After an excellent game against St. Louis, the sky has fallen on the Ottawa Senators' season. Things are not going well, to understate it. As a fan of the Senators, you're probably as well aware of it as I am. So let's get down to business. What do we blame? I have five thoughts on this...
1. Ownership: It's no secret that I don't like Eugene Melnyk. He hasn't exactly spent much money on the team this season, and it's handicapping general manager Bryan Murray from doing his job: improving the team. He's also bailed on Daniel Alfredsson's return night to Ottawa and greenlit some terrible marketing ideas. Owners can be easy targets when things start going south for a franchise, but in Melnyk's case it might be well-deserved. If you're a player for the Ottawa Senators, do you have any faith in ownership? How does that impact your play? You can argue that it shouldn't because these players are professionals, but that's not how human nature works. Everyone wants to feel appreciated and wanted. I doubt many Senators players feel either right now.
2. Afternoon Games: This season the Ottawa Senators have had what's felt like more afternoon games than usual. Every weekend there seems to be another one. Hockey players hate afternoon games. And yet, it's team executives who allegedly requested an increase in these afternoon home starts as a way of increasing attendance. The result? The lowest attendance numbers in years. Oh, and the team hasn't exactly done well during them, either. In games that start at 5:30 or earlier (local time), the Senators are 1-7-1. Comparatively, in evening games they're 13-10-5 - and that's after these last two losses. But don't worry, there's only eight more left to go! 11 of the 41 home games are afternoon starts compared to six road games.
3. Defence/Goaltending: Robin Lehner has faced 30+ shots in 11 of the 16 games he's played more than two periods of. Craig Anderson has faced 30+ in 15 of the 20 he's played more than two periods of. So that's 26 of 37 games (they split one game evenly that had fewer than 30) that the Senators have allowed 30+ shots in. Both goalies have also regressed from last season, and that's before you get to the constant rotation of defencemen (nine have played games), shuffling of defence partners, and mediocre to below-average play from more than a handful of the group. Jared Cowen has had a horrendous season, and as soon as his play started to pick up, Joe Corvo's fell. In 48 games last season, Ottawa allowed only 102 goals. This season in 37 games so far they've allowed 122, a drop from 2nd-best to 2nd-worst.
4. Marketing: The afternoon games are bad, as illustrated above. But that's not the only reason things have looked grim and negatively impacted attendance and fan enthusiasm. I'll always call out the logo and main jerseys for being awful, but that's not the worst part this season. Let's talk about Fallout Boy for a moment. Whose idea was it to use them for marketing purposes? Fire that person. Who came up with FEARLESS for a slogan? Fire that person. Oh, and who came up with that flash mob? Fire that person. But promote the person who managed mercifully slay the flash mob before it had a chance to become Fat Roman Soldier 2.0. Bonus: Eugene Melnyk's Twitter account has used "#Fearless" in 10 of his last 16 tweets, including this from the 16th of November:
This team is the real deal! Now you know why we call them #fearless!— Eugene Melnyk (@MelnykEugene) November 16, 2013
5. Daniel Alfredsson: The elephant in the room. You can pin the exodus on whoever you want, but it might be time to seriously ask if losing Alfredsson may be the most detrimental influence on this season. A player that has been with the team since 1995 is gone, having left not for retirement but to play for another team. The pride the city had for its longtime captain has evaporated, leaving many fans not feeling as passionate about their team as they used to be. The team on the ice looks different as well without that steady presence of two decades. His leadership is gone. His defensive play is gone. His anchoring one of the top two lines is gone. The heart of this team is gone. And on a night where the once-pesky Senators fall apart in the last three minutes to Florida, Daniel Alfredsson scores two goals (including an overtime winner) and gets his 700th assist for Detroit.