Friday, January 21, 2011

It Actually Gets Worse .... Somehow

Is there anything left to be said?

The Ottawa Senators, coming off their second straight blowout loss, this time at home to the Habs, are imploding at a rate that not even the most cynical of fans could have predicted.

Even doomed coach Cory Clouston was quoted after the game as saying the Senators "need to start from scratch". Truer words were never spoken, but I wonder if he really understood what he was saying. Surely he knows that process would start with him?

Right now, this is an organization in deep shock, unable to pull the trigger on a trade, unable to find the moxie to fire another coach who clearly should have been fired a long time ago, unable to even address the situation to the media and to the fans.

It's no coincidence that both Bryan Murray and owner Eugene Melnyk have fallen silent. My guess is that, up until tonight, they had no idea what to say to the fans anyways.

It's not like Bryan Murray to sit and watch his team fall apart, so it's almost certain that he's had the rug pulled out from under him by Melnyk and the result is a group of banged up players who don't believe in themselves, don't believe in their coach, don't believe in his system, and don't believe any hope is on the horizon, no matter how many cliches they recycle when talking to reporters after every loss.

But surely, with the team starting to sink to levels we haven't seen since the early expansion days, someone in upper management is going to have the balls to make a change behind the bench. There's nothing left to do now but tie the can to Clouston.

The little general continues to confound. How he has the chutzpah to keep benching Matt Carkner despite already having the softest defense core in the NHL is beyond comprehension. Of defenseman who have played over 20 games on this team, Carkner has the best plus/minus, is the only player who can actually clear the crease and always plays a solid, simple game. Oh yah, he's also one of the toughest players in the league!!

Instead, Clouston rolls with 12 year old Brian Lee and the invisible ghost Filip Kuba. Great choices if you were coaching a softball team.

Everyone will clamour that the team is trying to showcase the crappy defenseman they want to trade, but Lee and Kuba are already untradeable.

When you start making decisions that aren't in the interest of winning the game, then you've already compromised your integrity and started a losing culture that will linger with this team long after the dust has settled from this disastrous season.

But really, sitting Carkner isn't what this is all about. That's just one bizarre decision in a year full of miscues.

This also isn't just about Cory Clouston and his staff.

This is about an organization that has no idea what they are doing anymore and a complete lack of action off the ice is mirroring the complete lack of success on the ice.

But this has got to be the game where it all comes crashing to earth.

There is no way Clouston is coaching this team after the All-Star break. He may survive to coach against Buffalo simply because making a change during the break would allow a smoother transition.

This team needs to act now and do something big before losing becomes an acceptable outcome.

Maybe it already has.


Anonymous said...

I think that Sens fans can take comfort in the fact that we've seen this movie before.

The vibe around this team feels very similar to 1995-96. Remember back then when we had Davey Allison as coach, and we went something like 2 and 22 and the whole organization looked completely hopeless?

Allison finally got canned. We got a new GM, who quickly brought in Jacques Martin. We got the #1 overall pick and drafted Chris Phillips. Then we quickly made the playoffs the following year.

This year's team has much better players than the 1995-96 version. A quick turnaround is going to happen, once we get some accountability in the management office.

But, I don't blame Melnyk for his silence. What's he suppose to do if he doesn't have a successor to Murray lined up?

To me, the team looks like they're waiting for something to happen. I don't think Clouston can do much about that.

Look at the facts: the team is likely out of the playoffs, the GM is likely a lame duck, the coach is likely a lame duck, Chris Phillips can't get a feel if he is even part of the future plan, Leclaire clearly isn't happy and doesn't even know if he'll be in the NHL next year, Kovalev doesn't look happy and seems to miss Montreal, Gonchar can't find his game, etc ...

There's so much uncertainty. The only thing that is certain, is that the uncertainty is having an effect on the team.

I just hope that when Melnyk makes changes, he brings in someone credible who wants to build an entertaining team.

As far as Carkner goes, from reading your blog regularly, it's pretty clear that you love the guy.

We only scored one goal tonight. Unless he can help in that department, I don't think he would have made a difference. He's got some great qualities, but I think it's a stretch to think that the make up of the third D pair is the difference between winning and losing. We talkin' about practise.

