Monday, December 22, 2008

Road Worriers

The Ottawa Senators begin an eight game road journey this week, one which begins in Philadelphia on Tuesday, allows for a return home for Christmas and then a swing to the west where the Sens will be in Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton all before the New Year.

2009 will start off in Toronto on the third, New Jersey the Fourth, Buffalo on the sixth and Boston on the eighth, before they finally return to Scotiabank Place on Saturday the 10th.

How many victories they can compile and where they are in the standings by then, could very well dictate how the rest of the season plays out for a team but only a few seasons removed from the Stanley Cup finals.

This has been the most distressing season of all for Sens fans, having come so close to the promise of a Stanley Cup, the Senators this season look much closer to the team of the expansion day follies than a serious contender for the league championship.

It shouldn’t be that way, for the most part, the core group of Sens is much the same from that which challenged the Ducks for the Cup, but as the season has progressed, it would seem that those that have left over the last few years have left bigger holes to fill and erased any cohesion that the team has had.

Having gone through far too many goaltenders than is healthy for a team supposedly expected to dominate, the Senators still have not found that last line of defence that would provide them with enough regular wins to build the confidence their now suspicious fan base.

While the fans may be losing faith, the owner however is still bullish on his Sens, offering up his bold prediction that the team will be a top four finisher by the season's end.

If that is to be proven true, then the Sens had best get busy addressing some glaring concerns of late.

Defence has again posed some concerns, the loss of Zdeno Chara never really compensated for, the much maligned Wade Redden perhaps thought of in a better light now in Ottawa as the Senator struggles continue.

But it’s on the offensive attack where the Senators are most worrisome these days, the much discussed Big line of Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfreddson and Dany Heatley has been disbanded, the players re-distributed in the line up. The talk of trades and firings moving beyond the radio talk shows, to the backrooms of the NHL where the rumblings grow louder that things won’t remain as they are in Ottawa much longer.

The rumour du jour in a city with millions of them, was that head coach Craig Hartsburg was on the short walk, had the Sens lost over the weekend he it is said, would have been dispatched to the unemployment lines. With an eight game road trip ahead and rather shaky road record to bring with them, he may find that he becomes the focus of conversation once again by the first week of January.

Should the Senators not find the road to their liking, there’s a good chance that Hartsburg will have lots of company on that list of possible changes to come.

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