by PuckStopsHere on 03/25/09 at 03:46 AM ET
After a rather disastrous season and a half or so, the Ottawa Senators are finally playing well. It is too late for them to challenge for the playoffs this season, but they have been the hottest team in the NHL lately. The Senators have won their last five games and nine of their last ten games. That has improved the Senators to 12th place in the East Conference. They are nine points out of the playoffs with ten games to go. It is too little too late, but it is good to see that the team has it in them.
Why are the Senators suddenly playing better? I think their on ice problem for the last season plus has mostly been no supporting cast. The only reliable scorers have been Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley. When nobody else was reliably scoring, opponents concentrated on these three and reduced their effectiveness and usually stopped the Senators. This season, the highest scorers on the Sens outside the big three have been Filip Kuba with 36 points and Nick Foligno with 29. There has been no scoring depth in Ottawa.
Over the last 10 games this hasn’t been the case. Nick Foligno, Ryan Shannon, Chris Phillips and Filip Kuba have scored seven points in the last ten game stretch. Brendan Bell has six points. These are five players providing scoring depth to the Sens at higher rates than anyone has provided over the whole of this season. This scoring depth has allowed Daniel Alfredsson to score 15 points ion that spell and Jason Spezza to add 14.
Where has this depth come from? Is it a result of new coach Cory Clouston trying new players in new roles? Ryan Shannon is probably playing the biggest role on an NHL team in his life so far. Brandon Bell can also say that and likely Nick Foligno too. Is their play sustainable? Is this a short-term fluke?
As I argued earlier this season, I still think Bryan Murray has been responsible for most of the Senators problems. He should be fired at season’s end regardless of a good finish. He has been the man who failed to find sufficient depth for this club. Cory Clouston has done a good job as coach so far and should be retained. The Senators should continue to look for scoring depth. If they are successful in finding it, they are a playoff team next season.
The Ottawa Senators are the hottest team in the NHL right now. They are also a team that is very likely to miss the playoffs. They have (at least temporarily) solved their problem of a lack of scoring depth and this has led to their success. There is a long way to go to get back to contender status, but this is a step in the right direction.
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