Sens Could Retool As Quick As The Flyers
How the mighty have fallen. Finalists 2 years ago, the Ottawa Senators are now among the league’s worst teams. Its hard to believe that considering the talent this team still has. But clearly what they have is not enough whatsoever to contend.
Therefore it might be prudent for the Sens to start over, retool, reload and think next year. It worked for the Philadephia Flyers a couple of years ago who were loaded with veterans but failed miserably, fell all the way to a 2nd overall pick but made a few key moves that brought them back from the dead.
Ottawa can accomplish this but before that can happen, change must be made at the top. Its time for Bryan Murray to move on and for someone new and fresh to reshape this franchise. He has failed and it would serve zero purpose to allow him to mold the Sens future.
The long problem with Ottawa has been arrogance that has seemingly bit back at them. It starts high up as people like Murray and John Muckler steadfastly refused to believe their team and players werent good enough and thus made mistakes along the way. The team is paying for misevaluating talent.
It filtered into the dressing room where ego led to those chemistry and locker room issues last year. Leadership is questionable, the team lacks an identity and with so many players with big, long term contracts, a sense of entitlement has crept into the Sens team like a plague.
Once they make change at the top, the roster and perhaps even the coaching staff can be adjusted accordingly.
So how will Ottawa be able to accomplish this? Many say they need to rip apart their big 3 and trade one of Alfredsson, Heatley or Spezza for a monster return. Instead the team should shed salary moving their expensive role players like Fisher, Kelly, Vermette, Phillips, let Kuba, Gerber and other free agents leave and build around their top 3 guys.
Would these players, who are struggling badly, bring much in return? Maybe not as much as fans and management would think, but they would gain quite a bit in terms of changing the makeup of the team, restructuring the dressing room, gaining cap space and as bad as they may be playing, gain some young assets in return. Poor play or not, Fisher, Vermette, even Phillips who is -21 could help out a contender.
Their first goal is to restock their organization. Once the envy of the league, the Sens are not the overly deep team they once were. At one time they could field captain Daniel Alfredsson on one line with Marian Hossa and Martin Havlat as other Right Wingers behind him. They had Zdeno Chara anchor one defence pair, Wade Redden another. Now they have zero offence beyond 3 players and one of the league’s weakest defence corps.
The Sens need more high end young players to integrate into the lineup. Part of the downfall was due to the Sens not having the kind of youth to step in and replace all those quality players who departed. Right now, only defenceman Erik Karlsson, who was the voted the best defenceman at the recent World Jrs, is considered an impact player.
Former first rounders like Brian Lee, Nick Foligno and Jim O’Brien are decent prospects but not considered top line stars. Players like Cody Bass and Jesse Winchester are more suited as role players while players with high hopes like Ilya Zubov have shown little. The Sens and their fans must stop kidding themselves. This is not an embarassment of riches.
The team has been so focused on shedding their soft label that they’ve seemingly neglected skill and more skill which were a trademark of their teams in the early part of this decade.
The Sens have 2 first rounders in the upcoming draft and it would serve them well to maybe pick up a few more top 50 picks and strengthen their once great farm system. If they continue to lose that may solidify their spot in the top 5 in the draft where they can pick up a big impact player either up front or on the backend. Help is needed everywhere.
Another key focus for the team is goaltending. They need to solidify this position for any chance at success. They wasted a couple years staunchly believing Patrick Lalime was one of the league’s best goalies. They foolishly rewarded hansomely Ray Emery who proved nothing and in a year bought him out. They grossly overestimated Martin Gerber who is at best a below average goalie best suited as a backup. Their desperation for someone between the pipes led them to journeyman Alex Auld.
What they need is a guy who can be their rock in goal for the next few years and leave the team with no questions about their goaltending. That was something the Flyers quietly did when they picked up Biron who was so good for them in their playoff run last year.
There are goalies available. Players like Vesa Toskala, Pascal Leclaire, Kari Lehtonen, Tomas Vokoun are available via the trade route. Others like Nic Backstrom, Nik Khabibulin, Tim Thomas are due to be UFAs at seasons end. The team needs a true number one and one of these players could fit that bill. If the team fails to get someone along these lines, the futilty will continue for this team.
Skill on the backend is also severely lacking. The Sens need a big time defenceman who can log a ton of minutes, can move the puck and simply produce offensively and fire up the offence from the defence. It would be shocking to see the Sens not take a run at someone like Jay Bouwmeester if he is still a free agent in July. The team screwed up not keeping Chara but bringing in an impact guy like a Bouwmeester would go a long way.
Once they shore up in goal and on defence, everything else will likely take care of itself. They do need more support scoring up front but its more likely that the offence will emerge when there is someone able to jumpstart the rush from their own end. And there would probably less stick squeezing if there was a goalie not letting in deflating soft goals once or twice a game.
Its not unreasonable to suggest that the Sens can rebound next season and be back among the best in the East. If they humble themselves, think more outside the box and regain the focus that made them a top organization for years, there is a good chance the Sens will be dangerous again.