Ottawa Bad?

by Ryan

In January I asked a simple question: what’s wrong with Ottawa?

The answer I came up with was pretty simple: they had an ineffective coach and someone making questionable roster decisions up top. That meant a top-heavy team without a starting goaltender that looked and played like they were lost. Too many players with high salaries were underachieving, and something had to change for things to turn around.

The solution I saw for that franchise were simple: a new coach and Bryan Murray getting the boot. Too much of the team’s failures stemmed from him being coach and GM, and the players on the team weren’t going anywhere due to massive contracts. Ottawa needed a new voice behind the bench, and a change in direction regarding personnel decisions.

So what happened? Craig Hartsburg got the axe, and Bryan Murray traded for a franchise goaltender at the deadline. Replacement coach Cory Clouston has gone 14-6-3 in his time with the team, and all of a sudden the Ottawa Senators are two points behind the Sabres in the East.

What’s that? Two points from Ottawa? Wait… are the Sabres… Ottawa bad?

Well, let’s take a look at the teams. Ottawa has three good forwards (Spezza, Alfredsson, and Heatley), one good defenseman (Kuba) and a massive drop off in points production from a batch of unproductive, high-priced forwards and defenseman.

There are also a number of young players such as Bell, Foligno, Picard, and Lee that are just beginning their careers and therefore are virtual unknowns with regard to long-term value.   Oh, and while long-term their goaltending situation is solid (Leclaire) , it is currently a massive question mark (Elliott) for the remainder of the season.

So what about Buffalo?  Well, they have three good forwards (Vanek, Roy, and Connolly), one good defenseman (Spacek) and a massive drop-off in points production from a batch of unproductive, high-priced forwards and defenseman.

There are also a number of young players such as Sekera, Butler, MacArthur, and Gerbe that are just beginning their careers and therefore are virtual unknowns with regard to long-term value.   Oh, and while long-term their goaltending situation is solid (Miller) , it is currently a massive question mark (Lalime) for the remainder of the season.

Sound familiar? It does, and now the numbers are starting to trend that way. Sabres fans used to laugh at Ottawa earlier this year, but somehow they kept winning head to head despite hitting rock bottom. The Sabres continued to hover around mediocrity, their former coach called both teams “soft”, and the rest is history.

But are the two teams really the same? Well, no. See, Ottawa went out and did something about it. They were a decidedly worse hockey team a few months ago. Much, much worse. So they made a coaching change, started to retool, and got better. All of a sudden they are 9-1 in their last ten, destroyed the Sabres in the season series, and have something to look forward to next season. They kept their core intact yet made a few moves, and will be a better hockey club for it down the line.

That is where the Sabres have failed. There is no movement, no advancement or regression. This team is in a state of atrophy, and the numbers will reflect that lack of movement in a few weeks. The Sabres may be in the same position as Ottawa in the East, but you’d be hard-pressed to convince me the Sabres are in better shape overall.

Somehow Ottawa has gone from mediocre to terrible to mediocre but getting better, all in the span of about seven months. What have the Sabres done? If there is any agreement among Sabres fans these days, it is that change needs to take place. It’s a scary thing to admit, but I think for the most part Ottawa has the right idea.

Well, it’s a better idea than doing nothing.

4 Comments

  1. Ryan, I swear to Lindy Ruff I almost wrote this exact post a few days ago (well, not EXACTLY, my post wouldn’t have been as organized and it probably would have contained a few pictures of baby chicks). I’ve really been thinking about Ottawa a lot lately. I think this is a REALLY apt comparison, and I also think that without big time change, the Sabres will be in danger of slipping from mediocre to terrible next season, ala Ottawa.

    Great post.

  2. ottawafan

    Well, don’t feel too bad. Ottawa finally beat the Islanders last weekend to avoid a season sweep. Imagine losing the season series to the hands-down worst team in the league, and your only victory coming after their big trade deadline fire sale (bye Guerin, Comrie, Campoli). Bad enough, but those six points would have the Sens sitting pretty in a playoff spot instead of facing the nearly impossible task of having to win 10 games in a row while hoping the 3 teams above them continue to tank.

  3. That’s a good point, but the Sabres have struggled with inferior teams all year, too. They are 2-2 against the Isles, with one of those wins coming in a shootout after a ridiculous collapse at home. I still think you guys are at least moving in the right direction, so I don’t feel bad at all.

    Here’s my question: what are they planning to do with Comrie and Campoli? Have you heard anything about signing them, or were they just strange rentals?

  4. Andy

    Campoli is signed next year and seems to be part of the Senators’ plans for the future. Murray said he spoke with Comrie’s agent before the trade and was really confident that he would be able to sign him.

    Ottawa fans were disappointed to see Comrie leave and he seemed to really want to stick around. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him re-sign.

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