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Senators Watch: An offensive problem in Ottawa

In addition to naming Dany Heatley its first star of the week Monday, the NHL might have pondered having someone situated at each of the gates at Scotiabank Place to kick each of the patrons in the groin as they walked in.

(At least their legs wouldn’t have gotten too tired. The announced crowd for Monday’s game was more than 2,000 below capacity for a tilt against the Stanley Cup champions and two of the most talented players on the planet. If that doesn’t raise red flags in this economy, it should.)

The Senators could use a few of Heatley’s goals, wouldn’t you say? Going into NHL games Tuesday night, the Senators had averaged just 2.4 goals per game, more than only five other teams in the league. Going into Thursday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Senators are on pace for just 197 goals this season, their lowest output since 1997-98.

And I suspect it’s due to a lot more than just having the worst power play in the league at the moment and the loss of an elite scorer in Heatley. Halfway through a plodding 2-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs last week, I turned to a colleague and asked if he could pinpoint the precise moment in time the Senators went from being an offensive juggernaut and one of the most exciting teams in the league to being a plodding group of plumbers.

It would be far too easy to blame Heatley’s loss for it. After all, with Heatley in the lineup last season, the Senators scored just 213 goals, which was 23rd in the NHL. That came after seven straight seasons in which the Senators were in the top five in scoring in the NHL. Three of those seasons they finished first and once they were second.

It’s funny really. The criticism of the Senators in the past was that perhaps they were too talented, that too often they simply had to put their sticks on the ice and it was good enough to beat most teams. Now we’re talking about a team that has trouble scoring from the top of the lineup down to the bottom.

The Senators used to be more dynamic and exciting under Jacques Martin than they are now and there’s something definitely wrong with that picture. There’s little doubt the team’s offensive stars will find their games and the offense will improve, but perhaps it’s time to take a moment and mourn the gun slinging Senators of old, because it looks as though they’re gone.

This article also appeared in the Ottawa Metro paper.


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