Down three games to none to Sidney Crosby and the surging Pittsburgh Penguins, you'd think Ottawa was dressing a completely different team than the one that started the season 15-2.
That is not the case, however, and so I must go about a difficult process for any hockey fan: a look back at what went wrong.
Leading up to the season there were nothing but high hopes in my heart. This team ran through the Eastern Conference playoffs last year making it look easy, but didn't have what it took to win the Cup. They added important things they lacked, such as grit, playoff experience, and championship experience.
In the end, which is creeping closer, they fell far from where they were a year ago—even three months ago. This is my list of reasons why the Senators have fallen so far from their dominant perch atop the Eastern Conference only a few months ago, in no order of importance.
1. Bryan Murray.
This guy has had his hand in a lot of successful organizations around the NHL. Why isn't Ottawa feeling the same prosperity?
In my opinion Bryan Murray didn't spend enough time evaluating his assets and targeting major holes. He knew he had to make a trade. He wasn't scared to make a trade, but because of improper evaluation of his assets he overvalued and undervalued certain players on the market, which strained all trade negotiations.
There was an obvious problem with secondary scoring that he did not properly address. Cory Stillman is not an answer to this problem. Mike Fisher is not an answer either, and in my opinion probably should've been moved.
Instead of trying to find line mates who connected with Fisher, I would have opted to move him for a more offensively driven player. Instead of juggling Ray Emery and Martin Gerber to start he season, one should have been shipped before any pucks were dropped, by any means necessary.
Murray should now rethink his evaluations and look ahead to this offseason. If he fails to improve the team next season, I think he should be seriously questioned.
All of the key players for Ottawa missed at least one game, including Anton Volchenkov, who missed a huge 25 games. It didn't so much affect them in the short term—when they were winning they kept winning regardless, and when they were losing they kept losing.
The impact it had was on chemistry. The sporadic occurrence of injuries in the nation's capital meant line combinations were ever-changing.
Phillips seemed lost at times without his partner in crime, Volchenkov. There is really no replacement for that defensive pairing.
Spezza, Heatley, and Alfredsson work together, and removing one never really seems to work. The main injury of the season was Alfredsson; there's no real arguing that he leads the team on the ice. And nobody really knew what to do with Randy Robitaille
3. John Paddock.
Straight up, the wrong man for the job. Sure he looked like a miracle man at the start of the year, but I really don't think he had anything to do with the team's early success, highlighted by the team's down fall.
Paddock juggled the goalies instead of giving confidence to either. Emery was supposed to be the starter before the season, but due to his injury at the beginning, Gerber stepped in and played very well. Instead of rewarding Gerber, he stuck him on the bench the moment Emery returned.
Paddock was also notorious for juggling his lines, at times without reason. It seemed that even on nights when everything was clicking, he'd juggle a line.
In my opinion, John Paddock is not an NHL caliber coach.
This team lost its chemistry somewhere along the way, and it was notable in many things. It plagued all aspects of the Sens' game.
Ottawa was bad for costly turnovers, the same team that always seemed to know exactly where to pass the puck last year.
5. Special Teams.
A very sad 22nd ranked penalty kill (81.0%) stands out when looking at Ottawa's special teams. Combine that with a very mediocre 12th ranked power play (18.3%) and you can see a serious problem.
A lot of this stems from the defensive aspect. A lack of defensive chemistry, besides Volchenkov/Phillips, causes poor penalty killing. There's no power play quarterback on the Senators, which also causes the problem with a less-than-stellar power play.
Poor coaching, poor managing, and poor chemistry equals an all-around poor team. Sure it isn't over yet, but it's close enough to start thinking about these things and looking to the future.
What to do in the future you might ask? That would be a whole different article.