Senators fans have been a spoiled bunch.
Over the last 15 years they have always had a team competing for a post season berth. After reaching the halfway point of 2010-11 schedule, it is becoming more and more apparent the Senators will be doing something that is foreign to the organization: Trading at the deadline, and evaluating younger players on the Scotiabank Place ice.
Every team wants to compete for the Stanley Cup, and players will always make it their goal. However, for this Ottawa team to make the playoffs, a major turnaround is needed. Of all the teams attempting to catch the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they have played the most games. And based on their play of late, it is going to be tough.
Earlier in the year, it appeared the team wasn’t getting the consistent effort from all of its players that they needed. Over the last month, the concerns have been less about effort and more about goal scoring. Since Jason Spezza went down with a shoulder injury the Sens have 16 goals in nine games. Four of those games were one goal losses.
“I think with the exception of the Boston game ( a 6-0 loss ) we have had some pretty good efforts,” said center Jesse Winchester. “For whatever reason we are struggling to score. That is the frustrating part.”
Nobody is giving up which is a good sign. When the effort and hard work aren’t there, it can become demoralizing. Earlier in the year, it felt like some players weren’t giving 100-percent. It also became apparent that some players were frustrated by the fact you could see who was seemingly giving it their all, and who wasn’t.
Without their top center, the team could have an excuse for not scoring. But the players have taken it upon themselves to step up their game, albeit without the results they desire.
“It’s tough to win when you give a team a lead and you have to battle back,” Mike Fisher said after the loss against the Calgary Flames. “We didn’t quit but it was too little too late.”
During the Washington Capitals game on Sunday they carried a 1-0 lead into the third period. The Senators had their chances in the first and second periods to extend their lead and give themselves an opportunity to cushion their lead, but they couldn’t hang on in their 3-1 loss.
But the players are not giving up on the season.
“We have a lot of motivation and we need to continue to win,” forward Nick Foligno said. “We aren’t getting the job done and it stings. We need to get points.”
“It’s not going to be an easy task ( to make the playoffs ) but it will be a good challenge for us to not give up and keep going,” Fisher told reporters after the Flames loss.
With a lower position in the standings comes a higher draft pick. The Sens have done a good job of drafting the last few years, but one area that needs to be addressed is high end talent amongst the forward ranks.
Being in the top five might put the Sens in a spot to draft one of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sean Couturier or Gabriel Landeskog. It is one thing for fans to want this, or even an organization with their eye on the long term. However you will never get players or coaches to think this way as it means losing. And that is not an option.
“Never would it cross the mind of anyone who loves this game to lose to get draft picks,” Fisher said. “That’s ridiculous. We are going to play as hard as we can and that is what we are paid to do.”
“We are never going to quit,” said Winchester. “We have pride and this is a game and we are here because we are competitive. We want to win. It sucks when you lose … if anyone ever thinks that ( we would lose on purpose ) I would look at it as a personal insult. It never occurs to the players.”
Sens management and their scouts — both pro and amateur — had meetings recently together going over their options for the rest of the season. While the players don’t want to see changes made, it is becoming obvious that trades will happen.
At this point in the season most teams are still in a position to challenge for a playoff spot. That fact should enable the team to get some good value for its players.