Here we are, almost 30 games into the season that had some expectations for the first time in a couple of years, and they have failed to meet those expectations so far.
The problems the team has experienced so far can not be limited to one or two areas, and as such do not have any simple solutions. From the top down, this has been a dysfunctional season, which began in July with the loss of Daniel Alfredsson.
The leadership void that he left is perhaps bigger than anyone thought, and although Jason Spezza is a capable fill in, it will take an adjustment period for him to fully adapt to that new role and the pressure and expectation that goes along with it.
Perhaps the worst thing that could have happened for Paul MacLean was the “Player 81″ incident and the rest of the off-ice happenings against Montreal in the playoffs. That single quote and the circus that surrounded it made for entertaining and series-changing moments in the post-season, I think it has in part made the Paulrus into a caricature of himself, and he seems to be over-thinking his decisions in an attempt to make himself look better than he needs to be. Personally, I have had issues with how he has used a lot of his players this season, most notably the goaltending. He has been very quick to play Dr. Frankenstein with his lineup and doesn’t give the changes a chance to take hold and maybe work before they are being switched up again.
Up next is the skaters. They are not living up to expectations, whether it be the veterans losing a step or younger players not developing as expected. The days of the Pesky Sens seem to be behind them, and the attention to detail doesn’t seem to be there in all aspects of the game. They do not seem to be ready to start games, hence the ridiculous stat that in a majority of their games they fall behind 2-0.
Finally, we get to the goaltending. Craig Anderson, for whatever reason, has not been able to recapture the magic he showed last season before the ankle injury that befell him courtesy Chris Kreider in the middle of the season. He has looked uncomfortable in the crease, and hasn’t been able to provide the big saves at big times that are required for a struggling club to start making some headway. Robin Lehner has been better than Anderson, but consistency has been his issue, both in terms of his play and also getting the chance to get on a roll before losing the net.
What is the cure for the Senators’ problems? I am not sure, exactly. There isn’t one area you can point to and say – “If this gets better the Sens will be on track.
My suggestion – Press the “RESET” button.
Start it all over again. There isn’t a break in the Senators’ schedule where they can have a mini-training camp as such, but get back to square one. Obviously the Alfredsson thing can’t be fixed, but the franchise needs to get everyone back on the same page and get back where they were supposed to be.
These steps include:
1. Craig Anderson #1 – Craig Anderson needs to be given a shot at reclaiming the #1 job. He had a decent game against Florida, but was then removed in favor of Lehner. They are both quality goalies, and Lehner has been better this season, but if you are pushing RESET then give Anderson a chance to claim or lose the job, and that starts with giving him a run of games and letting Lehner play in back to back situations.
2. Let The Top Players Be The Top Players – The Jason Spezza -Bobby Ryan duo did not really get the opportunity to sink or swim. Ryan and Kyle Turris have played well together, but it hasn’t generated enough positive results. Spezza is the key, and he should be able to mesh with another highly skilled player such as Ryan, and they need to be put together for a long run. Spezza-Ryan- Clarke MacArthur should be assembled and given time together. If you don’t want to load up one line, then move MacArthur back with Turris.
3. Cowen-Wiercioch – This was supposed to be a solid 2nd pairing, but both have struggled and found themselves in and out of the lineup. Patrick Wiercioch especially seems to find his way quickly into MacLean’s doghouse and the quick trigger could be affecting his confidence. Jared Cowen is coming off a major injury and is still finding his way. If they are going to be future cornerstones of the franchise then you need to live with the mistakes and keep throwing them out there for 18-20 minutes, whatever happens.
4. Less is more for Karlsson – Erik Karlsson continues to put up points, but seems to have a l’aissez-faire attitude in his own end. Perhaps it is because he is pacing himself too much and playing 30 minutes a night is not something he should be doing. He doesn’t need to play the full 2 minutes on the power play, as Wiercioch, Cowen and when he is in the lineup, Joe Corvo, can all provide some solid PP time. Thirty games in and Karlsson is already looking worn out.
It is time for a re-definition of roles in the organization from the top down. MacLean needs to stop buying into his own press and quit worrying about having the funny quote of the day and manage the players he has to the fullest advantage, not stop the constant experimenting. It isn’t working, so time to start over, and this time do it right.
There is still enough time to recapture the season, but the snowball of frustration is rapidly gaining downhill speed. It starts at the top, with MacLean and the team will take its cue from him. So many lineup shifts and deception in the media with lineups is coming off as panic. Take a step back, deep breath and press RESET.