It’s going to be a long year. Let’s make the abundantly clear right out of the gate. We are now 6 games into the season and its becoming increasingly difficult to keep up the feeling of optimism held by many fans prior to opening night.
In Detroit, we stunk up the joint for 2 periods and then turned it on in the third but lost 5-3. Against the Leafs it was the same formula, with the game ending up 6-5 after a 5 goal third period by the Sens. Then we sneaked one out against Minnesosta, which was a game that the Sens absolutely dominated, but still had to win by shootout. The general consensus was that sure, we sucked, but this team was definitely not going to go out without a fight.
And then the sh** hit the fan.
A 2-1 loss to Washington on Saturday sandwiched in between two of the worst performances in recent memory. A seemingly never ending shellacking at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche that we lost 7-1, and Tuesday night’s loss to a dominant Flyers team where the final score was 7-2.
It was like a slap in the face. All of the good will and optimism was smacked out of the fan base and reality set in. This is not going to be a good year for the Ottawa Senators. However, these massive loses got me thinking about the present state of the franchise, and what we can expect going forward.
More often than not, the 2011-2012 Senators are compared to teams who have recently gone through similar rebuilding efforts. Teams like Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York Islanders, and most recently the Edmonton Oilers. Teams that were once great whose window opened and closed some with championship wins, and some without. Inevitably changes were made and these teams all eventually fell to the bottom of the standings.
One thing that people often fail to remember is the fact that only 4 years ago, the Senators were competing in the Stanley Cup Finals which was the culmination of 11 straight seasons in which we made the playoffs. Our team had been built to compete for a championship. Year after year the Senators were chosen as post season darlings. Always a threat to win it all. But after a series of disappointing early round collapses the Senators brass were on a never ending search for the missing piece of the puzzle.
Prospects were traded, rental players were obtained for draft picks in hopes that the missing link would be found. Maybe now everything would be in place and the Senators could capitalize and go on what many perceived as an inevitable Championship run. But it never turned out that way. Ottawa’s organizational depth and farm system was one of the shallowest in the league as a result and the present day team is now suffering dearly for it.
The Senators lack of prospect depth failed to boost the organization from within. I mean honestly, when some of your top prospects in the last 5 years have been Cody Bass and Josh Hennessey you know your team sold the farm chasing a Stanley Cup. Our older players started to decline, and along with them the team began to fall in the standings. The 2007-2008 season saw a Senators team implode in the first round of the playoffs leaving them with the 15th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. The Sens drafted a skinny Swede named Erik Karlsson. I’m sure you haven’t heard of him. What’s that you say? He was an All-Star last season? He’s currently leading the league in scoring by a defenseman and is tied for second in overall league scoring? OH that’s right. Now I remember him. He’s the one that has been developing on a steady incline for the past 3 season and is now coming into his own as an NHL calibre player.
Erik Karlsson is the template for Senators prospects. Entering the league as an unsure rookie who didn’t quite belong in his first season, Karlsson has increasingly settled into a comfort level in the NHL and is now a cornerstone of the franchise.
The biggest thing to take away from all of this is that prospects need to be afforded the time to develop, and just because the Senators had an extremely successful draft this year, we can’t expect these high ceiling rookies to be anything and everything we want them to be.
Players like Jared Cowen and David Rundblad can only get better, and they will get better. Other prospects like Mika Zibanejad, Shane Prince, Mark Boroweicki, Jakub Silfverberg, Mark Stone and a handful of others will all be NHL ready prospects at sometime, but the time is definitely not now.
That is the unfortunate predicament that Senators fans find themselves in this season. Full of hope for the future, but stuck in the present.
Sure, this is going to be a long year. We can expect a series of peaks and valleys, highs and lows, but it is essential to keep the bigger picture in mind. Our top prospects will continue to develop. Our young stars will continue to blossom and soon things won’t be looking so bleak. We have one of the best scouting teams in the league, and a GM with a sparkling draft history and in five years when the Senators are competing in the Stanley Cup finals against the Edmonton Oilers all of our suffering will have been worth it.
As always you can let me know your thoughts in the comments section, or send me a note on Twitter @TomSENS
- Sens practiced this morning and were joined by injured defenceman Sergei Gonchar. He skated in drills with the rest of the team and could play tomorrow night against the Jets. Would expect that Craig Anderson will get the start.
- Speaking of Sens practice, sounds like it was an up-tempo, intense practice based on the reports from Twitter. The difference between last year's team and this year's is already clear. While talent may be lacking, I really get the sense that this team and this coaching staff hate losing and are willing to put the work in to get better.
- There were some changes up front this morning with Michalek joining Spezza and Greening on the top line. Regin skated on the second line with Foligno and Alfredsson. Zibanejad was between Smith and Neil with the fourth line consisting of Konopka, Da Costa and Condra.