ~ Cory Clouston
Sadly Cory is right. Everything that's going wrong is going wrong. But things could get worse. If last year taught me anything, it's that Bryan Murray is susceptible to making some band-aid solution moves. This year, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping like hell that he'll listen to offers and trim the fat off of this average roster.
Spare Me the Bullshit
If you feel compelled to use the comment thread to spout off about how the city of Ottawa needs the Senators to make the playoffs and make money, don't waste your time. I'm not buying into it. Eugene Melnyk and any other small market owner isn't in the business of owning a NHL team to make money. If this was all about the bottom dollar, the organization would have saved themselves millions before the start of the year by never inking Kovalev to his current deal.
Engaging Statistic of the Day
Mike Fisher hasn't scored since he proposed to Carrie Underwood. Is it a sign? Definitely not. It's more indicative to the fact that without their first line, the opposition only has to focus on shutting down the Fisher/Kovalev tandem. ( A fact that Clouston has recognized and changed. Regin was skating with Kovalev and Shannon last night.)
Fire Eli Wilson?
SLC from Five For Smiting has some intriguing reasoning for wanting Eli Wilson, Ottawa's forgotten goaltending coach, to be fired. It was so good that it may have even helped inspire a similar piece about Greg Carvel from Sens Town.
Trade Thought Bubble
Envision a scenario in which the Ottawa Senators fall out of the playoff picture and Anton Volchenkov doesn't seem interested in re-upping with the Senators. If you're Bryan Murray, what do you do with him and where would you send him/what is your ideal return? Post your idea below in the comment thread.