So when I did my Habs half-year end review a few weeks back, I meant to do one for the Senators as well.
Since the Sens have already gone past the halfway point, I figured I should change the title.
So welcome to The Ottawa Senators 58.5 Per Cent Season Review.
Overall, the Sens have been like pretty much every team out there: injury prone. Not sure why this year seems to be worse than other years, but it’s been crazy. The Habs, for example, have had major injuries to Andrei Markov, Andrei Kostitsyn, Brian Gionta, Roman Hamrlik and Georges Laraque. The Penguins, at one point, played with five defencemen injured, as well as injuries to Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz. The Red Wings have seen injuries to Niklas Kronwall, Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Cleary and Valtteri Filppula.
So sure, the Sens have seen Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, Chris Neil, Anton Volchenkov, Jesse Winchester and Pascal Leclaire go down this season, but it’s no worse than what other teams have suffered through. Besides Spezza was having a horrible year, Leclaire hasn’t looked good, Michalek had only scored one goal in 19 games before his injury, and Winchester was… well… Winchester-like.
Here’s a look at what else has gone wrong with the team this year.
The Sens goalie problems seem to be very Philadelphia Flyers-esque. For some reason, the Sens never seem to get a dominant goalie (except for Dominik Hasek, who was a basket case when he was with the Sens). Remember in spring of 2008, when there were rumours of trading Spezza for Roberto Luongo? A lot of Sens fans believed that was a bad deal for the Sens, because they loved Spezza (he was coming off a 92-point season that year).
I think that’s the key factor when it comes to Sens players. They’re too well-loved by fans. Wade Redden was huge in Ottawa, until his skills started declining (many fans chose Redden over Zdeno Chara). Patrick Lalime was a great goalie until that game seven against Toronto. Chris Phillips and Chris Neils are way popular (despite the fact both are on the decline). Neil is a good gritty player, but he’s not worth $2 million a year.
This is a story that sums up Sens fans pretty well. When Alexei Yashin sat out a year because he wanted a new contract, he finally came back when a court said he had to honour his contract. Some friends of mine argued that Yashin would want to prove he deserved a new contract, and they instantly started to love him again.
They believe their players are the greatest out there, and instead of thinking of upgrades, they wait until the guy is on the downside of his career, and then wonder why he’s not tradeable.
When Leclaire was traded here, he was seen as the saviour. Sens fans couldn’t see past the numbers, the fact that Leclaire benefitted from a Ken Hitchcock-type defensive system in Columbus. It didn’t matter. They convinced themselves that he was a great goalie, no matter what.
But I’m ranting.
There are a few places where they could upgrade.
For example, on the defence. Chris Phillips is breaking down. He’s becoming like Jason Smith was in his last year with the Sens. Expected to be the great defensive defenceman he was five years ago, but you can tell it’s catching up with him. Phillips seems one step behind out there, has trouble winning battles in the corners, and gives away the puck more than ever. It’s time to trade him, while they can still get a good return for him.
And if they’re trading, they should go all the way: Trade Alfredsson. Get some good young prospects in return. Same with Spezza. They won’t get a lot in return for Spezza, but it clears up a lot of cap space. Use that money that is saved to get a quality free agent.
They don’t have anyone they can build this team around going forward (and no, you can’t build a team around a 38-year-old captain). This team needs to be blown up and start over. They need to tank for a couple of seasons, and rebuild with some quality draft picks.