spezza

 

Not even one full game. That’s how long Ottawa training camp standout Peter Regin stayed on the second line. It’s a story replayed in every NHL city. You’ve got to love the patience of NHL coaches who need to win if they want to stay employed. They are never far away from being the General Managers scapegoat of convenience.

 

 

The Senators have seemingly started the season strong, recording a 6-3-2 record in eleven games. Taking a closer look at those six wins, the Sens beat Toronto 2-1, the Islanders 3-2, Atlanta 4-2, Tampa Bay 7-1, a struggling Montreal 3-1 and Florida 4-3.  The only team that was playing well at the time Ottawa played them were the Thrashers.  If you add up the records of all six teams the Sens have beaten, they have a combined record of 19-31-12 including last night’s games. Underwhelming to say the least.

 

Two of the outright losses came when they played quality opponents. They lost to the Rangers 5-2 and then 4-1 to the defending champion Pens. Ottawa is not as good as they may look at the moment. A couple of bad breaks and this house of cards could very likely come tumbling down.

 

The past week has been very telling for the Sens. Last Thursday against Nashville, the sporting Sens spotted the visiting Predators to a three goal head start. Ottawa battled back with the next three tallies and then the teams played last goal wins until the overtime period where the Sens ultimately lost 6-5. This was against a Nashville team that averages fewer than two goals a game and has been shutout three times already this year.

 

Two nights later against a Bruins team playing without Marc Savard and Milan Lucic, the Sens were up 3-1 deep in the third period and gave up two late markers in the last minute and a half. Patrice Bergeron scored in the shootout to lock down the extra point for Boston.

 

Last night without Jason Spezza in the line up, Ottawa looked lethargic in a 5-2 loss and were outworked by Tampa Bay, a team they had easily beaten earlier this season. Granted the Sens were playing the second night of a back-to-back and one of their top players was out of the line up, but those are only excuses.

 

The Sens GM, Bryan Murray has had trouble keeping the same head coach behind the bench in consecutive years (other than himself) since dismissing Jacques Martin after another disappointing playoff in 2004.

 

Martin was replaced by the 63-year-old Bryan Murray who coached 164 games between 2005 and 2007. He was followed by 53-year-old John Paddock, who was fired after only 64 games during the 2007-08 season.

 

Ottawa started 2008-09 by signing a new head coach to a three year deal in June of 2008.  The 49-year-old Craig Hartsburg lasted a meagre 48 games before being let go.

 

The 39-year-old Cory Clouston took over for Hartsburg and was able to staunch the bleeding to finish out the year.  Murray then signed the young head coach to a two year deal. Clouston’s handling of Dany Heatley played a key role in the former two time 50 goal scorer’s departure from the Senators.

 

Ottawa will be in the middle of a very average season when they travel to San Jose to play Dany Heatley’s new team on the first day of December. The Sharks will feast on the Sens and win big with the former Senator having a big day. It won’t help that Ottawa has been without the injured Pascal Leclaire since the middle of November.

 

In a desperate attempt to save his job, Bryan Murray trades Spezza and Leclaire to the Islanders for Martin Biron, Josh Bailey, Matt Moulson and what he hopes will be the first overall pick in the entry draft. Ottawa GM Murray justifies the trade by saying that the team needed to inject some youth into the aging lineup and that Coach Clouston had become frustrated with Spezza’s lack of defensive awareness.

 

Isles GM, Garth Snow stated “By acquiring Jason Spezza, we are trying to right some of the wrongs of the previous regime. Everyone knows that Spezza should have been an Islander back in 2001.” The Isles then sign the 27-year-old Leclaire to a 15 year, $25-million dollar contract, citing a friendly cap hit. “Between DiPietro and Leclaire, we have two number one goalies with a combined cap hit of just over $6 million per year” says Snow.

 

And come New Year’s Eve, the Senators will lose to the rejuvenated Islanders, leaving Ottawa in sole possession of last place in the NHL.  From that demoralizing point on, the media and fans will be rabid in Ottawa. The Sens wunderkind head coach is given his walking papers mid-January.

 

Following the trend of hiring consecutively younger head coaches, 29-year-old team mascot Spartacat will be named interim head coach while the team weighs its options. Surprisingly, the team responds well citing the polar opposite personality difference between Clouston’s edgy style and Spartacat’s playful nature.

 

Somewhere from a beach in Southern California, a tanned and relaxed Dany Heatley is ringing in the New Year in shorts and dreaming about the upcoming Olympic games and beyond to a lengthy playoff run. He who laughs last, laughs best.

 

It may be that Ottawa backed the wrong horse; quietly placate a proven 50 goal scorer or a back a 39-year-old rookie NHL coach? A 28-year-old, two-time 50 goal scorer is more difficult and costlier to replace than an NHL head coach. Should the Sens falter, the blame should fall squarely on the GM.

 

The Senators had better not go into a tailspin at any point this season because not only will Clouston be canned; Bryan Murray’s tenure with the team should also mercifully come to a close.

