Five Thoughts: It's All Gone Wrong

Not a lot of positives to go around in Sens-land these days.

Five Thoughts: It's All Gone Wrong
Photo by arash payam / Unsplash

It's been a bit tough these days to find the positivity around the Ottawa Senators, and I can't deny that's influencing today's Five Thoughts. Sometimes, you just have to let it all out:

Playing out the String

After last night's disastrous performance against the Florida Panthers, Jake Sanderson emphasized the importance of putting in a good effort across the final seven games of the season:

I certainly admire the dedication, and it's the type of thing you like to hear from one of the team's young stars, but I'd be lying if I said that the closing stretch of this season has felt like anything but a slog. I'll probably still be watching until the final whistle, and then turning my attention to the Draft, and all of the things that a dedicated fan of the team does. But damned if I don't just wish this season was over and done with. Good for you Jake, I hope you and all the players push until the very end, but we've suffered enough already. Thank you.

Don't Get Fooled by an End of Season Surge

When a season goes down the drain as quickly as the Sens' campaign did this year, we naturally turn our attention to next year. Fans, and the team, are anxious to assign some kind of meaning to what are functionally meaningless games. We ask ourselves questions like: does Shane Pinto's play down the stretch make him a lock for the top six next season? And while I think there is real value in evaluating prospects in NHL games, it's extra important to not be fooled by any short-term trends at the end of a long season. Yes, last night's stinker aside, Joonas Korpisalo has been better of late. But what matters is his performance over the course of the season (and his career more broadly). If you want to bring him back next year (an error in my estimation) then you need to be clear-eyed about what his performance was over the course of the entire season – not just the nice three-week stretch you cherry-picked at the end of the year. As Sens fans, we should at this stage be very well-versed in the perils of projecting late season success onto the start of the next year.

Staios' Difficult Job Ahead:

All of the above being said, I do not envy the job that lies ahead of Steve Staios. When things go as badly as they did this year for the Sens, it forces a re-examination of absolutely everything. So while I do still like many of the core pieces assembled, I am far from confident that simple tinkering around the edges will suffice to make this club a play-off participant next season. This is a position that I've arrived at slowly, and maybe a bit reluctantly. When I look at the roster, on paper, I still, even after this calamity of a season, see what to me should be a good team. Yet now that we've watched a full slate of games in which the squad has not proven itself up to the task, we are forced to ask ourselves if this combination of players can actually work. If Staios wants to answer in the affirmative, that, yes, we can win with this group, he'll need to make a pretty convincing case. If not, and I suspect this is the reality, he's got a lot of work to do.

One of the nice things about the revitalized ownership situation is that it's possible to dream about the Sens going out and getting a marquee coach to take this team to the next level. There's been plenty of speculation about who Ottawa's looking at to be their bench boss, with some prominent former head coaches such as Craig Berube, Todd McLellan, and Dean Evason popping up often. The other name that keeps surfacing is Jon Gruden, the current coach of the Toronto Marlies and the former coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs. As you are likely aware, Gruden has a close connection to Staios and Michael Andlauer.

While I'm not a fan of hiring a coach with NHL experience just for the sake of it, bringing in another closely connected friend of the owner/GM would seriously undercut the organization’s stated goal of hiring the best-in-class. If there was ever a group whose underwhelming performance spelled out the need for a proven leader, this is it.

Taking Feedback:

One thing for which I will give the Andlauer ownership group credit is engaging with the fans in an open, and direct manner. Friend of the blog (and occasional contributor!) Kevin Lee posted on Twitter that he'd recently been contacted for feedback:

Kevin's (correct) joke about not enjoying his time at last night's trouncing aside, I do actually have some faith that the Sens are serious about improving their fan experience. This season has been a disaster on the ice, but I continue to hear good things about the off-ice product and just general atmosphere around the team. If I can end this article on one positive it would be that, at the very least, it's been refreshing to not have to worry about the team doing something embarrassing every other week.

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