As an avid Senators fan, married to a hardcore Leafs nut, playoffs time in our house was always a source of stress. There’d be glares, taunts, and pouts, with both of us inevitably having to pick another team to cheer on as the finals drew closer.
However, that hasn’t been much of an issue for a few years now. I’m not even going to touch the Leafs' situation (although congrats, boys, on scoring your first win this season! Way to rack up two points in one game!). But the Sens? What happened?
Although this year is off to a pretty good start (5-2-2), it wasn’t that long ago that they were starting off the season as the No. 1 pick for the Cup. And now? Well...since making it to the finals in 2007 they haven’t done much of anything. A step ahead of the Leafs (naturally), they made it to the playoffs in 2008, only to be swept by Crosby and the Penguins.
What a letdown. Obviously it’s impossible to pinpoint just what went wrong and when; but I think there were a couple of key moves worthy of a headshake (at least in hindsight).
1. Opting for Wade Redden over Zdeno Chara back in 2006. No doubt it was a tough call, and both seemed equally capable of playing a key role in the Sens’ success.
However, since leaving the team, Chara was appointed captain of the Bruins, has been an annual participant in the All-Star Games, succeeded in setting a new Skills Competition record, and most recently, won the Norris trophy this past June.
Redden may have helped them out at first, but I seem to recall his headline-worthy actions as revolving more around contract controversy than anything else. And let’s not ignore the numbers. He went from 50 points in 65 games with the Senators in 2005-2006 to 26 points in 81 games with the Rangers in the 2008-2009 season. Ugh.
2. Caving to locker room squabbles and letting Ray Emery go in 2008. OK, so the guy was becoming a bit of a pompous ass. Not quite “Sean Avery ass”, but “enough to roll your eyes and grab your head kind of ass”. Picking fights with the opposing players is bad enough, but going after your own teammates is never a good idea.
No doubt the team and its management were tiring of his rapidly growing (exploding?) ego and said “buh-bye.” I doubt many tears were shed as he packed his bags for Russia that summer. But now he’s back. Admittedly, not before rubbing a few Russians the wrong way, but still, he’s back. And not doing too badly.
Starting off with a shutout and now with a record of 5-3-1, he just might have a great season ahead of him.
Granted, Leclaire’s not doing too shabby with 4-2-1. But the question is still begged, if Emery could take the Sens to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007, with some firmer discipline and a little more commitment from management, could he have done great things for them last year?
At least, maybe even got them to the playoffs at all. ‘Cause I’ll bet when he grows up, he’ll be a great hockey player! Again.
The speculation can go on and on. Should they have fired Jacques Martin back in 2004? Well yes, because that led to Bryan Murray stepping in. (Although I admit, I did shed a tear or two when they announced Martin had been let go.)
Should they have kept Marian Hossa in 2005? Well no, because that trade allowed the Sens to acquire Dany Heatley.
Regardless of what caused the Senators to slump, here’s to hoping they can get back on track this season. After all, one person in our household should be looking forward to the playoffs...