 

A Stanley Cup finalist in 2007, Ottawa’s talent level has steadily decreased under Murray’s watch. This was the top team in the Eastern Conference in 2005-06 with 113 points. The following season, Ottawa finished with 105 points. The Sens barely qualified for the playoffs in 2007-08, tying for the last playoff spot in the East with 94 points and then last year’s horrid first half had Ottawa finishing with 83 points and eleventh place in the East.

 

The Senators are a now mere shadow of the team that was three wins away from winning the Stanley Cup in 2007.


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Comments (20)add comment

jL said:

jL67s
... I mostly agree with what was said about the job management has done with the Sens over the last couple years.

I think management completely miss-handled the way the team tanked after that 15-2 start they had in the season after going to the SC Finals.

That being said, I like the hiring of Cory Clouston and I like the team that is in place now, even if they have taken a step back in talent and have to do a little re-building. Clouston has them playing as a team and working hard as a team.

Starting November 5th against Tampa, they have 12 games in 24 days. This run is a big test and will tell if they have a playoff hope this season or not.
November 02, 2009
Votes: +0

Dan said:

danhl
... I'm a huge Sens fan and I thought the article was really funny. Fellow Sens fans lighten up! We still have our draft picks. I like the team a lot more than last years edition and they are still getting used to each other. Takes time. Though every time Cogliano, Penner and Smid do something I curse Heatley. Why Dany Why? Edmonton rocks!
November 01, 2009
Votes: +0

KS said:

Agamon
... You need to do one of these about the Habs next, Russ. 6 wins in OT, the other against the Isles. They can look at the Leafs record and think, "There but for the grace of the hockey gods..."

I really like Buffalo for this division, they're finally playing the way they should have been the past couple seasons. The Bruins will give them a run for their money though.
November 01, 2009
Votes: +0

James Wallace said:

revengespoon
... Ottawa is the new Islanders. At least with Tavares the Islanders can say they have a centerpiece to build around. Ottawa is a mess and will miss the playoffs. Taylor Hall anyone?
November 01, 2009
Votes: -3

Guy Incognito said:

Guy Incognito
... Oh, and it seems unlikely that Spezza will be 127th in league scoring for long. Once he gets rolling those 1-goal victories might be 2 from time to time.

You may disagree of course, but I'd be interested in hearing a coherent take as to why he won't get on a roll at some point, and why the team won't improve at that juncture.
November 01, 2009
Votes: +0

Guy Incognito said:

Guy Incognito
... I know the forecast part of the article is a bit of a spoof, but doesn't Spezza have a no-trade clause as of July 1, 2009?

As for the rest of the assessments, I wouldn't read too much into too small a sample. Detroit gave up 8 goals twice in a 4-game span last year (8-0 to Nashville and I think 8-2 to Columbus); turns out that didn't mean much. I wouldn't look at the Sens giving up a bunch of capricious deflections to the Preds as an end-of-season portent, especially since they showed some fight in the game by battling back to tie it up. They were enigmatic in that game, to be sure, fighting back from a nasty deficit but failing to seal the deal. Still, there was a lot more to that game than the loss in the box score.

The Islanders have also taken Pittsburgh, Boston, Montreal and Washington (twice, winning once) to OT which suggests Ottawa's not the only team 'scraping by' against them. Florida has beaten some good teams as well (CHI, PHI, DAL, STL), despite their record. Again, Pittsburgh only managed to 'scrape by' with a 1-goal win against them, too. The only game that I thought looked really bad was the lackluster effort against the Lightning. Otherwise, with parity being the way it is in the NHL now, 1-goal margins of victory against low-ranked teams are nothing to be ashamed of.

Often times people make the argument that good teams find ways to win even when they're not playing well (in fact, this is what the commentators said during the loss to Pittsburgh, as Ottawa seemed to outplay them and yet come out empty-handed; another game that had more to it than the box score). I think an equally powerful argument could be made that that's what's happening with Ottawa's record here, rather than the take that they're just scraping by and will never play better than they are now so they're bound to be marginal from here on out. While their offence has lost some punch, their PP will not remain 14%.

If we look at the talent, the team has less punch on the top line than they've had in a long time. However, I would say there is also much better depth than they've had in a long time, not only in the Senator's top 3 lines, but in the system as well. Murray's forte has always been the draft; accumulating young talent. Muckler left the system utterly depleted, with very little by way of good prospects coming up through the farm. Murray has played a key role in turning that around.

The team also has the most talented goalie in franchise history, with the exception of 3 months from Dominik Hasek. Leclaire may be on everyone's band-aid list, but as far as I can tell he's had no recurring injuries - just random stuff for the most part. He'll play a full year this year, mark it.

