Last place. Let it roll off the tongue.
Going into Thursday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens – one in which they’ll be without both Mike Fisher and Chris Neil – that’s exactly where the Senators find themselves in the Eastern Conference.
Things haven’t been this bad since Dave Allison spent the entire practice doing 3-on-2 drills or since Alexander Daigle was minus-30. The last time things were this bad Pavol Demitra had hair, but no hands and no work ethic.
Of course, there is a major difference here. The Senators teams that were the laughingstock of the league in the mid-1990s were playing to their full potential. The team that goes into tonight with just six wins and five goals in its past five games is not. But all is not lost with the Senators, either. For all of their troubles, they’re just three points out of the playoffs.
On the flip side, they’re only one point ahead of the team that right now has the best chance to land either John Tavares or Victor Hedman in next June’s draft.
The real question is, how did this go so wrong, so drastically, so quickly? This time last year, the Senators were on top of the NHL, albeit beginning a descent into the H-E-double hockey sticks that continues to this day.
That has everyone from Bryan Murray to Murray Mclaughlin flummoxed, but something has to give here before disaster strikes.
Three seasons ago, the Senators had the best and deepest defense corps in the league. Their goaltending, while not the problem lately, continues to be suspect. The depth of talent they once had at forward has gone dry and it appears Antoine Vermette isn’t going to get any better.
They won’t trade Daniel Alfredsson and they can’t trade Dany Heatley without his approval, so that leaves Jason Spezza.
Trading Spezza would be a drastic move no doubt, one fraught with peril, because you know he’s going to get 100 points a year wherever he goes. But the Senators are running low on options and they don’t exactly have a bountiful farm system, so what do they do?
They have to at least consider the possibility of moving Spezza, not to shake things up, but to use what they would get in return to fill some of the other glaring holes in their lineup.
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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