Sunday, 17 April 2016

What's Wrong with the Ottawa Senators?

As a Leafs fan, there's nothing I love seeing more than the Ottawa Senators losing (except maybe the Habs losing). But sometimes at TSN, I am assigned to write stories about the Sens. This forces me to look at the team from an objective angle, and over my 3 years at TSN, there has not been a Canadian team as confounding as the Senators.

They're a team that's easily forgotten, smack dab in the middle between 2 century old franchises in the Leafs and Habs. They've usually had a solid team, but in the early 2000s just could not figure out the Leafs in the playoffs. It's easy to forget this was a team that made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007. But since then, they have only made it out of the 1st round once. The team has gone through a seemingly revolving door of head coaches. So, what is wrong with the Ottawa Senators?

Too many shortsided decisions, let's start with the owner: Eugene Melnyk. The Ottawa Senators are a prime example of what happens when an owner is too involved. First, let's start with the this article. After a tough season, where the Sens miss the playoffs, Melnyk says "no one is safe." He goes on to throw Cameron under the bus by criticizing his decision to start a rookie goaltender on opening day by calling the decision "stupid."  There's no doubt Melnyk is a Senators fan, it's a good trait of an owner, and after the season Ottawa had, you can't blame him for being disappointed. After that miraculous run last year, expectations had to have been higher.

Let's go back to that run. In 24 games, Andrew Hammond went an incredible 20-1-2 to help the Senators squeak into the playoffs. The Senators would then trade then-backup goaltender Robin Lehner to the Sabres to make room for Hammond on the big club.this season Hammond went 7-11-4. No one thought Hammond was as good as he played during his hot streak last season, but his numbers outside the NHL should be an indicator about his capabilities. In 2 full seasons in the AHL, Hammond never posted a GAA below 2.50 or a sv% above .910. The Senators extended Hammond's contract, but admittedly, the Sens did not give him a terrible deal. It's a 3-year contract with an AAV of $1.35 million.

Let's bring it back a couple more seasons. Remember Cory Conacher? During the lockout shortened 2012-2013 Conacher had a very productive season with the Lightning: 24 points in 35 games. The Senators traded Ben Bishop for Conacher (along with a 4th Round Pick). He failed to produce with Ottawa, getting just 25 points over 72 games. The Sens places him on waivers, where the Sabres claimed him. He now plays for Bern in the Swiss-A league. Bishop, meanwhile, went on a run to the Stanley Cup Final with the Lightning. The Senators essentially gave up Ben Bishop for a 4th Round Pick.

Since their run to the Cup final in 2007, they've gone through 6 head coaches: John Paddock, Bryan Murray (who took over after firing Maddock), Craig Hartsburg, Cory Clouston, Paul MacLean, and most recently fired, Dave Cameron. Whenever the Sens do make the playoffs, all is well, but when they miss, the coaches take the fall. Again, I go back to last season when the Sens had their miraculous run. It was obvious that Hammond's streak was not sustainable, but the team did very little in the offseason. When it looked more and more like they would misse the playoffs, Ottawa's answer was to trade for Dion Phaneuf and sign Scott Gomez.

It's understandable why Melnyk gets so antsy when the team misses the playoffs, since owning the team, the Senators have averaged losses of $10 million per year. The Ottawa Senators, almost literally, need the playoffs to survive Melnyk even said it himself. That's what's wrong with the Ottawa Senators.

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