The team has some weaknesses, to be sure (like most teams), but this talk of collapsing houses of cards is premature.
November 01, 2009
Votes: +0

Garry said:

umpoqx
I Love the Sens but....... I love the Sens, but I understand the text behind this article. Great job Russ, that's exactly how I feel....It's a GONG SHOW over in the nation's capital. I am glad that my feelings have come to fruition through someone else. This article isn't about shooting down Ottawa or who is a fan of what team, but how ridiculously the team is being managed. Russ just elaborates on it in a way that is true and accurate, meaning....no matter how off the wall his comments may be, really how far removed are THEY from handling any situation in Sens territory! That has been proven time and time again over and over. They need to start making good smart decisions over there, and if not.....bu-BYE!
November 01, 2009
Votes: -1

Russ said:

The Comish
... Hi guys,

First of all, I AM NOT A LEAFS FAN!! LOL! I used to be a Leafs hater, so that comment truly makes me laugh! Many of you know I am an old (emphasis on old!) Oilers fan.

When I submitted my article to Dobber, I told him that I might even get some hate mail!! The criticism wasn't unexpected as I knew there are many diehard Sens fans on these boards. No worries, though.

Much of the article was tongue firmly in cheek. I do not think Ottawa will trade Spezza this year, nor do I think they will finish at the bottom of the standings. They will likely fight for a playoff spot this year.

My starting point for the article was that Ottawa was only scraping by and their record was maybe a bit of a mirage. The team isn't playing as good as their record indicates.

From that I went off into a little fantasy segment that hopefully most people were able to follow. I thought that the handling of the Heatley situation was poorly done and if it were dealt with more delicately, Heatley would still be in Ottawa on his way to a 40-50 goal season. The blame for that falls squarely on Murray.

Anyway, I'm glad that the article spawned many comments that went from complete garbage to loved it! It would be a boring place if we all agreed on everything.

Russ Miller aka The Comish
November 01, 2009
Votes: +0

Rick Wakeman said:

Shoeless
... Hee hee - you're bad Russ - just stick poking bad. But you screwed up - I am pretty sure that deal for Spezza sees Ricky Dipietro coming over, not Biron.
October 31, 2009
Votes: +0

slink said:

slink
Sens Fans... I love how Sens fans think the writer must have been a Leaf fan. Newsflash W Leaf fans don't sit around waiting to take shots at your team. We really don't care about your team anymore. Any rivalry that existed between the teams is gone. You're on the same page as most other insignificant NHL teams.

Now if you were Montreal... That's a different story, oh how I love to hate that team.
October 31, 2009
Votes: +0

msog1 said:

MSOG
It's called satire... Great story Russ. It's nice to see some creativity every once in awhile. Too bad the Ottawa Sensitives fans don't get it.
October 31, 2009
Votes: +0

Matt said:

Matt
what the .... Hey, you are certainly a Leaf fans that cannot appreciate a team better then yours! Spezza will not be traded and the Sens will beat San Jose in December!!!! Obviously I am a Sens fan and THEY will make the playoff this year.... GO SENS GO!
October 31, 2009
Votes: -2

Alex Mullen said:

alexmullen4180
... Yeah you really should have made a point of saying when you were gonna take a trip into fantasyland. Confused me pretty badly for a second. That being said Murray should have been fired long ago. He might be a bigger fake as a GM than Burke.
October 31, 2009
Votes: +0

H said:

Big Ev
... The biggest mistake made by the Sens management was letting Chara walk. This was not Murray's fault, as he was not the GM. This was Muckler's fault, he created the mess that was last season. This season's team should return to the playoffs.
October 31, 2009
Votes: +0

Andy Doherty said:

Flyer Fan
... Spot on assessment of the Sens situation imho. Murray did a good job as a coach, but has been continually misreading, and bleeding talent from the roster since taking over as GM.

A quick glance at the roster he inherited vs. the roster the Sens are icing today tells the story...

Add the hirings, and consequences of Paddock, Hartsburg, and Clouston to the mix and it becomes clear that turning the ship over to Murray has moved the Sens from an "above average" knocking on the door to "elite" status team, down to the "below average" level.

Nor does a quick turnaround seems likely.

October 31, 2009
Votes: +1

r22yu said:

BlackGold
... Funny article, hope you're right about spezza getting traded, but to... let's say Atlanta instead of NYI!
October 31, 2009
Votes: +0

Larry said:

Rollie1967
huh? you lost me with the 'fantasy' bit in the last half of the article.
Murrays job is definately on the line. the coach will probably go with him too,not making the playoffs should be the catalyst for major changes.
October 31, 2009
Votes: +0

H said:

Big Ev
... First off, Murray wasn't the one who dismissed Martin, that was John Muckler. Second of all, Ottawa was without Spezza AND Volchenkov AND Lecalire in the last game. Thirdly, this article is just garbage. You must be a Leaf fan right?
October 31, 2009
Votes: -1

praba said:

praba
... I thoroughly enjoyed this article actually. I'm thinking gainey will be fired first, but murray is also a possibility
October 31, 2009
Votes: +1

Roman said:

spanyon
wow... this is by far the dumbest article I've read on dobberhockey.. maybe because I'm a Sens fan, but still.. just wow.
October 31, 2009
Votes: +0
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