A 2-1 loss to the New York Islanders Wednesday effectively ended the season for the Ottawa Senators. So much for last year’s Cinderella team.
Technically, the Sens are still alive – Sports Club Stats has them at about one percentage point – but Ottawa would have to win its remaining six games and get some favorable scores around the league in order to pass four teams in the Eastern Conference standings.
How did it all go wrong for a young team that looked so promising a year ago? Well, injuries to key personnel didn’t help. Not having Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan for key games hurt. But every team has injury issues to some degree.
Overall, goaltending and special teams let the Senators down. Although Robin Lehner and Craig Anderson have been solid lately, they’ve been inconsistent all season. Ottawa allowed more than one goal per game this season compared to 2012-13. And even though the Sens scored a half-goal more this season, the math didn’t work out over the long haul.
The best penalty kill in the NHL a year ago isn’t even in the top 20 this season. Maybe that’s why Ottawa GM Bryan Murray waffled when asked the future of coach Paul MacLean. But should he wear this one alone?
I’d like to see MacLean given a vote of confidence. And I think Murray will give it to him. Ottawa has a lot of solid pieces in place, especially offensively with Spezza, Ryan, Kyle Turris, Clarke MacArthur and probably one of its two unrestricted free agents, Milan Michalek or Ales Hemsky filling in the top two lines with Mika Zibanejad and Mark Stone offering support.
The defense is solid with Erik Karlsson leading the way. If MacLean can establish a reliable platoon system with Lehner and Anderson between the pipes, there’s no reason the Senators can’t rise in the East.
But for now, it’s all over the the Senators. It’s going to be a long, miserable summer, especially without a first round draft pick that belongs to the Anaheim Ducks from the Ryan trade. That might end up being a top-10 pick. There’s even a remote chance that pick becomes first overall if the balls fall the wrong way in the draft lottery.
That would be the worst-case scenario for Senators’ fans.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN