Mark it on your calendar. This Sunday marks one full year since the Ottawa Senators went down the sinkhole.
Nobody knew it at the time, and with the Senators getting out of the gate looking like the Montreal Canadiens circa 1977, who could have seen it coming? Who would have known that a 3-0 loss to the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs Nov. 17, 2007, would have signaled the beginning of a descent into the abyss from which the Senators have not recovered.
After going 15-2-0 to start the season, the Senators have gone a dreadful 24-36-10 since then, including a 6-7-2 start to this season. For the past couple of seasons, hockey observers have opined that it was only a matter of time before the Senators window for a Stanley Cup closed. The way they’ve played in the last calendar year, it looks as though it has slammed shut.
There have been a myriad of changes throughout. Try as they might to balance their lines by splitting up the Pizza Line of Jason Spezza between Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley, the result has been disastrous. The tinkering continues with coach Craig Hartsburg taking Antoine Vermette off the line with Spezza and Heatley and replacing him with Nick Foligno.
Goaltending, often a source of frustration for the Senators, isn’t the problem this time. In fact, Alex Auld was statistically one of the top goalies in the NHL before the Senators were whitewashed 4-0 by the Montreal Canadiens Tuesday night.
They tried to get tougher, adding some veteran grit in Jason Smith and Jarkko Ruutu, but the two have been largely ineffective with Ruutu earning a two-game suspension for his flying elbow on Maxime Lapierre in the game against the Canadiens.
The Senators, meanwhile, are a mess. Their defense corps, once one of the best in the NHL, can’t defend particularly well and has a real problem moving the puck. With the exception of a few spurts, Heatley and Spezza look lost without Alfredsson, leading fans to plead to put the three back together so the Senators have at least one dangerous line.
And to think just a year ago, people were planning the Stanley Cup parade route.
This column also appears in the Ottawa Metro newspaper.
Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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