Ottawa Senators

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It’s Not How You Start

It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. And the Montreal Canadiens finished the Ottawa Senators last night in the third period, burying 3 goals for a 4-1 win. On the plus side, it was a close game in the first two periods and Ottawa put in a great dramatic goal in the dying seconds of the first period that was just a beauty from Karlsson, Spezza and Foligno. On the minus side, well, there were more than enough of those.

Minus: penalties. The bane of Ottawa’s existence of late, penalties have proven to be  a collossal waste of time for the Senators. While the actual penalty kill looks good and very few powerplay goals go in, it’s the time wasted when the team could be working on much needed offense. Not to mention the momentum that’s lost every time someone takes a bad, silly or plain selfish penalty. A 5 minute boarding major for Kelly in the second and a double minor for Fisher on a high stick, and the Senators racked up 11 minutes of penalty time in one game, not counting the 4-on-4 after some rough stuff. The team should all feel shame.

Minus: Leclaire. It’s clear that Ottawa doesn’t feel confident in front of Leclaire. It’s not because he’s not a good goaltender, it’s not because he brings smelly things into the locker room and nobody likes him. It’s because he’s accident prone and unreliable. He’s a jinx. Yes, that’s right, I used the ‘j’ word, the big no-no in sports. Nobody feels lucky with him in net. As a result, they don’t score for him. It’s a psychological problem. It doesn’t feel right. They average 1.3 goals with him in net. The stats speak for themselves. Get Elliott back in. He helps the team rally, so get him back. It doesn’t matter what makes the team want to play, whether it’s beard power or video games or extra cheese on pizza. It’s not the why that’s important, it’s the what. Elliott works. Point.

Minus: Ottawa’s forecheck, or the lack thereof. There is not enough support on this team. Ottawa needs to get its feet moving fast and they need to anticipate. It’s becoming more and more clear that Ottawa does not have a good sense of who their opponents are or what they like to do. They should study them more closely, figure out where they like to shoot from, what formations they use, what their lines look like and their weak spots, which they seem entirely incapable of exploiting.

Minus: Communication. You know that game where they make you talk someone through a situation, or when you describe a picture to someone and they have to draw it? It’s a cheesy team building or couples therapy exercise that works. All of Ottawa’s lines should do it. Whatever they need to do, they have to figure out what’s not clicking. Nobody seems to know where anyone else should be at a given time. Nobody seems to be sharing their game plan. Someone needs to start talking to someone, though, because the games are slipping away.

There is no point in going through a game review for the Senators last night, because it was all Montreal. They played a swift, smart game and they capitalized on Ottawa’s numerous errors. Carey Price didn’t have to show off on the night and he was all smiles at the end. PK Subban may be missed by fans, but it appears that he’s being saved for when he’s needed – like when a real opponent rolls into town.

Ottawa’s going to look very different next year, and many are looking forward to that prospect. Clouston’s contract is up, Murray’s contract is up, Leclaire will be a free agent and many are praying that Lehner will be ready sooner rather than later to be called up. But those are the things of the future – work needs to be done now.

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Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.

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In response to “It’s Not How You Start”

  1. bulletts Dec 8 20103:26 pm


    they can’t finish to save their lives right now that’s for sure….I didn’t think they played a horrible game last night, but they can’t get any second chances to bury cause they just have no grit, nobody wants take take it physically it seems…they really look slow right now, they just have to have a little more jam, some intensity and win some battles for the puck….somebody hit someboy, geez….and what is with their D core, they aren’t playing well at all….the sad thing is, even if they do make changes, it’s not like they are 1 or 2 players away from making a run, feels like they’re a full team away… will definately be interesting to see what happens, but I feel like a move is on its way….here’s hoping….

    1. Mika Oehling Dec 8 20103:51 pm


      You’re right, they’re not playing a gritty or a physical game and they’re getting snowed. What kind of change do you think would be the best? It seems like everyone in Ottawa has a different opinion on this. Should it be Clouston? Should it be Murray? One of the players or more?

