At the half way mark of the NHL season, the Ottawa Senators sit atop the Eastern Conference with 58 points.
Discounting their seven-game losing streak in November—which caused a full-fledged panic among some fans—the Sens have had a superb season.
In fact, this may be the year Sens fans have the opportunity to crowd Elgin Street and resurrect the Sens Mile.
That said, a lingering doubt gnaws at me. As I see it, there are more than a few chinks in the armor of these mighty Senators.
Take away the distractions of Ray Emery’s antics both on and off the ice. Ignore the media attention surrounding the goaltender controversy. Disregard the injury list.
Beyond all that, there's a fundamental piece to this team’s play that just isn't there :
Yes, the team boasts impressive stats, and yes, their offensive prowess is feared around the league. But the Sens are prone to inconsistency, often take unnecessary penalties, and generally lack discipline as a team.
I’m convinced that watching the Senators play is hazardous to my health. The last few games have been especially brutal.
I’ve observed halfhearted clearing attempts, heart-stopping turnovers, and frustrating blind passes that typically produce odd-man rushes.
The “hockey gods,” whom Jason Spezza once credited for one of the Sens' wins, aren’t always going to bail these guys out.
Let's face it—the Senators have been guilty of some exceptionally sloppy play of late. The fiasco against the Washington Capitals and the overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning were bad enough—but consider their most recent game against the Sabres.
Once again, the Senators blew a lead, couldn't capitalize on the power play (0-6), and treated fans to another nail-biter of a game before squeaking out a win in the shootout.
There's no question a change is necessary if this Ottawa team is going to go the distance in the playoffs. Does this change involve a trade before the February 26th deadline? Should GM Brian Murray bring in a tough forward to shake things up?
I’m not sure that’s the answer.
If the players get back to basics, stop trying to be so fancy, and play with a little more heart, smarts, and discipline, this Ottawa Senators team stands a chance at being a true Stanley Cup contender.