Sens said...

Blow up the core.
Clear out Murray.

Ask Daniel Alfredsson and the other core players when they plan on coming back from their mental vacation. Do that now.

Do the former, later. No need to squander a top 3 pick in the draft to assuage these egos. Keep tanking baby!

Peter Raaymakers said...

You continue to push your assertion that it's Clouston's decision to keep Kuba and Lee in the lineup, but apparently fail to realize that it's a nonsensical theory. There's no question neither of them are helping the team win, and since it's in Clouston's best interest to put up wins--for this year and for his career--then he would obviously choose to play Carkner. But the GM wants to trade them, and scratching either would just look bad, so they continue playing. Also realize that Clouston has a massive loyalty to Carkner in the first place, stemming from their time in Binghamton, and is likely a big reason why Carkner's NHL career even got off the ground, and you see quite clearly that it isn't Clouston keeping him out of the lineup, but a couple superiors he can't say no to: Murray and Melnyk.

But I digress. This team needs to "start from scratch" in both the long term and the short term. In the short term, whether under Clouston or some interim coach, they need to get back to fundamentals. The coaching staff needs to go back to the drawing board and tailor the system to suit the players, rather than trying to change the players to suit the system. And the players need to find a way to get the fun back in to their game, because no matter the skill in the team, fun can go a long way in the final results.

The goal this season isn't playoffs, and it's not even wins. Right now, it's to avoid complacency with losing, and to institute some good habits as we look to next year and the seasons beyond.

Jeremy Milks said...

Hey Peter, there's no proof that Murray is telling Clouston who and who not to dress. For all we know, and as I asserted in my piece, Murray doesn't have the authority to even tell Clouston to tie his shoelaces. Until further proof, I will assume Clouston is responsible for who dresses and who doesn't, just like any other coach in the NHL. Both of us are proposing theories, neither of which we can prove.

My point is that whoever is making the decision to scratch Carkner, it is the wrong one because it's not a decision that will help the team win the hockey game. Once that point is reached, it's already too late. The losing culture is here, and the only way to reverse that is fire the person responsible for it.

Whether that is Clouston or Murray, neither of us know, and ultimately may never know.

Peter Raaymakers said...

Fair point, and I'll agree with you on the final conclusion: Icing a poor roster is a tactic to lose, and players who see that happening aren't likely to be motivated to give it there all. And it's hard to blame them for that.

Michael said...

Or they are playing ECHL goalies to ensure a good lottery pick in a dead season. Not the first time.

Remember that it was the Senators tanking that brought in the lottery in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I'm only one fan, but I don't think that Carkner necessarily gives us a better chance to win.

I think when we are playing a roster like the truculent Leafs or the Flyers, or the Bruins, or etc ... then Carkner helps us.

But when we're playing the Habs, or another team like that, we're better off with a more mobile group.

PvR said...

Carkner may not walk on water, but it don't matter which team they are playing, he gets my vote over Kuba everytime.

Who's to blame? I don't know either. But it is shameful that things are playing out as they are.

Jeremy Milks said...

Like I said in the post, it's not about Matt Carkner. He's just a piece of the puzzle. Putting him on the ice doesn't mean 2 points every night. But he's the kind of guy you want on the ice every night because he's a warrior.

Sitting Carkner is just one symptom of what's wrong with this team, not the move that tips the balance of power here.

Anonymous said...

carks should be playing, some of the other guys aren't even pretending to be trying.

This team is old, slow, untalented and overpaid. And it's largely BM's fault. Forgot to add unwatchable. When Dean and Gord use words like "horrendous" and "disgraceful" things aren't good.

Losing is the best thing for this team to do right now. Who cares if we can't get market value for some of these players right now, as long as we can get some of them out?

This has to get worse (or stay this bad) before it can get better, but judging from Melnyk's statement, sounds like he could be planning on keeping Murray next year. I don't get it either. Murray must have dirt on the guy or something.


Anonymous said...

Melnyk spoke to the Sun:


"I'm a deluded, optimistic fan. I won't make necessary changes. There is a plan but I'm not telling you what is is. Stanley Cup!"

Worst owner EVER.
Learn to cut the cord and rebuild ffs.