by PuckStopsHere on 02/03/09 at 04:17 AM ET
Yesterday the Ottawa Senators fired coach Craig Hartsburg. This does not come as much of a surprise because the Senators currently are the third worst team in the league. This move likely solves nothing. Ottawa is on their fourth coach in less than two seasons. If changing coaches from John Paddock to Bryan Murray and then from Bryan Murray to Craig Hartsburg does not turn the team around, then it is unlikely that changing coaches from Craig Hartsburg to Cory Clouston will turn the team around. It is pretty clear that the problem in Ottawa is not a coaching problem. But what is the problem?
In a nutshell, the Senators have a problem with depth. They have three really good players in Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza and nobody else who makes an impact. In fact, their fourth highest goal scorer this season (behind those three) is Mike Fisher who has seven goals. That won’t do. It allows the opposing team to put all their efforts shutting down the big three and ignore the rest of the team. The added defence against the big three reduce their scoring and nobody else is good enough too pick up the slack
When Ottawa made the Stanley Cup finals in 2007, they had depth. Ten players on their roster scored 14 or more goals that season (Heatley, Spezza, Alfredsson, Fisher, Mike Comrie, Antoine Vermette, Chris Kelly, Oleg Saprykin, Patrick Eaves and Dean McAmmond). This season only the big three are on pace to do this. That dropoff in offensive depth without replacement is horrible. The problem is management. No general manager should go two years in the rapid player turnover of the salary cap era without finding a single player capable of scoring. The defence is the same in terms of players lost. Gone are Wade Redden, Andrej Meszaros, Joe Corvo and Tom Preissing. The only addition who has done well this year is Filip Kuba. Depth has been depleted on forward and defence. Any good team in the salary cap must have players with smaller contracts who play well. Ottawa has nobody in this camp. That is a major failure of Bryan Murray’s reign as general manager.
At this point, Murray remains on board as general manager and gets to try his fourth coach (including himself) in less than two years. It seems likely that Murray won’t survive the season as Ottawa’s GM, but the obvious question is why has he survived this long?
What do we expect from new coach Cory Clouston? Frankly very little is expected. He has coached the Ottawa AHL affiliate in Binghamton for a season and a half (missing playoffs last season) after a successful run in the WHL coaching the Kootenay Ice. Most likely, Ottawa will not do much for the rest of the season and Bryan Murray will be fired as general manager. A new GM will be brought in who will bring with him a new coach. Clouston will be replaced (and if there is any justice demoted back to Binghamton - it isn’t his fault he was put in a situation where it is nearly impossible to win). Clouston’s job is to keep the bench warn until the new regime comes to town.
I think Ottawa can win with a team built around Alfredsson, Heatley and Spezza. That three does use up a lot of the salary cap space, but a good GM should still be able to bring in some depth. I think the window the team had at the Stanley Cup has long passed and cannot be brought back. This team can be competitive with the right moves from management. It is almost criminal how fast the depth of the team has been depleted and how little has been added to the roster since the Stanley Cup finals appearance.
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