It’s easy to dump on a team that has lost five straight games – by a combined score of 22-5, no less – as the Ottawa Senators have entering Thursday night’s tilt versus the New York Rangers.
But taking shots at the Sens is more of a fish-in-a-barrel exercise because their captain and best player is crowding 40, the team can’t get a save from any of its goalies, their No. 1 defense pair would be fantastic if they were your No. 2 set, their big, talented No. 1 center just can’t seem to fully get it and they’re the most recent team to employ Alex Kovalev.
I think I need a prorogation to catch my breath.
Right now, Ottawa is lumped in with a whole mess of bland teams battling it out for seeds five through eight in the Eastern Conference and I’m sure they’re fully capable of nabbing one of those spots. Daniel Alfredsson is expected back from a shoulder injury soon, Mike Fisher is going to break this 14-game goalless drought at some point and, well, the other teams in the hunt aren’t exactly the ’87 Oilers.
Maybe it’s just my line of thinking here, but I don’t believe the way to distinguish yourself from the ordinary is by trying to squeak into the playoffs in order to play the role of sacrificial lamb to an actual good team.
If you’re truly interested in emerging from the pack, hold a mirror up to your organization, ask yourself if you’ve got the horses to be really, really good any time soon, then make bold moves accordingly.
The Ottawa Senators played most of the last decade as a team that could legitimately go to bed believing it had a chance to win it all. It didn’t happen, as we all know, and since failing in the 2007 final, they’ve been on a constant slide to Mudville, otherwise known as the realm of mediocrity.
Ottawa has a great captain in Alfredsson, but he’s 37 years old and the chances this team can rebuild its blueline and solve its goaltending situation over a timeframe where he’s still a great player is very, very slim.
The Sens originally became an annual threat by building up from the ground and it’s time for this franchise to get back to earth. This team is nowhere near good enough to win it all now or any time soon. And gauging success by anything less than that standard is a waste of everybody’s time, unless you’re absolutely desperate for the revenues produced by a couple home playoff dates each spring.
Ottawa could fetch a mess of picks and prospects for guys like Alfredsson and battle-tested warrior Chris Phillips. And hey, kick the tires on Jason Spezza (currently out of the lineup with a knee injury), because as much as he doesn’t fit the bill of a franchise-defining center and captain, another team could identify his terrific skill as a wonderful accessory to the talent and leadership it already posses.
Last year, when The Hockey News ranked every teams’ prospects in our annual Future Watch edition, Ottawa finished right smack in the middle, 15th of 30 teams.
There’s that mediocrity again.
Moving some capable bodies out while they’re still in demand would do wonders to re-stock the shelves and jump-start a rebuild that could eventually allow this team to regain its status as a league power.
Starting anew is always a painful process, but it’s tempered by the optimism and excitement of actually working toward something, rather than clinging to what once was as it slowly withers away.
A fresh start would do wonders for the Sens; the same can’t be said for a playoff berth this spring.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Wednesdays.
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