Weekly Question: What's the Verdict on Dave Cameron?

Ever since he took over as head coach last December, it's been quite the emotional journey with Dave Cameron at the wheel. But with a fresh start and a month under his belt in the new season, what does the jury have to say?

While a player's impact is almost solely based off his presence on the ice, there's so much of a coach's influence that is behind closed doors.

In fact, when the Senators fired Paul MacLean just less than a year ago, one of the biggest concerns leading up to his departure was a completely private matter up until then. MacLean had lost the room.

"There was an uneasiness in our room, without a doubt. Some of the better players felt that they were singled out a little too often, maybe. And that’s today’s athlete. They want to be corrected, coached, and given a chance to play without being the centrepoint of discussion in a room." - Bryan Murray. Ottawa Citizen. Published: Dec. 8, 2014.

It's difficult to critique a coach's body of work because we don't know what drills he runs in practice, what he says to the players before the final period or the various strategies he teaches.

But while it's difficult, not knowing the full story, it certainly isn't impossible. There are many things an everyday observer can evaluate.

So, let's evaluate.

Last season, Dave Cameron replaced MacLean in early December after Ottawa couldn't find their way out of mediocrity. Cameron's first couple month's as head coach saw small, immediate improvements on the ice, but it wasn't until February that the team caught fire.

Along with a few select players who had an outstanding final third of the season, Cameron was praised for the Senators' success.

But with all the emotion that engulfed the nation's capital during their team's Cinderella run, those who admired Cameron for being the brain behind the mad dash to the playoffs seemed to forget the rabbit's food he had hidden in his pocket.

And not that Cameron didn't do a great job with last year's group in the final stages of the season. It's just that we couldn't prove it. He had too many things going the right way for him.

Andrew Hammond went 20-1-2 down the stretch with a .941 save percentage. Mark Stone and Kyle Turris played at a more than elite level for 40 games straight. With Marc Methot back in the nick of time, Erik Karlsson had a Norris-worthy second half.

Then there was the aid of certain players being held out of the lineup.

Whether it was an injury or a suspension (in Jared Cowen's case), the more bottom players were left out of the equation leaving more ice time for younger, more talented options. With exception to the scratching of Cowen after his suspension, Cameron didn't have to make any big decisions on who to sit. All his bubble players were taken out for him.

So you can see why it was hard to give either a thumbs up or a thumbs down to Cameron's first incomplete season as Senators head coach.

But with a fresh start, a healthy roster on Day 1 (but certainly not after the season started) and full 82 games ahead of him, the 2015-16 season was set to be the campaign he could finally be critiqued on.

And one month in, Cameron hasn't exactly impressed.

It seems odd saying that of a coach whose team is 7-4-2 and second in the Division. Yet here we are.

Though dealing with multiple injuries on a daily basis in the forward department, Cameron's decision on who replaces who has been downright confusing.

Curtis Lazar has had numerous opportunities on the first line filling in for Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone in their respective games missed over the past two weeks, but it's baffling why Cameron would decide to put a player of Lazar's ability with the team's top line. It's not a shot at Lazar's capability, but his game seems so well-suited for a checking line that when he's put in a position with overwhelmingly offensively skilled players, he seems out of his element; unable to just focus on getting shots on net, crashing the blue paint for rebounds and laying big hits.

Then there has been the deployment of Shane Prince.

The 22-year-old's skill set is spectacular. His hands are built for top-six minutes and the hockey mind he possesses, the way he sees the ice, would compliment any player that has the benefit of lining up alongside him.

Prince doesn't belong on the fourth line and he certainly doesn't belong in the press box.

The Senators rookie has sat four games this season as a healthy scratch and in his first five games, he suited up beside Chris Neil and Zack Smith on the fourth line. His magic touch even got the line two goals in a single game.

But hey, maybe there's hope for Cameron on the forward side of things after all.

Those seem like something we can agree on.

And finally, there's the defensive situation.

Not knowing the true impact of Bryan Murray's desire to have Cowen play solid shutdown minutes every night, it's hard to gauge whether or not Cameron really does have full control over his defense corps. But the pairing of Cowen and Mark Borowiecki has dragged on for too long.

Chris Wideman has sat enough games with a bird's eye view.

But still. The team is 7-4-2.

What grade would you give Dave Cameron so far in this young season?


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