Another loss, another game where the Senators can't score and the unanswered questions keep piling up.
The Senators needed to beat the Habs on Tuesday night, and they needed a couple of their top guys to get a few goals, not just for the standings, but for their coaching staff and for the psyche of the whole team. Neither happened and now after a weekend which inspired a little hope, the Senators are back where they started.
I feel I may be testing the patience of some of my readers by saying this yet again (for the second week in a row), but what is Cory Clouston doing? Why is he so stubbornly sticking to his Spezza-Alfie and Fisher-Kovalev combos when they can barely even get the puck to the scoring areas, let alone score goals? It's bewildering, really, as if Clouston can't tell shit from shinola all of a sudden.
This has been going on for weeks now and Clouston won't even take a chance late in a game when the team could desperately use a spark. He did at least take Bobby Butler off the top line but it was the power-play which scored the goal, so the change had no real effect.
When the Senators were playing their best this season, Spezza was with Kovalev and Fisher was with Alfie. Kovalev's chemistry with Fisher is so bad right now that the line is essentially a write-off, with Milan Michalek playing at half-speed and Mike Fisher somehow still unable to hit anyone. It's painful to watch and essentially the Senators best two lines are their 3rd and 4th units. That's the death knell for any team.
Seriously, what is Clouston doing?
As hard as the players have worked for him ever since the San Jose Sharks embarrassment, at some point Clouston has to be held responsible for his team's lack of scoring and the apparent fact that they are quickly falling out of the playoff race.
Stubbornness can be a good trait at times for an NHL head coach (at least in the Original Six era), but it can also be the quickest way to the firing line and Clouston is now clearly headed that way, as bizarre as that notion may have seemed at the beginning of this season.
When you don't have a contract beyond this season, you're what they call a "lame duck coach" and when you can't win games or even score goals, it soon becomes a no-brainer for an impatient GM (or an impatient owner).
Clouston went on the radio earlier this week and defended his system, saying his team was still getting scoring chances and that it was just a matter of bad luck. He may have a point, but that's still not going to save his job, or Greg Carvel's or Brad Lauer's.
Bryan Murray has to make some kind of move now. He either needs to make a big trade and land this team a goal scorer, or he has to make a move behind the bench and get down there and coach this team himself. Hiring a new guy outside of the organization in a panic move is not in the cards.
Even if everything goes right from now on, and somehow Filip Kuba remembers how to play the game called "ice hockey", and somebody other than Chris Neil throws what the experts call a "body-check", the Senators will still be a long-shot to make the playoffs because the top eight in the conference tend to lock themselves in by Christmas and it's almost impossible to make up those points down the stretch.
Yet, Bryan Murray and Cory Clouston will likely preach patience in the coming days, and the pundits will simply shift their "must-win" ultimatums to the next set of games, this Thursday and Friday against the Rangers and Devils. At some point, the gig will be up and a lot of money and effort wasted in hoping things will magically get better.
It's a tough situation for the players, because you can tell they are giving everything they have on the ice for the most part, but whether it's the system they have to play, or whether it's just all in their heads, the goals just aren't coming and the losing culture is quickly becoming the new norm in Ottawa.
And in a cruel twist, they've recently faced two opponents with familiar characters from better times. Their former 50 goal man in Dany Heatley, who asked to be traded because Clouston strangely reduced his role upon taking over the team, and tonight in Montreal against Jacques Martin, a coach who was able to take much less skilled Senators clubs and bring them to the playoffs with a system that every player bought into, even Alexandre Daigle.
Those days are long gone....
Folks, we've got another ticket contest here at Black Aces, and this one is for the New Jersey Devils game this Friday, December 10. This time we have one of the Metro Family 4 Packs which consists of 4 tix, 4 hot dogs and 4 drinks which start at $99 bucks, tax included. There are four more games this season where you can grab this deal (including the Flames on Jan. 14), but we are giving away one of these packs to one lucky winner who can email me the answer to this trivia question:
Name this former Senators GM who was also the Director of Player Personnel for the New Jersey Devils for close to a decade previous to his tenure in Ottawa.
The fourth person to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the correct answer wins a Metro Family 4 Pack of tickets. The winner will be notified by email no later than Wednesday night. Good luck.