The New York Islanders may have adopted the right attitude as of this moment, shrugging off a bad season with no hope of making the playoffs and accepting their fate early, having a little fun and not being focused on winning. It showed, as the Islanders bested Ottawa for a 4-3 win in a shootout last night, with a severely injured Ottawa lineup taking a beating in more ways than one. With Alfredsson, Carkner and Winchester out, and Fisher gone in a trade, Ottawa was already looking like a shadow of itself. The shadow got a little less familiar too, as Gonchar and Campoli went down to injuries, and the surprise of the night, Chris Kelly, disappeared in a trade to the Boston Bruins (more on this in a follow up post).
This means that the Ottawa Senators are looking a lot more like their AHL affiliate, the Binghampton Senators. Bobby Butler and Erik Condra were out on the ice for the Senators, bringing with them good numbers on the season and some added energy to Ottawa’s lines. Butler came out with a goal and an assist, after several attempts on net were thwarted in previous starts, much to the frustration of himself and the Ottawa fans. But goalscorers like to score in batches, and it looks like Butler’s just getting started. It couldn’t come at a better time for Ottawa, who need to have something to keep them going in the meantime, as their team rebuilds and their future looks so uncertain.
If Ottawa fans are watching the game with raised eyebrows, it’s likely because they don’t recognize half the guys on the ice. This trend will continue, as more players fall to injury or trades for the draft. On the plus side, some players have really stepped up their game. Peter Regin looks better than he has in ages, Kovalev seems to be more energized ever since he took that shiner, and Spezza marked his 500th NHL point off an assist on the Butler goal. Milan Michalek still delivers on energy, tenacity and smart plays, and with Alfredsson out of the lineup, Erik Karlsson has a chance to grab some serious points as the top scorer for Ottawa. Losing Campoli was a shame, as he was beginning to hit his stride with good defensive play and more pressure will be put on Brian Lee and Chris Phillips, also rumoured to be on the trading block.
Brian Elliott also appears to be feeling the pressure, as the management struggles to decide what is best for the team. Saddled with an injured star goaltender whose jinx reputation is going to make him a tough sell on the market, a back up goaltender under pressure to start more games than he ever has in an NHL season, and a young rookie goaltender whose development might be compromised by too early a start in the big leagues, nobody can envy the Ottawa coaching staff for their current position. If Mike Brodeur is around, he should be called up as a back up option, because the tandem model of “win and you’re in” seems strangely cruel for a team out of playoff contention.
This is, quite frankly, a team that looks more like Binghampton than Ottawa. It’s a team that will have a lot of chances, but not a lot of wins. The Ottawa fans will have to accept this as part of the rebuilding process. Unfortunately, it feels a lot like ren0vating a home when you still have to live in it; it’s uncomfortable, you can never find anything and it just doesn’t feel like home.
Looking for the winning combination is kind of like playing bingo; but right now, the Senators look like they’re really playing Go Fish.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
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.