As Peter and I discussed the aftermath of Monday's loss to the Penguins, it became clear we had some questions about the team to discuss. And that's how a roundtable is born. Read on to see what we think about the current state of the team and what changes we might make if we were in charge. Then post your own answers in the comments section.
What's your current opinion of the team? Are they better than their record? Can they turn it around?
Mark: I think the team is capable of turning it around. It's pretty frustrating to watch them give their best efforts when the game feels out of hand. But even in some of the losses, the effort hasn't been the problem -- it's been the team game. That's especially confusing considering this is mostly last year's roster. They shouldn't have to build chemistry. They seem to be lacking in confidence more than anything, and I think a confident Sens team would look a lot more like the one we expect to see.
Peter: I think this team is definitely better than their record, although they're playing as poorly as their record would lead people to believe. There are good players, and some are even playing pretty well, but it seems like they're playing as individuals rather than buying into a coherent system and playing like a team. I think if and when they figure out they're not going to win games single-handedly, then we're going to see consistently better results. But it's not going to happen any time before that.
Darren: Of course they are better than their record. You can't look at the team on paper and think that they are anywhere as bad as they have been playing. They can certainly turn it around, but it will take hard work and a solid structure in their own end, something that has been lacking. Let's not forget that this team went for a 6 game losing streak last season. Maybe they've just done us a favour and gotten it over with at the start of the year.
Ryan: I think the roster, as a whole, is better than the team's record. The problem is they don't seem to have the cohesion of a team, and that's leading to disjointed play and the worst record in the NHL. Last season we saw the streakiest team in Senators history, but so far this season I'm just not feeling it. Not with the roster as it is now.
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What changes, if any, would you make if you were the coach?
MP: The one big change I'd make as coach would be on the power play. I'd try to balance out the talent a little more evenly between the two lines. I'd also pull those players into a separate meeting to talk about what they want to do with the man advantage. I feel that the team's power play has been predictable since 1999, and with the players available, that simply should not be the case. Alex Kovalev working the wall was supposed to be a big help. It wasn't. Sergei Gonchar's quarterback skills were supposed to be a big help. They haven't been. We know Gonchar can run a power play. I would try and find out how he likes to do it and build around that instead of trying to fit him into our existing unproductive scheme.
PR: I'd make a couple changes if I were coaching, although nothing to do with the roster. The first would be being smart when and where lines start and end their shifts; for instance, play Mike Fisher or Chris Kelly's line for a defensive-zone faceoff, and save Jason Spezza's for offensive-zone faceoffs, basically to optimize the opportunities our scoring line gets and to ensure adequate defensive responsibility. The second is something that he has little choice about, but I think it's important that the team reduce the minutes Sergei Gonchar plays every game down to 22-25, instead of 26-30. As much as I've been impressed with his play, you've got to understand and appreciate that he's an older player who's missed significant time due to injury over the last couple seasons. Any bigger changes would have to come from the GM.
DM: Though I'd like to see the Regin-Spezza-Alfredsson line, again, that's not the change this team needs right now. The change the Senators need is to relearn the fundamentals of playing hockey in their own end. They need to get into the shooting and passing lanes, play physical, backcheck hard, and work on their breakout. Oh, and that powerplay could use a little bit of work.
RC: I would scratch Brian Lee and put Erik Karlsson with either Campoli or Carkner, because the Karlsson-Lee tandem frightens me. I'm also not opposed to scratching Karlsson for a few games. But most importantly, I'd switch to pea green shirt and tie combos, because that's what Clouston wore during our one win this season. Dump the lavender, Cory. It's not working.
Similarly, if you were the GM, what would your level of panic be? Would you make any moves? Who would you try to acquire? Be reasonable -- no trading Kovalev for Kovalchuk.
MP: If I were the GM of this team, I'd try to resist the knee-jerk reaction to add a defenseman, even though that's our pain point right now. Filip Kuba will return at some point and though he's not going to fix everything, he should allow players such as Matt Carkner to settle into more appropriate roles. That small shift might make a big difference. More importantly, next year the team will only have Gonchar, Erik Karlsson, and Matt Carkner under contract. Waiting in the wings are Patrick Wiercioch, Jared Cowen, David Rundblad, and even Eric Gryba. I don't know that I would necessarily rush to add a D with that youth movement in my back pocket. More importantly, there are some quality defensemen that will be hitting free agency at the end of the season. If I'm setting my sights on adding a defender through free agency, I'm definitely looking to trade one of our young defensemen for a similarly promising forward. But with this year's team, I'm standing pat unless a great offer falls in my lap.
PR: At this point, there's probably little Bryan Murray can do. He can trade away some of his more valuable players for less-than-market value, and bring up prospects like Bobby Butler, Roman Wick, and Colin Greening to play with wily veterans like Dean McAmmond and Shean Donovan, but this would constitute blowing up the team--something owner Eugene Melnyk seems unprepared to do. Cap constraints are tying Murray's hands to a degree, so he's just got to hope that Cory Clouston can get the team back on the same page. If not, within a few weeks, there may be teams ready to make a splash by trading some players.
DM: I think the team could use another shutdown defenseman to pair with Phillips, to be honest. Other than that, I don't think there's anything Murray should do -- the team just needs to play smarter, and work together.
RC: My panic level would be pretty high, because right now the only thing going well for this team is Mike Fisher's effort level and Robin Lehner's cameo appearances. As much as I and many others would love to see Lehner be handed the reins here and now, it's not his time yet. He's not ready. Instead I'd focus on defence and get someone stable and complimentary to Erik Karlsson's game. Someone like Andy Sutton was last year.
Finally, we all predicted the team to make the playoffs. Anyone want to take that back?
MP: Nope. There's enough talent on this roster to make the playoffs, and there's enough time left for them to correct their play.
PR: Even if I did want to take it back, I don't think we can do that, can we? Either way, although it's not looking pretty today, the team still does have the component parts to get into the playoffs, and should things begin to go well, there's no reason to believe they won't. It is worthwhile to mention that in the 2006-07 season, the team started with the same record they have today: 1-4-1 through six games. This refrain will get old fast, but the season is still young.
DM: I'm not ready to throw in the towel on the season after 6 games, and I sincerely hope that the Senators aren't, either.
RC: I predicted them to take the Northeast. I'd like to retract that prediction. We won't make the playoffs. I also don't mind crashing and burning and getting a good pick or two this year. Specifically a good forward pick.