Kukla's Korner


Senators Must Avoid The Panic Button

Thoughts on the team’s rookies, potential trades, and the future, but first…

From the Ottawa Sun, on the bright spot in Ottawa’s roster,

Go figure, the biggest concern heading into the season is now the most consistent aspect of the Senators’ game.
It didn’t take any deep thinking to get Marian Hossa’s name on a one-year contract worth $7.45 million. Just the available cap space and a roster strong enough to be headed back to the Stanley Cup final. To get Auld for two years at $1 million per? Now that was good.

How good has Auld been in Ottawa? Forget the 7-6-3 record of which he has only so much control. As of yesterday, his 2.02 GAA was second-best among all No. 1 goalies, and his .926 save percentage was sixth among all those who had worked at least 11 games.

Not including a win total that would be higher if the Senators could score, Auld’s numbers are as good or better than those belonging to Niklas Backstrom, Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price, Nikolai Khabibulin, Ryan Miller, Evgeni Nabokov, Cam Ward, Ilja Bryzgalov, Vesa Toskala and Marc-Andre Fleury.

I was supposed to be the one on vacation this weekend, not the Sens, losing 4-2 to the Isles. But there’s a saying, I think it goes “when you fall off the horse, take pride and poke at those still firmly on theirs.”

At the very least, you can say that Auld’s not been a slouch, continuing to wrap wins up on a silver platter for the Sens to pick up, only to have the team forget to touch them at all, or to send the whole platter crashing down with some very ungainly play.

From the Ottawa Sun, on the Senators’ misfires,

It says something about the Senators that coach Craig Hartsburg gave shifts to rookies 20-year-old Zack Smith and 21-year-old Brian Lee in the final 2 1/2 minutes of Saturday’s game on Long Island, when his team was trailing by one goal.

It says he didn’t have a lot of faith in other options.
“We’re playing really good defensively now,” Alfredsson said before even that part of their game slipped Saturday night. “If we can get a few more goals we’ll make lives easier on ourselves.”

Was it a brilliant move to be giving these rookies ice time in the critical need-a-comeback final moments? Who knows, although the holes in the ship were too many to plug without a full roster to help out.

Sunday though, the Sens sent Bass, Lee, and Smith to Montreal, to play with Binghamton against the Hamilton Bulldogs. They were missing seven regulars, finishing up a seven games in ten days stretch, but were still able to go 4 for 7 on the powerplay en route to a 5-3 win at the Bell Centre, getting scoring from throughout the depth chart.

From the Ottawa Citizen, on trades and organizational depth,

“There are trades to be made, but sometimes it’s not about what you give up, it’s about what you get back,” Murray said. “Right now, I don’t feel that what we’ve been offered (is a big enough upgrade) and makes sense financially.”

Yet, the shabby play of the defence against the Islanders provides further evidence that the Senators require a major upgrade. It’s believed Panthers general manager Jacques Martin is trying to drive up the price for potential free agent Jay Bouwmeester by talking with several teams. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, both battling injury problems on defence, could also be in the mix.
Murray is excited about young defencemen Erik Karlsson and Patrick Wiercioch, the club’s first- and second-round draft selections last June, but the Senators will have to wait a year or two for them.
Though Murray says Karlsson and Wiercioch are “exactly what our needs are,” they don’t do anything for the Senators in the short-term. There’s also a danger they may be rushed into the lineup before they’re ready.

The Senators are on a cusp of sorts at the moment. Their city demands success from the struggling team, and the number one request is a trade, but will that be the answer?

Albeit with differing motivations, Atlanta made moves a couple seasons back to propel them into the playoffs for the first time, though they would be swept in four games by the Rangers. Now, even after trading away Hossa for a pair of roster players, a touted prospect, and a first-round pick, and picking up much ballyhooed defenseman Schneider, Atlanta sits tied for last place in the League with Tampa, and just ahead of Dallas for the League’s worst goals against. Does Ottawa follow that path and others like it, trying to hit the reset button or make pressured moves to bring about change?

Or, instead, do they remain calm, and follow a different path? Say, like the one the Kings have taken. They have remained calm even as their team has mulled around on the outside looking in. At the beginning of the season, they were viewed as a team desperate to make the floor, a lost-cause cap-hit dumping ground. Now, they sit one point behind Nashville for the West’s final playoff spot, with a game in hand.

The Sens could call up youngsters not yet ready for the NHL, in the hopes of saving the season, or they could cough up considerable assets in a trade and stake their bets on the hope that it will make a difference. Really, now is the time to make the hardest choice, but the one that could best serve to make the Sens more like the Wings of the East.

Instead of panic, the team should remain calm. If a player really is under performing, perhaps needing a change of scenery to get in shape the way Wellwood was viewed before Vancouver picked him up and got him in shape, then make the trade, if an even trade can be had. Do not trade away picks and prospects with reckless abandon.

Binghamton is finally looking cohesive, giving its fans reason to cheer; now is not the time to gut it, leaving it empty of both NHL-ready prospects to call up and players able to mentor fresh picks. Now is the time to make sure that the team can be stocked with a quality group of players, burgeoning with talent that works hard every night for a chance to be called up.

Patience popular? No, don’t bet on it. However, if the GMs of the League can learn anything from this recession and credit crunch, it’s that constantly borrowing against your future, hedging your bets to get instant payoffs, it’s all just a guaranteed road to failure. Even the contestants on Deal Or No Deal know that it’s almost never time to hit the (panic) button, and they are banking on a lot less than the talent and skill in the roster and front office. If you are truly a fan, you are in this for the long haul, and fun or no fun, patience — but not foolish naivete — is what will get the team back on track to the promised land.

Filed in: NHL Teams, Ottawa Senators, | SENShobo | Permalink


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About SENShobo

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net