Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Doctor Is In

I think it’s safe to say that Eugene Melnyk and/or Cyril Leeder are out in the woodshed, sharpening the axe for someone right now. If you subscribe to the theory that the Senators just aren’t that good then the axe is being sharpened for GM Bryan Murray. It’s his creation and he spent a lot of money on it. It’s failing badly.

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.

8 comments:

Donnamatrix said...

Steve,

I predict Alfie will hang up his skates at the end of the season.

The game, all of a sudden, is too fast, even for him. Also, he's got too much class to stay to the end of his contract and collect his salary, when he must know, in his heart, that he's not worth the $7 million he's being paid.

He won't handcuff this team...Praise Alfie!

Sens can pass the Captaincy on to Spezza or Fisher and then they should give Chris Neil or Chris Kelly Alternate Captaincy.

Don't change anything with Spartacat!

Anonymous said...

I've said it before, but this is the team that Brian Murray built.

Thanks Brian.

You've taken an elite team to a laughing stock in just under 4 years. Brilliant!

Through your hockey genius, you've hired/signed several overpaid under-achievers (Kuba, Kovalev, Fisher, Gonchar, etc.) and forced yourself into a position to have to bring in guys like Winchester, Shannon and a few others because they fill a roster spot at a small cap hit. These guys shouldn't even be in the NHL, and they wouldn't without Ottawa.

I can only wonder where we would be had we kept Peter Chiarelli.

I'm sure Brian will try to bring in yet another inexperienced coach, as he has with the last 3. Best to have someone in the coaching position that won't challenge or burn the GM, similar to what Brian did to John Muckler.

Let's face it, Brian Murray had his chance at GM (for too long) and failed miserably. Time to go Brian.

Anonymous said...

@Donnamatrix: If Alfie retires, he will handcuff the team. He signed his contract past the age of 34, so he counts again the cap even if he retires.

I'd still like to see him stay on, but we need another right winger who can score to shoulder a little more of the load. Kovalev has not been that guy..

Alfie's skill set would allow him to play in a 2nd or even 3rd line role and still be very effective. He can't retire yet....

Anonymous said...

I like your idea of sitting down with the players but who should do it? Can't really be Clouston, Murray(either)? Is there someone else in the organization, not sure the owner would get the right answers.

Khalid Alathamena said...

I totally agree with you Steve, I am a big fan of Bryan Murray and I think he did a great job in making this organization deep....
I don't think Kovy, Leclaire, Shannon, Campoli and even Phillips should be re-signed... Ruutu is ok on the Kelly line and it won't hurt to keep him at the right price tag..
Maybe a Brad Richards and a Kevin Beiksa would be a great add in the summer

Donnamatrix said...

@ Second Anonymous!

I didn't know that!

So in his final year, the million owed in his last year would still count against the cap...so a more limited role, but to keep his leadership on the team would be welcome...good point by you!

Donnamatrix said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Yeah, I don't see how Murray has helped this team at all.

He traded picks for stopgaps in SUtton and Cullen.

We were the youngest team in the league during our finals run and we squandered those guys to assuage Murray's vanity...we got old and slow plugs like Commodore, Jason Smith, Martin Lapointe, Sutton, Cullen, Gonchar, Kovalev...we traded Heatley for diddly.

I don't get why Mr. Warne wants the core kept together either. This is a group that's one (round) and done pretty much every year since the late 90s. They've got to the Cup finals once and to the third round in 2003. Maybe it's time to admit that Alfie, Kelly, Fisher and others are great guys to have a beer with or to live beside but to win a championship? Don't think so.

It's time to admit giving local boy Murray his lolly in the GM and VP position was a mistake.

Canning Mlakar was a HUGE MISTAKE. This guy's charm and BS got me buying into the Sens many times more than anything Murray or Melnyk have ever done.

So...let's recap.

Murray axes Muckler to become GM and doesn't improve the on-ice product, somewhat improves the farm.

Murray axes Mlakar so he can tell jokes to the media about Shawville and Regina...and we lose a fantastic community pair in Roy and Tammy, who treated me and others like KINGS with their humility and humour. I've never seen Murray at a community function, maybe I'm not paying attention.

Then the team becomes a massive circus off the ice with multiple coaches, multiple drama with Emery, Spezza, Corvo, Heatley...

And all the while our talent level decreases...and we hear Genius Murray tell us that such and such is a "GOOD GUY, AWW CHARAKTURR GUY."

So what?

Who gives a flying fig if Jason Smith, Matt Carkner, anyone has charcter? If the room can't take care of an impetuous 20-year old goalie, maybe the room needs help.

Is this character scoring goals for us? It is outskating people? Is it creating offense? Is it backchecking? Is it outlasting anyone?

No?

Oh.

But that's all ok.

It's clearly Clouston's fault that he has zip for talent, a bunch of guys on retirement contracts and a room full of coddled vets that know no one in the media will call them to account because they're scared the guys will leave.

It's a country club Steve.

And it wasn't one under Johnston, Gauthier and others, that's for sure.

This is all on Murray.
All of it.

And no amount of jokes from the good old boy from Shawville will get me back paying hundreds per month to see a boring, old, underachieving team led by an old man that couldn't tell a salary cap from a Rockland Nats cap.

Pierre.