The Ottawa media woke up cranky this morning. After a 7-2 trampling from Boston Tuesday night, the Sens are getting more than the usual share of criticism today from local columnists and radio guys. The Sens definitely looked brutal against Boston and Nashville in the last week. Bad as in, "well-at-least-Darcy-Loewen-and-Brad-Marsh-are-giving-their-all" kind of bad.
You know, it reminds me of a team I once knew that lost 7 of 8 games. Everyone thought the sky was falling. Then they won 8 of 9 games and everything was okay again. Who was that again? Oh yeah. It was the 2006-07 Ottawa Senators.
Still, as this latest slump hits, the stories today basically read: No identity. No effort. Their window of opportunity has closed. Sens cannot overcome the loss of Chara, Havlat and Hossa.
What is this? Groundhog Day? Save those clippings for mid January and use them to swab up the drool from the same writers who'll be gushing over the Sens latest hot streak.
Of course, the Senators are a lesser club without those players and I’ve certainly taken some jabs at management for the acquisition of Martin Gerber. That’s been a bust. However, very few people second guessed on July 1st. It seemed like a perfectly sensible move. Now, in hindsight, taking a pass on Gerber would have saved enough money to retain either Martin Havlat or Zdeno Chara. However, let's put to rest this allegation of incompetence over allowing those players to get away. One has to consider both salary cap and the behaviour of Havlat and Chara in their final year in Ottawa.
Chara had no intention of even considering a hometown discount, his new NHL destination unimportant. High bidder wins. End of story. In fact, when Wade Redden offered his outgoing teammate 1 million of his salary over this year and next to stay in Ottawa, Chara didn’t even give him the courtesy of a response. That pretty much took the guesswork out of the season long debate, "Should We Keep Chara or Redden?"
As for Havlat, he was heading toward arbitration, looking for a one year, 6 million dollar award. The Sens could have tried to lock him up before arbitration but would have had to pay him at least the 3 year 18 million dollar deal he got from Chicago. That's a lot of dough for a player that historically brittle. As good as he's been, he's missed 19 of Chicago's 33 games already. A shorter deal, whether it was through arbitration or not, would have resulted in Havlat leaving next year and the Sens receiving nothing in return. His agent said as much.
The loss of those players has meant a serious reduction in team depth. But the salary cap makes it impossible to keep so many young players together, particularly when those players aren't bogged down by even a shred of loyalty. Now, when key injuries hit, the Sens will struggle. Most all teams will.
But my stat of the week leaves reason for hope, in the midst of the current swoon. Ray Emery is now the clear number one goalie and Wade Redden is ready to return from injury. Why do I mention that? Well, in games that Redden has started and Martin Gerber has not, which should now be the norm in the second half, the Sens’ record is 11 and 2 this season.
This is why I'm not making good on my earlier promise to start panicking on December 21st. I'll reserve my panic today for the heavy amount of Christmas shopping still to be done. Ugh.