The Ottawa Senators are now only one loss from elimination.
Yesterday, a 4-1 loss at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins gave a 3-0 series lead to Pittsburgh. If we go back only three months ago, nobody would've believed that the Senators would ever finish 7th in the Eastern conference and nobody would've believed that the Sens could ever lose their first three playoff games. Three months ago, the Senators were comfortably on top of the Eastern conference and looked like a sure bet for the playoffs.
I have been following hockey for over three decades and I cannot recall such a collapse during a single season. So what happened with the Senators? How can such a solid looking team completely collapse?
The answer is self-destruction.
So how did the Senators go from a serious contender to figurant?
First we have to take a look at the players, more specifically at the team's unity and chemistry. During the course of the season, goaltender Ray Emery was not satisfied being pushed aside by head coach John Paddock in favor of Martin Gerber. Emery on December 30th came late for a team practice and was fined while drawing negative attention from the fans, the press and from his own teammates. Nothing to help a team's unity.
The Ray Emery problem wasn't solved by the General Manager either. Instead of sending the goaltender elsewhere to clear the air, (trading Emery for a dozen of sticks would've been some kind of viable solution) the Senators have kept him on board, decaying the team chemistry for sure.
Early in February, the Senators have traded forward Patrick Eaves and defensemen Joe Corvo to the Carolina Hurricanes in return for forward Cory Stillman and defenseman Mike Commodore. The trade looked profitable for the Senators at first glance but in reality the trade was an awful one for them. The Senators defensive unit has been depleted greatly with the departure of Corvo.
Then on February 27th came the firing of head coach John Paddock by the General Manager Brian Murray who took the head coaching job himself. The change did not bring anything positive for the Senators. In fact, instead of firing John Paddock, Brian Murray should've fire himself for the team's lack of consistency. Brian Murray is in fact responsible for the collapse of his own team: Murray kept troublemaker Ray Emery on board, Murray fired his head coach and Murray traded Eaves and Corvo out of Ottawa.
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and you have a perfect recipe for self-destruction.
(Picture: Sidney Crosby and Martin Gerber, Canadian Press.)