Sunday, November 16, 2008

Starving For Skill, Not Work Ethic

Since I last had the time to sit down and post something, all hell has broken loose in Ottawa after two straight losses to the New York Islanders, a team that most prognosticators had as fresh meat for the Senators dine on.

Now is probably a good a time as any to panic so I might as well add to the frenzy.

This is not just a good team on a modest losing streak. It's much more complicated than that.

It's not just a matter of the players working harder. From what I've seen, this team has worked harder this year under Craig Hartsburg than they ever did under John Paddock or Bryan Murray. To just blame the work ethic only ignores the obvious structural problems of the team.

I've said it so many times that I'm probably boring you all to death, but this team is just not skilled enough and they're just not fast enough.

It's that simple.

They've got loads of character (allegedly...) and a trio of star players who want to win more than anyone. But this team is just not elite anymore and the sooner that Bryan Murray realizes he's made some grievous mistakes and makes a move to get some flash and dash, especially on the blueline, the better this team will be.

They need to revamp that blueline with at least two guys who can execute simple transition plays. The only player who can reasonably be expected to move the puck with some skill on the blueline is Filip Kuba and it's not like anyone can compare him to Scott Niedermayer, or even Wade Redden, despite his surprising point total. When the forwards can't get the puck in the neutral zone to start their break out, they expend twice as much energy fighting for the puck all over the ice. You think they look worn out now? Wait until January.

Alex Picard is regressing at a shocking rate and Christoph Schubert only has a wildly erratic but hard shot to rest his laurels on. Both of these players wouldn't be missed, in the short term or the long term.

As for the forwards, it's been a depressing run for the Big 3 and they have to be better one way or the other.

In the short-term, Hartsburg should just swallow his pride and reunite the big line, just to try and end this miserable streak. I understand the idea of trying to spread the offense around but if having the big line together improves your chances of winning, Hartsburg has to do what's best for the team here.

He's tried to go one way and he failed. Good coaches know when to admit they're wrong and change things. The Senators only spark against the Islanders came when he re-united the line in the 3rd period.

Chances are he'll remain stubborn and split them up for the Rangers on Monday night.

If that's so, I don't like their chances against a confident and superior New York team who have no trouble creating plays from their backend with skilled rushers like Redden and Daniel Girardi.
Ottawa doesn't have an answer for these types of players and unless Murray fixes his mistakes, the Senators won't have an answer for any of the upper level teams in the Eastern Conference.


Anonymous said...

Well said. We have three tough games this week (NYR, MTL, NYR), then a four day layoff. If things don't look better a week from now, you gotta think that someone will pay the price at that time.

If we win all three we're at 500. If we lose all three, we're looking at a team that will have won 6 out of 20. That would probably put us at the bottom of the NHL standings.

closet said...

I do think they need an extra defenseman and a bit of luck .. I was looking at Carey Price how he let one soft goal after another when playing another team last week.. I think they miss Redden so they need a replacement. I am not sold on Hartsburg.

Anonymous said...

There's not a lot of talk about how bad we played last year without Redden.

We need to replace him.

Ohlund or Boumeester would be good additions, just not sure how offensive Bouwmeester is.

I would rather dance with FLA. Vancouver is doing much better in the standings.

Fisher and Vermette need to be replaced regardless. Neither are living up to their contracts.

And as for Spezza, well he has trouble playing with anyone beneath his level, which Alfie and Heater don't seem to have an issue with.

Which means you can't make two lines involving him unless the skill is very high. Kinda ties Hartsburgs hands.


Mickey said...

Excellent post, you are one of the few people ive seen in any form of media who really gets this team. Where would we be if the sens blueline resembled anything close to what it did last year... possibly 1st in the coinference right now. You notice a similar situation in Tampa bay where the blueline has an equally stagnant transition game. The top players start getting blamed for not producing chances, but how can they not be frustrated if they cant get a freaking breakout pass. Is it just a coincidence that ottawas shot totals have gone down by about 30%?? Has anyone in the media been reading into this at all...? Is it a coincidence that teams like Toronto and Vancouver with very little up front and great puck moving defenses are having alot of success?Many "experts" are now starting to question the huge salaries given to heatley and spezza, but is there any doubt that with any other defense in the league they would be producing?

Anonymous said...

Great points, Mickey. Especially the insight into Toronto's success. I just checked the stats, and the Leafs are tied for fifth in the league in scoring. Pretty amazing when you consider that Fletcher said, at the beginning of the year, that they only had one legitimate top six forward in Antropov.

San Jose and Detroit are the highest scoring teams in the league. SJ has four d-men in double digits scoring while Detroit has three.

The funny thing is that we used to have an abundance of d-men who could move the puck. Amazing how quickly things can change.