“To succeed, talent is necessary, but attitude is essential,” a phrase that applies well to the Ottawa Senators. After having signed a first half of the season below expectations, with a record of 19-19-3 for a total of 41 points, the troop of DJ Smith is in a very precarious situation in the standings.
Last week, the Senators compiled a record of one win – against the Arizona Coyotes – and two losses, including a very heavy 7-0 against the Colorado Avalanche last Saturday night. These performances have once again exposed the major shortcomings of the current formation.
Despite impressive statistics at the special teams level, both on the power play (42 goals scored in 158 occasions; success rate of 26.6%; 6th best in the league), than on the penalty kill (26 goals against in 144 occasions ; efficiency rate of 81.9%; 8th rank), which is enough to make the vast majority of the teams on the Bettman circuit salivate, the Senators are having a hard time almost everywhere else.
The flagrant lack of consistency and maturity in a five-on-five situation represents “THE” Achilles’ heel of the current edition. The team is 30th in the league with only 66 goals scored in a five-on-five situation, which represents an average of 1.57 goals per game. Conversely, the team allowed 94 goals to the opponent in this same phase of play, for an average per game of 2.23 goals against. It is simply the straw that broke the camel’s back in the daily life of the Senators.
To put it all into perspective, the Seattle Kraken – who are soaring with eight straight wins and an impressive 16-4-2 record on the road – scored eight goals at five on five last Saturday, January 7 at the Canadian Tire Center in an unequivocal 8-4 victory over the Sens, and the Colorado Avalanche scored six of their seven goals at five-on-five in the severe 7-0 correction they gave Ottawa on Saturday last. A harsh reality that hurts the Senators!
To point only in the direction of the goalkeeping duo of Anton Forsberg and Cam Talbot would be in bad faith to a certain degree. Yes, they are part of this problem and are not an exception to the rule, but to note that almost a third of the players in the current formation have a negative differential of -10 and less is even more challenging.
For some, this may represent a mere coincidence, but for others it is a clear indication that the understanding and/or application of the required structures, i.e. the famous “buy in”, n is not in focus. The desire to commit on a regular basis, at each attendance, is not there.
It’s a shame, especially considering that last December the team posted an 8-4-2 record. The formation of DJ Smith then played hockey of patience, of necessity, and respected the game plan. All the signs seemed to point to better days.
However, today what is most deplorable and disappointing is this feeling of lack of community and rigor, and this, on both sides of the puck. This is therefore a clear demonstration that nothing should be taken for granted in this environment.
This responsibility must be shared with the coaching department which has also seen fit to make some changes to the combinations in the top-6 of the formation lately, and clearly this is not working very well.
When the unacceptable becomes acceptable, the problem is more than deep and it is a bit what we can see at the moment in the universe of the Ottawa Senators, who are plunged into a vicious circle. They seem unable to turn the corner once and for all in this process of eventually becoming a top honors contender. But hey, after all Rome wasn’t built in a day!
If the Senators want to continue to believe in it this season, we will have to find solutions quickly and tighten the collective game. No, it’s not always easy to do, but it’s still the starting point in the search for solutions.
What to do with Cam Talbot?
With less than a month and a half before the NHL trade deadline, the Ottawa Senators’ situation is not likely to be very exciting, as the team will not have much to offer in the market. . Indeed, only veterans Travis Hamonic, Austin Watson, Nick Holden, Derick Brassard and Cam Talbot will become unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.
The most interesting file will probably be that of goaltender Talbot, 35 years old and with several seasons of experience in the NHL. It could perhaps be used as bargaining chip for Pierre Dorion.
Unless Dorion decides to flirt with the possibility of acquiring an experienced defender who could join the team’s top-4 for several seasons, and that could force him to part with a talented forward to fill this most glaring void. Talbot alone will not be enticing enough.
Moreover, in the case of Talbot, it must be said that some younger players will also benefit from full autonomy within the circuit at the end of this season and could perhaps represent interesting options for the Senators. A reflection is necessary.
Talbot was acquired last July from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for 24-year-old Swede Filip Gustavsson, who is currently shining in front of the fortress of his formation. He has a 2.17 GAA (2nd in the NHL) and a .925 save percentage (4th in the NHL) in 17 starts, with a 10-6-1 record.
Recognizing that he evolves with a much more seasoned and more mature formation under the rule of Dean Evason, recognized for his rigor behind the bench, one wonders if the Senators made the right decision in this file…