Going into a month where nine of their 13 opponents are non-playoff teams, there's a chance for the Senators to go on a bit of a run yet again. Is rewarding a poor process worth the short-term success, though? There are clearly problems with the Senators, and although there are problems with every NHL team, most of the underlying factors are concerning. There's a lot to be positive about -- Erik Karlsson, Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone -- but in today's league, you can't win off the back of a couple stars.
Thus, I wanted to engage all of you in a discussion on what you think the problem is? The "correct" answer is going to be a combination of these factors, but I want your opinion on a) what you think the biggest problem is and b) how you'd go about fixing the problem. Note that I'm going to be *really* negative below as I try to outline as many "issues" as possible; these aren't necessarily my opinion. Here are the options:
- Personnel -- the Senators don't have enough NHLers on forward and defense. Unfortunately, the team's depth has gone from a relative strength to a weakness, and despite the decent point totals, Mika Zibanejad and Jean-Gabriel Pageau haven't been able to carry play like we're used to seeing. On defense, Patrick Wiercioch's lack of consistency is unable to solidify a top four, and Cody Ceci's poor relative Corsi numbers are a worrying sign for his future. The organization's insistence to not cut bait with Jared Cowen has cost them another season, and they continue to overvalue grit with the increased responsibilities of Mark Borowiecki and the repeated call-ups of Max McCormick and Dave Dziurzynski.
- Coaching - from systems to player usage, it seems like Dave Cameron has been unable or unwilling to learn from the incredible stretch-run last year. The Senators aren't able to exit the defensive zone with consistency unless 65 is on the ice, and are overworking their Captain by relying on him more than any other single player on opposing NHL teams. Despite carrying the 4th line, Shane Prince remains at ~10 minutes of ice-time and call-ups with less experience and pedigree are given better opportunities. The daunted Senators forecheck looks aggressive at times and passive at others, perhaps showing a telltale sign of what emphasizing grit over skill will do to your game. Special teams -- a facet of the game where coaches are supposed to have a lot of influence -- have been mediocre at best, as the Senators mid-ranked powerplay are unable to make up for their 30th ranked penalty kill. Erik Condra is missed, and Zack Smith is given powerplay opportunities over the team's leading scorer, further acting as a microcosm for the team's 5-on-5 issues.
- Management - should Bryan Murray be allowed to even hire another coach? Although the Sens longest-tenured GM has relative immunity in Ottawa, a lot of the on-ice issues could be because of an outdated philosophy on hockey that identifies and rewards the wrong skillsets. Being a small budget team certainly has an impact on the difficulty of Murray's job as it gives him less flexibility to make trades and sign players, but three years of relative inactivity on this front would generally be a fireable offense.
- Other - feel free to comment on other things I may not have covered here!
- Your game recaps from last night's high-scoring loss against the Penguins. [Silver Seven, Ottawa Citizen]
- Things have been going better for the BSens. Jeff has your coverage of their weekend sweep. [Silver Seven - v. Rochester, v. Toronto]
- Roster news! With Kyle Turris still out nursing an injury, the Senators have recalled Max McCormick. Also, instead of recalling Matt Puempel, they decided to bring back David Dziurzynski for another go-around. [6th Sens, SensChirp]
- Since it's the All-Star break, a lot of our coverage was of the festivities themselves. Ross examines some Sens all-star moments, and Callum argues that the weekend was a complete success. Trevor also had an all-star spin to the Weekly Question, asking the community who the Sens equivalent of John Scott would be. Chirp also recaps from the all-star festivities. [Silver Seven - Sens moments, Recap, John Scott equivalent, SensChirp]
- Some LeBreton coverage from Nichols, this time transcribing Eugene Melnyk's comments on Toronto sports radio and covering a report that the DCDLS group opposing the Senators plan to buy the team if they win. [6th Sens - Melnyk, DCDLS report]
- Chirp has some great thoughts on the LeBreton proposals from the perspective of a hockey fan, and from an Ottawan (?) [SensChirp]
- In other news, it's February. Did you get a chance to rank the performances of the Sens in January? [Silver Seven]
- Nichols news and notes column tackles controversial post-game comments from the last Sens game. [6th Sens]
- Prospect time! Andreas Englund has been named to Team Sweden for the European Hockey Tour. It's not an important tournament per se, but it's clear that Swedish management thinks highly of the big rearguard. [Silver Seven]
- We've taken your feedback into consideration and are starting a reader mailbag. Get your questions in!! [Silver Seven]
- Note: it's expected, but Chris Phillips is unlikely to play a game this season. [Ottawa Citizen]
- Your end-of-Nuggets audio comes courtesy of the Sens Callups gang, who recap the month of January and comment on Sens topics like prospects, LeBreton, and player development. [Sens Callups]
- Arik Parnass has been doing some incredible work on special teams play. This time, he visualizes one-timer lanes with some swanky looking graphs. [Special Teams Project]
- Bruce Arthur as *the* John Scott all-star column. [Toronto Star]
- The Players' Tribune had a cool feature during the all-star break, getting players to answer questions about their childhood heroes growing up, who their "all-star" was, etc. [The Players Tribune]
- Your weekly iteration of 30 Thoughts. [Sportsnet]
- Your mid-season analytics awards from the folks over at Hockey-Graphs. Erik Karlsson is likely hoping that the voters think the same way. [Hockey-Graphs]
- Don't feel bad, Sens fans! The other Canadian teams aren't doing so well either. The Senators are 2nd out of 7! [The Globe and Mail]