If you subscribe to the theory that the Senators are much better than this then the axe is being sharpened for head coach Cory Clouston. Clouston admits he’s not a players’ coach. Maybe whatever it was that soured Dany Heatley on this team has now crept into the attitude of others.
Only the Devils have more losses (17) than the Senators (15) this season. Toronto and Edmonton, the league’s supposed laughing stocks, both now have better winning percentages than Ottawa. The Sens are scoring 2.13 goals per game. That puts them on pace for 174 goals this season. They scored 202 in their expansion season. Did you hear that? They’re on pace for 28 fewer goals than they had IN THEIR EXPANSION SEASON!!
At this pace, to reach the 88 point mark (the mark that got you 8th place last season) the Sens must finish with 62 points in their final 53 games. They’d need a record of 28-19-6, for example. Not impossible but based on the way they’re playing right now, not probable either.
The good news is, in the words of the great Jeff Spicoli, I can fix this wreck. My old man's a television repairman. He's got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it.
Step 1. I sit down with Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher, Chris Phillips and Chris Kelly. I get to the root of the problem. Is it coaching? Is it personnel or chemistry? Are there too many injuries?
Step 2. I take action based on step 1. If it’s coaching, Clouston is out. If it’s personnel, Murray is gone. If it’s injuries, then everybody get back on the bikes after the game. Funny how many games the Sens have collapsed in the third this season – maybe it’s time to get back on the post game bike.
Step 3. Take an early shot at clearing cap space. I would quietly float Jason Spezza’s name out there. If they can manage to get a stud prospect back at the deadline, all the better. Don’t take this to mean I hate Spezza. He’ll get 70-80 points. In clumps. He had 4pts November 4th versus the Islanders then 3 pts November 9th versus Atlanta. Right there, that represents half his point total this season. He’s had 3pts in the 14 games since.
It’s simple as this. For point production alone, I love the guy at a cap hit of 5 million max. Due to the shortcomings – turnovers and low compete level - I don’t love him at 7 million. That extra 2 mill is big. That’s more money than half the Senators currently make.
But fear not, Spezza fans. Finding a Cup contender with $7M in cap room is nearly impossible. Getting a prospect back is even less likely. And I doubt he’d be seen by many teams as the missing piece. Not at that price. He’s probably not going anywhere. I’d float Filip Kuba’s name out there too.
Step 4. Use the first round selection, probably a top 10 pick, on the best available North American scorer who plays with edge. No offence, Euros. Some of you are awesome at playoff time. Just like some 16 year old boys are excellent drivers. But like the car insurance companies, I’m still playing the percentages here. 13 of the top 15 scorers in last spring’s playoffs were North American.
Step 5. Say goodbye to Alexei Kovalev, Pascal Leclaire, Chris Campoli, Jarkko Ruutu and Ryan Shannon. Also say goodbye to Chris Phillips if he’s demanding a raise. Assuming Phillips is content to stay at the status quo, that frees up just over 12 million dollars.
Step 6. Go free agent shopping with dough saved in steps 3 and 5 or, better yet, find a team or two in cap hell and “help” them relieve themselves the way Atlanta did with Chicago last summer.
Step 7 Pray that defencemen David Rundblad and Jared Cowen are ready to play this fall.
Step 8. Pray that Robin Lehner is ready to push or beat out Brian Elliott.
I’m against blowing up the team. The owner frightened me the last time that idea was suggested. “You want me to blow myself up? What the…?”.
There is a decent core of players here. If you have cap room, you can get good fast. But you cannot make mistakes, investing in duds. With smart moves, I believe they can contend again in the spring of 2012.