The Ottawa Senators, 10 Games In: There Is Nothing Neutral About the Swiss

Spencer CallaghanAnalyst INovember 1, 2008

I need a little help.

I have managed to secure a large vat of tar that I have been mixing for the past week to find the right consistency; and I think I have also identified one of the many ceremonial cannons around this city that still works; now I just need about three large garbage bags full of feathers: chicken, goose, pigeon, any will do.

I am no longer officially neutral about the Swiss.

If the first 10 games of the NHL season have convinced me of one thing about the Ottawa Senators, it is that Martin Gerber should be tarred, feathered, and shot out of a cannon.

With a 4-5-1 record, things have looked pretty shaky for the Sens, but a very strong argument could be made that the team could be 6-4-0 with some basic, competent goaltending.

Thankfully, Alex Auld, of all people, has stepped up to provide the steady, consistent play that the Sens need to compete.

The number speak for themselves:

Alex Auld: 3 wins, 2 losses, 2.21 GAA, .929 save %        

Martin Gerber: 1 win, 3 losses, 1 OT loss, 3.39 GAA, .891 save %

In a nutshell, that has been the biggest problem with the Ottawa Senators up to the 10-game mark.

Of course, there is more to the story: The defence still doesn't seem to have developed a lot of chemistry, although the most recent defence pairings from Craig Hartsburg that have Filip Kuba playing with Alexandre Picard and Christoph Schubert with Jason Smith seem to have stabilized the back end.

With so many new faces on defence, it was inevitable that it would take a little while to find some consistency, two straight wins since the pairings have been changed would indicate that maybe such consistency has in fact been found.

It is abundantly clear, however, that Brian Murray's focus needs to be on finding a puck-moving defenceman, someone who can lead the breakout effectively and quarterback the power play.

On the forward side of the ice, things have been slightly better, the big three of Alfredsson, Heatley and Spezza are all at double digits in points already and have generally been consistent on most nights.

The third and fourth line players like Donovan, Neil, and Ruutu have all been contributing strongly and chipping in the occasional goal.

The problem right now is the second tier of players that were supposed to add some consistent scoring.

Antoine Vermette and Mike Fisher have both been huge disappointments.

Vermette, after having been vocal in his disappointment that the Sens did not offer him a long-term contract to honour his skill and genius, has only two points so far this season and has looked lost.

Lately, Vermette has even been given time on the first line with Heatley and Spezza and has still shown nothing for it.

For someone who seemed so intent on proving Brian Murray wrong and showing that he was a top offensive player on this team, Vermette has only validated the GMs bargaining position with his early-season play.

And then we have Mike Fisher: This one is tricky, everyone loves Mike Fisher, right?

It seems almost sacrilegious to criticise Fisher in Ottawa, he's a nice guy, he's a hard worker, he's every 15-year old girl's dream.

But he is also carrying a $4.2 million cap hit and has ZERO points.

Fisher, a well-known religious man, needs to thump his Bible less and the opposition more.

Either that or turn my $4.50 arena Coke into wine or something, entertain me!

In the end, the preseason weaknesses that many identified about the Ottawa Senators all seem to be pretty accurate: goaltending, lack of puck movement on defence, and secondary scoring.

The goaltending problem may have been temporarily eased with the play of Alex Auld, sure he's a backup, but all the Sens need is consistent goaltending, not great goaltending.

The defence seems to have settled with the new pairings, but some help via trade is still likely going to be needed.

And finally, there are a couple of big name players at forward who need to their money where their mouth is, or I suppose put their play where their money is, and start producing.

In the meantime, if you are looking for me, I'll be downtown plucking the feathers off of pigeons on Parliament Hill.