New feature at WTYKY! This is pretty self-explanatory. Sens are sucking right now, so let’s partake in some therapy by talking about who is perfecting the art of sucking terribly. This isn’t so much analysis as really sinking our teeth into the experience of early season suckitude. No, this isn’t panicking. No, this isn’t convincing ourselves that this is the team we’ll have all year. No, this isn’t fans being fans (according to the media). This is catharsis for catharsis’ sake. Let’s let out our collective groan and unapologetically get into some shit-talking.
Erik Karlsson – shit level: one cup of decaf
Think Karlsson isn’t back to 100% yet? He was -3 against Anaheim, and his patented “Sure, I fuck up, but my skating is so good I can make good on it!” technique hasn’t quite come into form. He’ll be back. He better be, because if he’s not playing 30 minutes a night this season, Ottawa is screwed. For now we’re still in wait-and-see mode, but he’s definitely had a couple of stinkers.
Chris Neil – shit level: two cups of regular coffee and some bran
I’ve never really been a fan of Neil. I mean, I get why old school GMs are all over players like him. He’s a grinder who can also put up about 20 points a year, which lends the impression that he’ll give you those intangibles with some upside. There’s no denying that he’s been integrated into Ottawa’s leadership core, and he’s probably earned that by giving a little bit extra–staying on and training the youngins in the offseason, probably turning up the stereo in the dressing room and throwing his arms in the air during intermission, telling everyone how to be pesky and the benefits of laser eye surgery, that sort of thing. In this case, however, it feels like his meagre point-getting actually obscures how he gets in the way of the team’s general ability to possess the puck. What’s worse (for an agitator) his penalties-taken is consistently higher than the penalties he draws–sometimes by a factor of 2-to-1, as in this young season.
But hey – this is Chris Neil. He’s not playing particularly badly right now. He’s playing at his normal level of badness. He’s Ottawa’s Tie Domi: a popular player who actually just takes a roster spot from a younger, cheaper, more effective player. He’s on my perma-shit list, so this isn’t very surprising.
Jared Cowen – shit level: half a greasy pizza and a smoked meat sandwich
I mean, I’ve already written about this. Ottawa clearly thinks that Cowen is a top four defenseman. They’re paying him that way. As I said before, there isn’t really any evidence that he can do it, so you better hope that his pedigree and the team’s predictive powers are good enough indicators. But so far Cowen has looked a little bit like Phillips-lite: misreading the play, horribly slow, and making some boneheaded transitions. When the Senators have one of their terrible break-out plays where nobody seems to understand how to transition across the opposing blueline, you can bet Cowen was in on it somehow. He’s young, and he missed a lot of training camp, so you hope this is just early season rust combined with tough competition, but he’s looked pretty robotic out there.
Chris Phillips – shit level: laxatives and a can of baked beans
Through five games, it seems like Phillips has been the constant in every terrible play – usually crouched down and screening Lehner as he tries to block a shot he allowed because he completely lost his assignment in the transitional play, or just generally not being able to make a pass to save his life. Not surprising, maybe, because Chris Phillips is a very slow skater and well past his prime. But it seems like every year we lower our expectations until now he’s basically a third pairing guy who also happens to have a great history with the franchise, and somehow that’s good enough for a $3 million player. But when your second pairing of Cowen and Wiercioch turns out to not be a second pairing at all, you have to rely on Phillips more than maybe you’d like. The result? Brutal giveaways. Brutal possession stats. Lost assignments in crucial moments.
It’s not just bad play – there’s plenty of that to go around – but from one of the Senators’ core players and key veterans, it’s the most disappointing.
Aaaaaaaaanyway: I get it. It’s a young season, and the team just played back-to-backs on the road without a chance to so much as practice in between. But they also gave up 100 shots — 100 SHOTS — between two games. And this is supposed to be a team built around possession! Lehner is having to work miracles to only lose as badly as they’re losing as opposed to worse. You just have to hope this is the road trip out West speaking and not the norm…