If you haven’t had a chance to see the following video, courtesy of Travis Yost, it’s as good a place as any to start:
Yost ably breaks it down, but it’s about what you’d expect: a greatest hits of Senators duds for the season.
Chris Neil, fresh back in the lineup after a glorious few games off with a lower body injury (in which Ottawa won most of its games – post hoc ergo propter hoc?) is his usual self, which is to say a total disaster. I’ll say it again: for a guy who takes more penalties than he draws, can’t drive possession, and doesn’t put up points, if you’re not setting an example by working hard, then why are you even out there?
Jared Cowen continues to steer like a battleship and, somehow, lose his stick about 45% of the time. Someone needs to develop a metric for amount of time spent playing without a stick. Cowen has to be top ten in the league at this point.
Greening shouldn’t have to show offensive upside to justify his presence on this team. His value should start with plugging and anything extra is gravy. But he continues to demonstrate that in the absence of scoring, these occasional gaffes and lost battles start to weigh the team down; you feel like there’s nothing balancing out the negative side of the ledger.
Lehner, haven not been given a chance to play in weeks, is thrown to the wolves for a midday game, and looked awful. Unlike Anderson, he’ll probably not receive any benefit of the doubt and a start next game. Like most of us, he’s probably just looking ahead to next season.
The result: the Carolina Hurricanes – the 20th best team in the league and 23rd in the league in team possession – make the Ottawa Senators look like an OHL team. This was a painful game to watch.
Ultimately, I’m fine with players having down seasons. It happens. The key is to recognize the underlying value of the player, adapt their ice time and zone starts to account for their tough go, not overreact and give away the farm in an attempt to salvage the season, and just work away at it. The very good teams have the depth to plug those holes. Ottawa doesn’t. But it can limit exposure to, at least, those players who continuously demonstrate themselves to be possession black holes and defensive liabilities. When, week after week, month after month, the same players are sent over the boards to make the same mistakes…the seasons starts to become a bit of a grind. When Bobby Ryan gets 16 minutes of ice time and Milan Michalek gets 17, or Chris Neil is a “core” player, well, you start to wonder.
I don’t mind MacLean giving Anderson and Spezza the time they need to recover, because they have a ceiling the other players don’t. On a poor team without a lot of depth, you have to get these guys going if you’re going to compete. But there doesn’t seem to be much excuse for using Jared Cowen as a first pairing defensemen at this point in the season, even if his numbers have recovered somewhat. There doesn’t seem to be much excuse to bury Methot on the depth chart, or scratch Wiercioch so much.
And there really, really isn’t any excuse at all to be playing Chris Neil, a complete boat anchor in terms of everything except, we’re told, intangibles.
At this point in the season, the number of players who you have to think Ottawa would be glad to get any return for is growing. My own personal Shit List, in descending order of least favorite players, and keeping their contract cost in mind, is: Neil, Michalek, Greening, Phillips, Cowen, Spezza, Concacher. For those first three, at the deadline I’d be happy to see Ottawa get anything back, from replacement level NHL players to picks to longshot prospects.