It's no secret the Ottawa Senators are suffering through a very uneven season after storming to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007. There is lots of blame to go around, whether you attribute it to the legendary Stanley Cup hangover, the lack of secondary scoring, poor goaltending, poor defensive play or the coaching of John Paddock.
But what happens if things don't get better?
The Senators just suffered their second straight loss after the big trade and in whole, it's hard to argue that they look like an inspired group of hockey players.
At some point, if the Senators don't ramp it up, the fingers are going to be pointed at Paddock and it will only be fair because Paddock largely inherited the same team that Bryan Murray was able to push to great success.
Now, don't go putting any money on Paddock to be fired. It's almost certain that the guy Murray hired will at least get one chance at the playoffs.
But what if? What if the floor fell out between now and April?
Many people would automatically assume that Murray himself would step behind the bench.
But what about assistant coach Ron Low?
Here's a guy with plenty of NHL head coaching experience, totalling 505 games with the New York Rangers and the Edmonton Oilers (208 wins, 248 losses, 49 OT losses). He has no signifigant playoff resume running the low-payroll Oilers of the late 90's but he did manage to upset far superior teams like the Dallas Stars in 97 and Colorado in 98.
It seems an unlikely move but Low would certainly be an option if Murray wanted to change things up from in-house.
Paddock's playoff record is like a rollercoaster ride, mirroring the Senators 07-08 season.
He has been a great minor league coach, winning two AHL championships with Hershey in 88 and with Hartford in 2000.
His NHL playoff record is far more suspect. The elephant in the room is the fact that Paddock has never won an NHL playoff round as a head coach. He ran the Winnipeg Jets bench for parts of four seasons, losing in the first round twice and missing the playoffs once.
To be fair, Bryan Murray didn't have a stellar playoff record until last season's run and Paddock may certainly prove his critics wrong. But if he loses the team, and there are some indications that this might be the case, the Ottawa Senators organization may be missing out on a golden opportunity to capitalize on a weak Eastern Conference. The Pittsburgh Penguins are only a year away from being an all-out powerhouse.
These questions need to be asked about a team that seems to lack cohesiveness and a commitment to winning every time it takes the ice.