20 April, 2014


I'm Keeping an Eye on Ottawa

I’m going to ask a question to which I know not the answer, but the question may be rhetorical in its preposterous premise: has an NHL team ever started a season 15-2 and failed to make the playoffs?
(Of course not)
(I’m thinking)
The Ottawa Senators, who started the 2007-08 season 15-2, this morning are, amazingly, sitting . . . not comfortably, not pretty, but merely viably for the postseason. And this much might be safely alleged about them: were there an additional week to the NHL’s regular season, four teams today barely below them in the Eastern conference standings might be good bets to pass them, and a team not 10 months removed from the Stanley Cup finals might be golfing with the Leafs very early this April and pondering massive rebuilding.
The Senators’ season has been remarkable in its Jeckyl and Hyde nature. After that wonderful start, between November 16 and December 4 the Sens won exactly one of their next nine games. Then, between December 5-19, the Sens went 6-0, including wins at Boston, at Dallas, at Pittsburgh, and 6-0 over Carolina in Raleigh. In 2008, however, they’ve vacillated between mediocre and horrendous. Since that 15-2 start the Sens are 27-27-8. To put that in perspective, during the same exact calendar period, the Washington Capitals went 34-20-7 — and the first three games of that stretch were all losses in Glen Hanlon’s final three games behind the Caps’ bench.
Like the Caps, Ottawa has three games remaining, and all three of their opponents are playing a lot better than Ottawa is: Montreal; a grudge game against feisty Toronto; and the resilient Boston. It’s entirely understandable that Caps’ fans and media would focus on the remaining schedules of the Flyers, Hurricanes, and Bruins as it relates to the Caps playoff aspirations next week, but today the Senators sit just four points ahead of Washington, they have no no.1 goalie, and they look every bit like a first-round train wreck should they qualify for the postseason.
Seeking a scapegoat, Sens’ management fired head coach John Paddock, who never should have been hired to begin with, on February 27. The Senators have gone 6-7-2 under replacement Bryan Murray.
Even if the Senators qualify for the postseason, they will — irrespective of their opponent — certainly be underdogs in the first round. Their play in 2008 has been that bad. If a survey were today taken of eight of the nine general managers of teams with viable postseason aspirations in the East, excluding only Ottawa’s Bryan Murray, asking who they’d most like to face in round one, the wager here is that eight out of eight would wish for the Sens. If they qualify.
Odd, isn’t it, how the Caps’ 4-0 record against Ottawa this season had an aura of flukiness about it as it was accomplished, but now in spring seems like the Real McCoy, an authentic barometer of where the two clubs reside. Two months ago HockeyWashington chuckled at the thought of upstaging Ottawa in the playoffs; this morning there is a not-so-implausible scenario of the Caps, and three other Eastern conference teams, passing Ottawa en route to hockey’s greatest regular season collapse. And if somehow the Caps could pass Carolina and secure the third seed, and face a 6th-seeded Sens in round one . . . it’d Cristobal Huet confronting them. Wouldn’t even PTI mention a second-round, Ovechkin-led Caps’ club?
When Bryan Murray led the Senators to 105 points and the Stanley Cup finals last season, with Ray Emery backstopping them in then elite fashion, it seemed as if the ghosts of the underperforming Ottawa past were just that. Including last season, the Senators had enjoyed four consecutive 100-pt. seasons, and six 100-pt. ones in the previous eight. All they had to show for it was a lot of springtime shortcoming (mostly against Toronto). Even now, as the Senators lurch further toward failure and reconstruction, they boast three of the league’s top 12 scorers (Spezza, Heatley, and Alfredsson).
For most of the past eight seasons in Ottawa the Senators, it was widely said, lacked a true game-changer of a netminder, and that was a cruel irony for Bryan Murray in particular. What, annually each spring, undid his 100-pt., Patrick Division dominating clubs in D.C.?
Turns out, Ray Emery isn’t a legit no.1 (to put it mildly).
The Capitals this season were wildly inconsistent prior to the deadline day arrival of the Big Three, which of course included a legit no.1 netminder in his prime.
Seriously sidebar to the Caps’ spectacular March march there is some speculation about what a signed-to-a-multi-year contract Bruce Boudreau might do in terms of making changes to his coaching staff. Perhaps nothing. But if big changes are made this summer in a spectacularly failing Ottawa Senators’ organization, and should Gabby want to tinker, how nice would it be to see Bryan Murray a part of a Cup-winning coaching staff in Washington?



9 Comments

  1. Gustafsson wrote:

    Looking at the standings after the game last night, I was also thinking that it is possible we are focusing on the wrong teams above us. Perhaps is just might be Ottawa that we unseed from the playoffs. Who would have thought that not too long ago?

    30 March, 2008 at 8:03 am | Permalink
  2. hotdog88gt wrote:

    Hope the Caps aren’t focusing on anything but wins. 94 points if they win out and they could be in or they could be out.

    30 March, 2008 at 8:51 am | Permalink
  3. katzistan wrote:

    Um…why would it be nice to have Bryan Murray back with the Caps???

    30 March, 2008 at 11:27 am | Permalink
  4. Um, because he’s the most successful coach in Caps’ history (343 wins), one of the most respected men in all of hockey, and most deserving of a very special ending to his hockey career, whenever that is.

    30 March, 2008 at 11:30 am | Permalink
  5. cc Caps fan wrote:

    Rather than adding Murray to the staff how about signing Fedorov to a deal that lets him become assistant coach when he is through playing? That guy has so much hockey knowledge and with the Caps commitment to European players, he could be a great asset.

    30 March, 2008 at 5:52 pm | Permalink
  6. katzistan wrote:

    Most successful regular season coach in Caps’ history. True, he’s a classy guy, and I would never wish him anything but the best. But there was a reason he left the Caps, and in all his jobs that have followed, he’s never done anything to refute that reason.

    30 March, 2008 at 5:54 pm | Permalink
  7. b.orr4 wrote:

    Also, let’s not forget that we hold every tie breaker against Ottawa. Their game against Montreal on Tuesday will be the key to the playoffs. If they should lose and then have to go to Toronto needing a win, I like the Caps chances.

    31 March, 2008 at 9:12 am | Permalink
  8. SpartyCuse wrote:

    It pains me to say this as a Caps fan, but tonight (Monday) LETS GO PENS!!!
    The Rags are tied with the B’s and Flyers, but have 1 game in hand. That game is tonight vs. Pittsburgh. If they lose, then its NYR, PHI, and BOS all tied for 6-8, and the Caps 3 points back, with all teams having 3 games left.

    31 March, 2008 at 11:35 am | Permalink
  9. b.orr4 wrote:

    @SpartyCuse,
    Actually, I think we should be rooting for a Pens loss. I know that sounds ridiculous, but the Rangers have four games left and two are against the Isles. I just don’t realistically think they won’t get four points out of those remaining games. However, if Pittsburgh loses that’s going to keep them hungry for their games against Philly. It will also keep Montreal motivated when they play Ottawa on Tuesday since the Habs are battling the Pens for the top spot in the East. And don’t forget, a Pens loss would also keep the Devils alive for the top spot in the Atlantic and they play the Bruins on Wednesday. Is that complicated enough?

    31 March, 2008 at 1:01 pm | Permalink