Time For Change?
It’s becoming somewhat obvious to those who live and die NHL hockey that something big might have to happen to change the current path of the Ottawa Senators. For most who bleed red, black and gold, Bryan Murray has done an exceptional job building and keeping this team competitive, especially under an owner with a tight wallet. For some, and it’s increasing, it might be time to dissect what Murray has done in the recent past and whether or not he should be part of the equation moving forward.
They were supposed to be solid again this season and earn a top 8 finish but inconsistency in goal, terrible penalty kill and a lack of focus has revealed a team with less structure than we saw under Paul MacLean last season. A Stanley Cup appearance aside, this team has been on a steady decline since Alfredsson fired a puck at Scott Niedermayer some 7 years ago. While it was a great accomplishment and believed to be a sign of things to come, it slowly started to become a downfall. Since he took over GM duties in June ’07 following their Cup loss there’s been some less-than-promising trades and some misdiagnosis that may have hampered this teams ability to get back to where they were or where Murray believes they can be again one day.
Here are a few names that he’s either brought in, let go, and watched flourish and fizzle in the past 2 years:
Peter Regin: Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2004 draft. Murray can hardly be held accountable for a player he never drafted but it’s under his hand and guidance that Regin never blossomed. He was supposed to be the 2nd line center behind Spezza that they’ve struggled to find for quite a while.
Cory Conacher: An undrafted player who excelled in college hockey, won a Calder Cup and found his way to the NHL when Tampa Bay gave him a 2 year deal prior to the resumption of the shortened season in 2012-13. Conacher was putting up great numbers playing on a line with Stamkos and St. Louis when Murray pulled a deal and brought him to Ottawa. Sent the other way was Ben Bishop who many believed to be the 3rd man under MacLean. A big reason why Bishop was chosen as the expendable was Anderson’s vezina- caliber play and the recent achievements of Robin Lehner. Lehner won MVP of the 2011 playoffs with Binghamton when they won the Calder Cup. Conacher did very little to help his Senator teammates and is no longer on the team. Ben Bishop? His name has been front and center of vezina talk this season by resurrecting his Lighting team from the dead. Yzerman 1, Murray 0.
Daniel Alfredsson: The undeniable face of the franchise never fully got the respect and treatment he deserved under Murray. A very solid and responsible 2 way player, Alfredsson could always be counted on to kill penalties and give guidance and help show structure to the Senators’ youth, while always being a threat to score. He was asked a 2nd time to take less money to stay in Ottawa despite giving everything he had to the team and city during every second of his professional career. It’s widely believed that Murray is the reason why a deal to keep him in Ottawa never fell through and that’s a shame!
Bobby Ryan: Don’t get me wrong he absolutely helps the team up front and is as gifted a goal scorer as they come. Yes, a goal scorer without a doubt. A 2 way responsible player though? Not exactly. If going by his plus/minus throughout his career you’ll see decent numbers, but they’ve lost some of the back checking strength and penalty killing ability with the loss of Alfie. The penalty kill has struggled all season long and it’s something that needs to be taken care of if they’re going to return to the playoffs next season. It is worth noting that Ryan played some important minutes vs. the Winnipeg Jets earlier in the month and was solid helping the team kill some penalties. Look for Ryan to gain more minutes next year when he returns from surgery.
Ales Hemsky: A talented winger with great hands, Hemsky was brought over to help the 2nd line which lost Clarke MacArthur to injury. He is a career -47 and has been on the negative side of things in 7 of his 11 seasons as an NHL veteran. He can undoubtedly help with the offence but it’s his defensive side that hurts a team looking for more back checking strength.
Jason Spezza: A tremendously gifted centerman with great vision, Spezza has lost his 2 wing buddies who helped him become the centerman he is today in Heatley and Alfredsson. He hasn’t been the player he’s been in the past and it might be time to call another city home if Murray decides the time is now for revamping his 1st scoring line. He’ll more than likely lose his trade value if Murray keeps him in the picture and they go on having another bad year, so it might be time to move him.
Sergei Gonchar: An experienced offensive minded defenceman who I think deserved more credit than he got while in Ottawa. He’s more responsible in his own zone than some may think and his loss has been obvious.
2012-2013 over achieving: Many believed the season would be a right-off and the playoffs a distant dream. They made the playoffs, beat the Canadiens in 5 and advanced to the 2nd round despite little expectations. I firmly believe this led to more expectations this season.
While I’ve listed some of the players that have either gone or not worked out for the Sens, it can’t be overlooked or downplayed just how much upside and talent is present on this team. They have pieces in place to build around with great upside. Unfortunately, when you miss the playoffs the positives get heavily outweighed. In the same light, I believe the opposite happened when they made the playoffs last season and advanced to the 2nd round. They might not have the team they thought they had and it might be time for change. Murray was extended through to the 2015-2016 season this past January and this is all speculation and opinion but maybe a change of vision could really help this team find it’s way.
Misdiagnosis? Maybe. Time for change? Also maybe.