Most hockey fans in this sleepy village are best advised to spend less time snoring or BlackBerrying, and more time watching the Senators' Excellent Escapades On Ice.
The West Coast games this week vs. the even mightier Ducks and the killer Sharks were well past the bedtime of most in Ottawa. Surely by now, you must have heard, maybe even seen video that the good guys, once again, played like little boys against men.
Far too many still think this team has as good a chance as any other serious contender to win the coveted Cup this year, now that the GM Bryan Murray has anointed himself to replace his replacement behind the bench.
Meanwhile, Mr. Smiley (AKA The Mighty Sopo) ensures the milk-and-honey propaganda stories continue to be spun.
Even the business pages are chiming in, with alerts that the Ottawa Senators need to win a Cup soon to continue being sustainable and keep drawing from the significant walk-up crowd of 7,000-plus. How soon before Father De Souza starts putting the fear of God into us by warning of a modern-day Noah's Ark disaster if Ottawa doesn’t right its sinking ship?
Given that the Senators are not even assured of making the playoffs, to even begin envisioning a championship for this current dysfunctional bunch is nothing but a pipe dream full of cracks.
Barring a major collapse, they should make it to this year's tournament. The reality, though, is that their window of opportunity for a championship has come and passed.
Their chances evaporated not so much in last year's finals which finally exposed Ottawa’s severe shortcomings in goal, defence and secondary scoring, not to mention size and toughness, nor with the shocking defeat to the inferior Sabres in 2005-06, but perhaps it came when the team was one lousy goal short of advancing to the final and beating a less mightier Ducks squad in 2002-03.
The future was then, except that no one recognized it.
In the years since, the Senators have both been unable to keep some marquee players, but have also been notorious for failing to acquire top players at the trade deadline, be it for paralyzing salary cap restrictions or questionable hockey decisions, content instead to get cheap and interchangeable parts .
WEAK-LY FARM REPORT
Precious salary cap space is already allocated to the wrong players (Wade Redden, Ray Emery, Jason Spezza) or too much to the right players (Dany Heatley, Mike Fisher, Chris Phillips). With no immediate help to draw upon from the farm, the future suddenly looks bleaker than last May when the club foolishly and, prematurely might I add, held a City Hall celebration for winning a big can of air.
So while Ottawa is in dire need of a Cup to continue being viable from a business standpoint, this is not going to happen as long as the following factors continue to be instrumental in the club’s day-to-day operations:
- Management that has a stranglehold on public opinion in this town and which produces the following domino effect: Writers have their hands tied in voicing critical comments, fans are discouraged from sending in their suggestions on improving the team and management and players rest on their laurels instead of making adjustments.
- A revolving resident GM who has no clue what type of roster is needed to compete against the faster, bigger and meaner Western Conference opponents, and who has repeatedly failed to recognize the fact that you cannot aspire to win a championship without a genuine No. 1 netminder.
- The lack of a coach who can light a fire under his players' posteriors.
- A dressing room that reflects the very weak leadership of Daniel Alfredsson as captain. While a tremendous hockey player, Alfie is simply not cut from the same mold as Mark Messier or Steve Yzerman. No coincidence then that the Emery tardiness was tolerated for so long, or that the team is incapable of playing 60 solid minutes on almost every night.
- A media corps comprised of far too many cheerleaders which is fast becoming the brunt of derisive comments from reporters in other NHL cities.
Perhaps the time has come for owner Eugene Melnyk to start running his team more like a business than a country club or a stable. The extent to which he and his brass are successful in the coming 2-3 years will go a very long way in determining whether or not the Ottawa Senators will continue to be the pride and joy of hockey fans in the nation’s capital or one day suffer the same fate as the Montreal Expos, another team that teased us all with regular-season success.
We all know how that worked out.