      1. Dan Rakusan Dec 8 20105:02 pm


        Murray needs to go for sure… Clouston seems okay at times, but he just doesn’t have a very talented lineup to work with. My personal feeling is that it’s rebuild time in the big-O. The culture needs to change, and Alfie is probably at the center of it, now that he’s getting older and has clearly lost a step. Spezza, Phillips, and Fisher likely need to be shown the door ASAP in order to get some picks and prospects to initiate a true rebuild.

        Ottawa has tried the “patch it up” route for years now, but the core has grown older and is now past their prime. Full on re-structuring is needed, and that starts from Bryan Murray to the players. Coaching depends on how they approach the upcoming offseason. Just my opinion though (and I used to be a Sens fan until they divested themselves of all the Euro talent they used to have…)

        1. Mika Oehling Dec 9 201010:46 am


          Wow, that’s a mass exodus, Dan. Murray, Alfie, Phillips, Fisher, Spezza- and some of those guys are locked into long term contracts that are going to make them a hard sell. Spezza’s got at least another 4 years on his. It may be that Murray’s choices in the past have been a big problem for Ottawa, but they won’t be fixed overnight, not even if he’s sent away. One problem that a change in management might fix- big contractitus. It’s the disease that a lot of Ottawa players get when they’re given fat long term contracts and then feel like entitled stars who don’t have to play anymore- a common theme in Ottawa.

          1. Dan Rakusan Dec 9 201010:58 am

            I am not suggesting ALL those players move at once, but it’s the emblematic problem for Ottawa right now. Guys who have been the face of this team for many years now, but aren’t performing at a high level anymore. Slowly but surely, divesting the team of those players (plus Murray) will help kick the rebuild into action. Seriously, the “Alfie Years” are all but over… It’s almost like the Muskoka 5 problem Toronto had…

  2. bulletts Dec 9 201010:51 am


    realistically, this is the group they have, this is the group that’s going to have to turn it around for themselves, there isn’t much that can be done with trades in my opinion, they can’t move Spez cause nobody’s willing to take him at the price he’s going for or he would have already been shipped, this season has been tough to see, watching Alfie crash is really painful for me to see, he’s such a class act all away around, and he’s got game, but he’s just not able to put this team on his back any longer, it’s got to come from someone else, and from what I’m watching, that someone else isn’t in that dressing room at the moment….I don’t think ANOTHER coaching change is going to spark this team either…I’d also like to know something, is there a legitimate super GM out there available that I’ve failed to see or something, everyone calls for Murry’s head around here, but who’s going to take the reigns over that’s actually going to be better and make this team a contender?…if there is, please enlighten me….just too many underachievers to make this team competitive, the list is sooooo long it’s scary….

    1. Dan Rakusan Dec 9 201011:02 am


      They could try to lure Jim Nill out of Detroit… He’s had plenty of tutelage under Ken Holland, which in my opinion makes him a good choice for a team in need of re-structuring…

    2. Mika Oehling Dec 9 201011:42 am


      Chicago, Detroit and Tampa Bay have all managed to turn their teams around with new leadership. Even Washington looked like it was heading to disaster and playing to empty stadiums until a few changes were made. The addition of Ovie sure helped! Locking in young talent, building up, and creating a new culture in the locker room is what it’s all about. A new manager could breathe new life into this team- if we get the right kind who’s not going to chase players past their prime and lock in talent for more years than we can realistically commit to and expect results from. The players have to be accountable to a certain level, and once the long term contracts get signed, players just coast. Everyone would do the same if they knew that they had all the power on their side. It’s exactly what Heatley ended up doing and he abused his power right out of town.

      1. Dan Rakusan Dec 9 20101:07 pm


        You guys should hire Glen Sather…lol… Get him outta New York! He’ll make it impossible NOT to rebuild! You’ll still have the retarded contracts and whatnot, but at least you’ll know what needs to be done!

        1. Mika Oehling Dec 9 20101:59 pm


          Can you call him for us, please, Dan? LOL. Seriously, though, we do need a strong hand and a sharp mind in Ottawa’s management- someone with a lot of experience and a no-nonsense businessman who can sign on talent without promising them the moon.

          1. Dan Rakusan Dec 9 20102:10 pm

            I’ll take the GM job. I know hockey well enough, and know what it would take to build a contender. Sadly, I’m a Rangers’ fan (live in Ottawa though), so my version of a rebuild would be jaded by what I’ve seen in NYC.

