Murph’s Musings: Things Not As Bad As They Seem For Senators

Jason Spezza
Jason Spezza
Ottawa Senators center Jason Spezza Charles LeClaire USA TODAY Sports

The Ottawa Senators were set to host the New York Rangers Tuesday night and if you tuned in to the TSN 1200 in Ottawa, TSN 690 in Montreal or Sportsnet Hockey Central throughout the day, you’d think the Senators were battling the for a lottery pick or worse off than the New York Islanders. But while the pre-season en vogue pick to challenge the Bruins (I am guilty of this) for the Atlantic Division title carried a 3-5-2 record into what was being viewed as a do-or-die game as far as making the playoffs is concerned and had suffered one of the worst collapses in NHL history blowing a 4-1 lead in the final five minutes of regulation, things are not as bad as it seems for the Senators. Yes only a year after being the biggest overachievers in the NHL, Ottawa has underachieved and not lived up the expectations they built with their surprising 2012-13 season that saw them reach the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. But they have battled injuries while youngsters took steps backwards. All of that had them on the precipice of essentially being out of playoff contention with a loss Tuesday and even still treading water with a win.

Jared Cowan, Patrick Wiercioch and Robin Lehner were all expected to be key parts of the team as they hoped to build of last season’s success but all three have regressed and struggled with more responsibility. Meanwhile veteran goalie Craig Anderson is one of those players who has suffered from both injuries and inconsistent play as well and while they planned to somewhat platoon between Lehner and Anderson, they expected Anderson to play like the No.1 goalie he was last season.

“They’re not as bad as everyone is saying,” an NHL executive told Murph’s Musings prior to the collapse. “They’ve got some good young talent and the funny thing is, you look at some of the guys that should be having good seasons — the veteran types like a [Jason] Spezza and [Bobby] Ryan — and they are. Even [Kyle] Turris, he’s been great for them, but for some reason they can’t seem to do it all in the same game consistently and the team just isn’t clicking. Don’t forget that Anderson hasn’t been himself either and Lehner can be better. But I think he will be a No.1 in the coming seasons.”

The goalie situation as it is with any successful NHL team is definitely going to dictate if the Senators can regain the momentum they built last season in the next couple seasons and reach the point where they can challenge Boston at the top of the division. There was some speculation over the summer and at points early in the season that if Lehner was able to accelerate his development and seize the No.1 spot then maybe the Senators would deal the affordable Anderson who has one season at $3.1 million left on his contract and then lock up Lehner, a restricted free agent, as their No. 1 goalie. But now it appears they will have to let the two battle it out again next season because Lehner hasn’t yet proven he is ready for the job.

“Once that settles itself out they will be in better shape,” the executive said. “Lehner can be really good but he’s just not there yet.”

But make no mistake, last season was not a complete mirage for the Senators and their fans. Many around the league still see a bright future for them.

–Speaking of goaltending and goalie trades, regardless of whether Blues goalie Ryan Miller — who along with Steve Ott, was acquired from Buffalo by St. Louis on February 28 for goaltender Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, forward prospect William Carrier, a first-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, and a conditional draft pick — signs with St. Louis in the offseason or hits the free agent market, he might go down as one of the best in-season goalie acquisitions and acquisitions ever. Miller is now 7-0-1 with a 1.61 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in eight games since joining the Blues. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the first goaltender in franchise history to record at least one point in each of his first eight starts with the team. (Stick tap to the NHL PR Department for that stat in their daily “NHL Morning Skate” email.)

–Crazy stat brought to my attention by Mitch Melnick the host of “Melnick In The Afternoon” on Tuesday prior to the Avalanche-Canadiens game at the Bell Centre and Patrick Roy‘s first game back in Montreal as an NHL head coach. Avalanche forward Ryan O’Reilly — who was second on his team with 55 points — had not received one penalty all season. That’s right! Zero penalty minutes in 66 games heading into the game at Montreal Tuesday night. Can you say Lady Byng?

–As for that game, it was hyped in Montreal as if it was the Stanley Cup Finals and the main question coming out of every pundits’ mouth was “what if Roy had become head coach and/or GM of the his former team two years ago when both posts were open? By no means is this scribe a big fan of current Montreal head coach Michel Therrien’s style of play he has an average team battling for the third spot in the Eastern Conference. Marc Bergevin is doing a solid job as GM of the team and right now that combo is best suited for where the Canadiens are as an organization. Yes Roy will likely get the Jack Adams award as Coach of the year; but with all due respect to the hall of fame goalie, he has more skill and is in an easier market to turn things around. Chances are if Roy had been hired by Bergevin two years ago, his ego and the passion of the fans and media here would not have been able to coexist through the up’s and downs of building a team back up to a contender. As the Rolling Stones said once, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want, But You Get What You Need” and Roy isn’t what the Habs needed at this point.

author avatar
James Murphy
Jimmy Murphy has covered the NHL in print, radio and television for the last 13 years. In addition to his work here at, he currently hosts The Top Shelf Radio Show heard every Monday-Friday 1-3 PM ET on and 2-3 PM ET on Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio.