Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chilly at the bottom

So here we are at the bottom of the East. The good news, if it is good, would be that we are only 3 points out of the last playoff spot. The bad news is that this means there are six teams which are also within one or two points out of the last playoff spot. Past years have shown that this log-jam at the bottom is only likely to get worse, not better, as the season draws to a close, and the team really needs to be well up the standings in order to have the luxury of preparing for the playoffs rather than having to fight to make them.

A couple of years ago I wrote that the Senators' performance was due primarily to a sea of mediocrity in the East. It has become obvious that this team's loss in skill (and perhaps motivation), plus the improvement in skill in the rest of the East, has swamped the Senators. Gone are the days when we could win without trying.

For all the stick that John Muckler and Jacques Martin took about having an under-producing team, one could make the convincing argument that Murray rode the tails of both Muckler's and Martin's accomplishments to the cup final; since being granted the opportunity to place his own stamp on the team, the results have become somewhat poorer.

While too early to panic, I think it is time to consider that the team can no longer be "tweaked" into becoming a contender and longer term plans (along with appropriate, lower expectations) be put in place. This is a shame considering the top-line talent that the team has in long-term contracts in Heatly, Spezza and Alfredsson; if the team does go into a rebuilding phase, there is a question as to how productive these players will be once the rebuilding is complete. The problem is that right now the rest of the team can't support the three top players.

Again, I don't think it is time to throw everybody out and start from scratch; merely time to start considering it should things not improve.