Tonight my slumping Ottawa Senators are taking on the young-and-talented Pittsburgh Penguins. The Sens are currently 5-8-1, and they have lost their past 5 games. The last time they did that was in 1996, and that was also the last year they did not make the playoffs. The only player remaining from that team is Daniel Alfredsson, who won the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year that season.
Now, he's the captain, and I hope he - along with the other leaders in the dressing room - are figuring out ways to right this ship now. Otherwise, it could cost GM John Muckler or Coach Bryan Murray their jobs. There are also trade rumours flying all over the place, with the names of Daniel Alfredsson, Christoph Schubert, and Anton Volchenkov being mentioned most often. And I'd hate to see any one of them traded.
I'm trying not to freak too much over this slump. I do have the utmost faith that they are going to turn things around and in a few months I'll be laughing about how I once feared my team might not make the playoffs. It's still too early to be pushing the panic button, right?
So to calm myself down, I'm going to make a Pros & Cons list about my team, and hopefully at the end of it, the Pros still out-weigh the Cons.
- As mentioned, they are in a 5-game slump, the worst slump they've been through in 10 years.
- Our expensive #1 goalie Martin Gerber, who couldn't be beaten last year with the Canes, so far has been a bust in a Sens uniform. He sucks.
- We lost Zdeno Chara to free agency, leaving my boy Wade Redden as the top dog on the blueline - and God love him, I know he's better than Chara, but he hasn't had much chance to prove it yet, as he was out for 4 games with a pulled groin. Great time to get injured, Wade. Lovely time.
- Jason Spezza's too flippin' fancy. Period.
- Captain Alfie only had 1 goal through the first couple of weeks, and it was into an empty net in Game #1 vs the Leafs. He's been scoring more in the past few games, but his drought sure didn't help the team right off the bat.
- We're apparently incapable of holding a 1-goal lead, or even a 2- or 3-goal lead, for that matter. They are 1-7 so far in 1-goal games, and have blown 2- and 3-goal leads in the past three games.
- The salary cap has hurt, forcing us to lose players like Hossa, Havlat & Chara without getting much in return. Everyone knows this team was one of the hardest hit by the cap, but it's also necessary for this team to survive with the large-market teams. It puts everyone on a more level playing field. But parity sure can be a bitch, can't it?
- We have practically zero second-line scoring. Antoine Vermette has been a pleasant surprise, but the likes of Mike Fisher and Peter Schaefer have been practically no-shows. OK, they work really hard every night, and Schaefer also had a hip injury that kept him out of the line-up for 4 games, but we need those guys to start tickling the twine. Dany Heatley can't score 'em all.
- Last year, we led the league in shorthanded goals. This year we've allowed 5 against us, which is the worst in the league thus far.
- The power play SUCKS. I wish we could decline penalties, like in football.
- We've won 5 games this year, and 3 of those games were against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That means we've only beaten 3 teams in the NHL through a full month of hockey.
- We've won 3 of 4 games against the Toronto Maple Leafs this year. We have 4 more games to go against the Laffs, so that means I should win at least 4 more games this year. And everyone loves beating the Leafs.
- We're not getting blown out of games by scores of 8-1 or 9-0, like the Philadelphia Flyers. Every game, with the exception of a 6-0 loss to the Leafs in game #2 of the season, has been close.
- We're finally getting the scoring from guys like Alfie, Heatley & Spezza that we weren't getting in the first few weeks. Now if we could just get some goaltending...
- The fans may be going retarded, but all the Sens brass seem to be very calm and confident things will work themselves out, and I think that's better than taking drastic & stupid actions.
- Joe Corvo has been a great addition to the team in the absence of Zdeno Chara, and Dean McAmmond has also fit in nicely. The new guys definitely aren't the problem.
- Wade Redden is hot. That's always a nice bonus.
- Ray Emery has had some of the best stats of all the goaltenders in the league through the early part of the season. He suffered a slight sprain to his forearm this week, but once he's back and healthy again, he's one of the best "back-ups" in the league.
- On paper, we have one of the best teams in the NHL. If they decided to put the entire team up for auction, GM's across the league would be trampling over each other to get in line. Now we just need to start translating that to the ice. There's too much talent on this team for them to continue like this.
- Chris Neil has been our most consistent forward. I guess that can be considered either a pro or a con, but it's nice to see that he has developed into a skilled forward that has the grit to go with it.
- As mentioned in the Pro section, Antoine Vermette has been a pleasant surprise. He was good last year, but he's even better this year - and he scored our first shorty the other night.
- In the past two games, we've had such great starts that the other teams have been pulling their goalies. It's come back to bite us both times, but if we could just figure out how to hang on to a lead, all would be well in Sens Land.
- In the past, we've always had great starts and crappy finishes (ie: NO success in the playoffs) - so this year, maybe we're going to do the reverse.
- There's still 68 games to go. Surely to God we can figure this out before it's too late!
Alright, so now I'm a little more calm.
Bring on the Penguins! GO SENS GO!!