Monday, December 29, 2008
No End In Sight
The question is not when things will get better but how much worse can it get right now?
If you divide the team into three basic functioning parts – goaltending, defence and offense – it quickly becomes apparent that each group has to overachieve to have any success.
Now what are the chances of all three groups overachieving on the same night?
With this team? Virtually nil.
A game is usually winnable for the Senators if at least two of those groups overachieve in a game but not even that is happening anymore.
For most of November and December, the goalies and the defense were holding them in games while the offensive forwards went through an agonizingly dry patch. Then just before Christmas, the offense woke up but the goalies and the defense went into the tank (well, Auld joined the already triple tanked Gerber).
During last night’s debacle in Vancouver, the Senators managed the perfect troika of having all three groups underachieve at the same time.
Martin Gerber let in his regular soft goal from the blueline, the speedy Canucks blew past the defense all night and the offensive group was M.I.A. yet again.
The fans are pissed but it’s frustrating for the players too.
You don’t make it to the NHL if you don’t care and don’t work hard. The usual pundits and fans mark it all off to lack of hustle but they’re wrong. The Senators work their asses off and the majority of the guys, if not all, have excellent character.
But these guys are packing knives in a gun fight.
It’s bad enough that they don’t have a true number one goalie. Or a true power-play quarterback. Or that they have 6 players who should be developing in the AHL but find themselves playing big minutes in the NHL (Brian Lee, Alex Picard, Cody Bass, Nick Foligno, Jesse Winchester and Ilya Zubov).
What’s even worse is that everyone is having an off-year at the same time, with the exception of a few guys (Chris Neil, Jarkko Ruutu and Shean Donovan) who can’t effect games much even when they are going full steam.
The latest fan target (and Kulka target) seems to be Chris Phillips who is hovering around the minus 20 mark. Listening to the radio, you hear fans who want him traded or even propose having the “A” ripped off his jersey.
Outside of the injured Filip Kuba, Phillips plays the most minutes on a bad team.
Unlike Kuba, Phillips is not a guy who has ever generated offense. That’s why his plus/minus is so bad. It doesn’t mean he’s forgotten how to play hockey. It’s just that he’s always on the ice and the Senators are always losing. That’s life.
The problem is that because Bryan Murray thought he could get by with an AHL caliber defense core with zero offensive capability, Phillips is now playing a role which he is not suited for. Phillips has always been the 3rd or 4th defenseman on this team. With Wade Redden and Andre Meszaros gone, Phillips has been asked to step into the void, something that he is not equipped to do.
So the fans shouldn’t demand nice guy Phillips be traded. They should go after Murray for putting Phillips in a position where he has no chance to succeed.
Both Phillips and Mike Fisher have played the points on the power-play this year. No opposing team is going to be scared of that combination.
But what is Craig Hartsburg supposed to do?
He was given the keys to a car missing some vital parts.
And no help is on the way.
There is nothing in the minors which will help this team.
The trade market is tighter than most peoples post-Christmas waistbands and GM’s don’t want Murray’s garbage.
Players like Antoine Vermette and Mike Fisher aren’t going to magically turn into players the fans want them to be no matter how much money Murray has thrown at them.
Bryan Murray gave the fans the team they wanted. Less skill. Less Wade Redden. Less Andre Meszaros. Less Ray Emery. Less exciting.
This is what you wanted Sens fans.
Now swallow your peas.
More great action on the colossally inept Over The Edge program today as Kulka ripped into more callers for daring to voice a different opinion than his (play the MP3 for the audio).
Someone named “Joe” tried to defend Phillips by saying that he was at least the only consistent NHL defenseman in the Senators lineup but Kulka took it as the caller saying that Phillips was having the best year of his career. This set the stage for a lot of raging, especially when subsequent callers took the Kulkster to task for his mistake.
The worst call-in sports show in Ottawa history rages on….