Sufficed to say, there probably isn’t a hockey team in the world that’s as eager to close the book on 2008 more than your Ottawa Senators.
And there probably isn’t a team in the NHL that needs to take a more serious look at itself and do something to change a baffling pattern of underachievement.
To be blunt, it has been an annus horriblis for the Senators. Talk about The Year of Playing Lousily. With a 4-1 loss to the lowly Atlanta Thrashers – can they be considered lowly if they’re only one place and three points behind? – Tuesday night, the Senators guaranteed they will not have a better than .500 record for the calendar year of 2008.
Even if they were to run the table for their final six games of the year, they would still find themselves at .500 in a league where .500 has become a joke because of the points teams get for losing in overtime and the shootout. The loss to Atlanta gave the Senators a 29-35-9 regular-season record for 2008, one that falls to 29-39-9 if you include the first-round playoff sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
So, to review, the Senators have won just 29 of a possible 77 games in 2008, a year that started with so much promise, but promises to end with so much despair.
So what are the Senators to do? Are they at the point where they blow up this team and start anew? Do they become sellers as the trade deadline approaches and hope to get a boatload of young players and prospects/draft picks in exchange for Jason Spezza? Or do they continue to show faith in this group of players and management team, confident that this group is far better than it’s record indicates and hopeful it has what it takes to turn the situation around?
Well, doing the last one hasn’t exactly worked wonders for the Senators in 2008. And there’s very little evidence based on the past 12 months to suggest the team is miraculously going to morph into a redux of the 2007 team that went to the Stanley Cup final.
That leaves the major change route. It remains to be seen whether the Senators will employ it, but it should make for an interesting 2009.
Enjoy the holidays.
This column also appears in the Ottawa Metro newspaper.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.