            But, look at our prospect stable: Stepan (playing ok in the NHL), Grachev, Kreider, McDonagh, Valentenko etc… Ottawa doesn’t have blue-chip prospects like these (although we shat the bed by not getting Cam Fowler when we picked 10th…grrrr…)

            It’s not gonna be easy in Ottawa. It’ll take a lot of patience and adaptation to the way the game is played. Sadly, Murray is old-school and doesn’t get it.

    3. Mika Oehling Dec 9 201011:45 am


      I also don’t think a coaching change is going to be the answer. It’s upper management that’s got to go. Bad decisions up top have made this team into a mish mash of underachievers and guys with past glory but little left in the tank. Which is also a shame for the up and coming young guys from Binghampton who will be looking for their chance in years to come. Room has to be made for them to have a fair shot.

  3. bulletts Dec 9 20101:49 pm


    the problem is, Ottawa’s never been in the toilet long enough to have what Chicago, Tampa, Washington, Detroit(Detroit is Detroit, I can’t explain them other then to say they’re scouting is unbealivable ) or Pittsburg have, those clubs were horrible for a very long time, and it’s pretty hard not to draft well when all you get is top picks every year, so I just don’t buy that argument at all…Sens had there time, they couldn’t get the job done and bring a cup home, now they have to admit that time has passed and being mediocre isn’t going to cut it anymore….I just don’t think Ottawa fans will be there to support a total overhaul, not to bash anyone, but we suck as fans, and when this team tries to pull the whole “five year” plan, SBP will be empty, I know I’d be worried if were Mr. Melnyk that’s for sure…..

    1. Mika Oehling Dec 9 20102:04 pm


      We had a great shot at the draft this year and it’s unreal that Ottawa did not snag a pick in the first round in the 2010 draft which was waist deep in talent! That was Ottawa’s worst decision lately by its management. Unfortunately, players are playing their way out of Ottawa at the moment and headed for greener pastures elsewhere. Ottawa fans do suck in general and 5 years in hockey time is a long time. But unless mega contracts to ageing players stops, the team is going to become like a has-been 80s rock group: cheesy and past their prime.

    2. Dan Rakusan Dec 9 20102:05 pm


      I’d have to agree that Ottawa isn’t a particularly strong “committed” fan-base, but the reality is that being middle-of-the-road for 5 more years isn’t going to get fans excited either. One way or the other, fans are going to start feeling attrition to this team because mediocrity won’t fly in O-Town.

      You DO need a complete overhaul, and maybe have to suffer through a few lean years in order to get this thing built properly. It was done in the early years of Ottawa’s existence in the modern era… Got lucky on the Yashin trade to NYI, built smartly from within (no prospects now that I’m aware of that could become the face of the franchise), and traded for spare parts (Smolinski, Bondra, etc…). That’s how you make a Cup run.

      Melnyk might crap his pants at what he sees now, but I don’t think that Bobby Butler is the answer. You need to draft high, which might mean giving up Fish for a 2nd, or Spezza for a prospect plus a 1st…

      This team has rapidly become irrelevant in the NHL, and it can’t possibly continue for more than one or two more seasons before the basement becomes their apartment for a while. There is NOTHING coming up in the system right now that would make me think otherwise…

      1. Mika Oehling Dec 9 20102:29 pm


        It’s funny when you mention that Murray is old-school-I think that he may be a victim of Ottawa and the fact that it’s a government town, used to handing out big contracts for permanent positions and offering no real incentives to perform in the future. Bobby Butler is not the answer- he’s not Sidney or Ovie. Can’t wait for Lehner to come up one day.

  4. Mika Oehling Dec 9 20102:45 pm


    Ottawa may be in trade talks for Marco Sturm or Simon Gagne. Sturm is injured- memories of the Leclaire-Vermette trade come to mind- *groan*.

  5. Mika Oehling Dec 9 20103:11 pm


    Simon Gagne for Foligno and Phillips may be a good way to go- if Murray dares to trade Karlsson, he will never be forgiven in my books. There’s no way that he should drop Regin after the fight with arbitration this summer. Maybe New Jersey will take Leclaire- most people would call them suckers if they do, but then again, who paid for Kovalchuk???

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