The Senators are losing hockey games and the fan base is grumpy, bordering on apathetic. So, while coaching staff and management sort out the team’s shortcomings, our goal today is to find some perspective. How good or bad is this team and what, exactly, are reasonable expectations for them? Defenceman Erik Karlsson admitted on Monday that raised expectations for the team and for him personally are a burden. “You guys talked about me like I’m some (effing) god or something,” Karlsson said, bluntly. More from EK65 in a moment. How quickly do you judge Karlsson, or this entire team 11 games in, with a brutal early schedule and 4-5-2 record? Most of the pre-season expectations – that this would be a playoff team and an eastern contender – were based on last season’s performance, so let’s start there. Were the 2012-13 Senators really as formidable as they appear in most casual references to them? For the record, they finished 7th in the Eastern Conference with 56 points in 48 games, and toppled the second-place Montreal Canadiens in the opening playoff round to send the National Capital region into delirium. One could argue for tempering that celebration. The 48-game season was a one-off abomination, making judgments precarious. Teams only traveled within their conference and the Senators didn’t have to face these western teams that are currently killing them (Ottawa is 1-5-1 vs. the west this season – three points out of a possible 14). Moreover, the Senators modest success – 25-17-6 – was built on the foundation of goaltenders playing out of their minds, which is difficult to repeat. Until he injured an ankle, Craig Anderson had the best season of his career, finishing 4th in the Vezina Trophy voting despite playing just 24 games. Behind him, Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop showed poise beyond their NHL experience, which was limited. In many respects, things fell into place, unusually so. Stars got hurt (Jason Spezza, Karlsson, Jared Cowen, Milan Michalek . . . ), but Binghamton prospects jumped into their places, filling the void with energy and hard work. An identity was born. Feeding off the infusion of youth, aging veterans Daniel Alfredsson, Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips played important minutes, as well as huge leadership roles. Veteran minor league defenceman Andre Benoit became an important, popular figure on the blueline, a place where rookie Eric Gryba stepped in without missing a step. So much has changed, in personnel and style of play. Little things all adding up to bigger things. Alfredsson and Gonchar have gone and Benoit was let go. Benoit’s replacement, Joe Corvo, has been fine, but the defence as a group has been under duress, especially young D-men Jared Cowen, Patrick Wiercioch and Gryba. Until Karlsson tore his Achilles tendon in February, he and Marc Methot weaved magic together as a defence pair. This season, both have been guilty at times of trying to do too much.
Karlsson, Sens feel the heat
Ottawa Citizen | Oct 29