With the Ottawa Senators mired in one of their worst slumps in a decade, the team took to the ice Tuesday with little enthusiasm. The players went through drills with little to say to one another and kept things to a business-like manner. While some might say this team could use a little humour, no one feels like laughing these days.
The Senators (6-10-1) have lost seven of their last eight and are struggling to find the means to turn things around.
With his team about to face the Eastern Conference leading Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night, Senators coach Bryan Murray is desperate to find some magic.
On Tuesday, Murray shuffled his lines once again in hopes of creating a spark. The most noticeable change found Antoine Vermette playing with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.
“You have to keep faith. If you give up there’s no sense coming to the rink and trying to perform,” said Vermette. “You’re going to face adversity through your career and in life in general, but you have to step up and make sure you pull through this.”
The problem is many are wondering if the Senators have what it takes to find a way out of this ever-growing black hole.
At some point something will have to give – the question is who will pay the price.
“I haven’t been approached (by management) and I can’t really comment beyond that,” Murray said of his future. “But I know I’m impatient. I’m frustrated, I’m disappointed. I want to win very badly. I came to Ottawa for one reason and that was to have a good hockey team.”
Murray, in the final year of his three-year contract, was brought in to lead this team to a long and prosperous playoff run, but so far he’s fared no better than his predecessor Jacques Martin.
“It always comes down to the players, but unfortunately sometimes in this business other people’s jobs are at stake because of this,” said Chris Phillips. “It’s our doing. We’re out there, playing the game, making the mistakes and not doing the things we know we should be doing. We have no one to look to or to blame, but ourselves.”
The players seem to sincerely want to find a way to turn things around, but there’s no denying the hint of desperation in their voice. One can’t help but wonder if they’ve started questioning their own abilities.
“Everyone wants to do the right thing and is saying the right thing,” said Chris Kelly. “I don’t think fingers will ever get pointed in this room. We have a great bunch of guys in here. Alfredsson, Phillips and Redden are our leaders. They’re great. They’re up every game trying to get us up. I think we’ll stick together and I think that’s how we’ll get through this.”
For the moment it appears management is content to allow this group to find a way to work through its problems, but in this profession things could change extremely quickly whether it be through a trade or a firing.
One can only assume that without a significant turnaround change will be inevitable.
“We know something will happen if we don’t turn around and win some games,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson. “We’re giving ourselves good chances to win games and playing pretty good at times, but this is a profession where results are the only thing that counts and if we don’t get that, bad things will happen.”
Murray says he hasn’t given up hope on this team and still has plenty of ideas as to how to spark this team.
One of those could come as early as Wednesday. Prior to the team leaving for Buffalo, Murray said he would not announce his starting goaltender until after the morning skate Wednesday, fuelling speculation that Ray Emery could make his first start since injuring his wrist last week.