If you’re the Ottawa Senators, you’re probably pretty happy to see 2009 in the rear-view mirror. From the team’s firing of coach Craig Hartsburg to its inability to make the playoffs to the Dany Heatley debacle, it certainly hasn’t been a year for the ages.
In fact, you could argue that 2009 and the months leading up to it were the moment in time when the Senators went from being one of the NHL’s elite franchises to a decent, middle-of-the-road team. And while we can’t say the Senators are better for what they went through in 2009 – because the reality is they’re not – they’re at least emerging from the rubble to give their fans some hope better days are ahead in 2010.
You’d probably be surprised to learn the Senators weren’t all that much better in the last three months of 2009 than they were during the first three-plus months of the year. Their overall record from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 was 44-34-10 for a respectable points percentage of .557.
But their record from Jan. 1 to the end of last season (23-18-6, .553 points percentage) is virtually the same as it was from the start of this season through Dec. 31 (21-16-4, .560 points percentage).
So why should the Senators feel better about themselves now? Well, first of all, going into Tuesday night’s game against the Boston Bruins, the Senators were in sixth place in the decidedly mediocre Eastern Conference, which is a whole lot better than looking up at 10 other teams, which was the position they occupied when last season ended.
Secondly, coach Cory Clouston seems to have brought some stability and a winning feel back to the organization. From the time he was hired until Dec. 31, Clouston led the Senators to a 40-27-8 record, good for a .587 points percentage.
In the past couple of months the Senators have become a lot more proficient at shootouts and Mike Fisher, while not an Olympian, has emerged as a bona fide scoring threat and is shaping up to be a serious contender for the Selke Trophy.
From a Senators perspective, there’s a lot more to like about the prospects for 2010 than there was about 2009. But as the calendar turns to another year, Senators fans have to be finding themselves pining days long gone by more than looking forward to the ones ahead.
This article also appeared in the Ottawa Metro newspaper.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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