With many teams in the NHL making their final pushes to make it in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, teams out of contention will have to soon look back at their year and find where it all went wrong. The Ottawa Senators are among those teams, unable to build off last season’s run to the playoffs. In that regard, they took a step back instead of forward, and current head coach Dave Cameron is drawing much of the blame, most recently from team owner Eugene Melnyk.
Heat is on Dave Cameron
Take away last year’s successful playoff push, and the two seasons are very similar. Last year, Ottawa suffered inconsistencies much like this season. The Senators had only won four games in a row once and never pulled more than two victories in a row at any other point. It was one of the few reasons among others, why former head coach Paul MacLean lost his job, and Dave Cameron as his replacement seemed to have found a way to fix that.
Below are the advanced statistics for Paul MacLean’s tenure during the 2014-2015 season before his firing, where Ottawa’s Corsi For percentage was 47.7%
Compare that with the entire 2015-2016 season for Ottawa so far prior to the most recent loss against the Washington Capitals, and things are not that much different there, with a Corsi For percentage of 47.5%
Taking a look at the advanced statistics of this season and comparing them to Paul MacLean’s final games with the Senators, it is difficult to argue that Dave Cameron’s team is better than his predecessor’s. In 2013-2014, Ottawa was also one of the worst defensive teams in the league, allowing the fourth-most with 265. So despite making the playoffs in 2014-2015 with a strong 23-4-4 run, coming back down to Earth this season has opened up quite a few eyes, including team owner Eugene Melnyk.
Citing one example of things gone wrong this season in relation to the coach, Melnyk referred to the team’s season opener as one part of a “total rollercoaster of hope and despair”. Cameron decided to go with untested Matt O’Connor in net instead of Craig Anderson for the team’s first game of the year. “Like, what was that about on opening night?” Melnyk asked. “The guy gets clobbered. That’s not fair to him; it’s not fair to the fans.”
Clearly, Melnyk is unhappy with Cameron’s job this season. In addition to many fans’ frustrations with the handling of Mike Hoffman, it seems that the city is ready to see the head coach go. Considering that this was his first full year as an NHL head coach, this season has been full of learning curves for him. Yet the Senators want to be a playoff team year in and year out, so may not have the patience to allow Cameron to continue learning.
Oh Status Quo
It is difficult for teams that maintain the status quo to improve from one season to the next. This season has plenty of teams that took major steps back from the year prior, most notably the bulk of the Canadian teams. The Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Winnipeg Jets and Montréal Canadiens along with Ottawa suffered setbacks this season after each making the playoffs last year. One thing that these teams have in common is that their lineups have seen minimal change during the offseason, with the exception of Calgary’s acquisition of Dougie Hamilton.
When he met the press Tuesday afternoon, Melnyk expressed that maintaining status quo again next season will only meet with more disappointment. He exclaimed that “there is no one that is safe” with the kind of season that the Senators had. Understanding the difficulty of making a great number of changes in one offseason, he stressed that there would be key changes coming.
One thing that Melnyk is waiting to see happen is general manager Bryan Murray’s decision on his future. Melnyk expressed satisfaction with the moves that Murray made during the course of this season, most notably the trade for Dion Phaneuf, where there is no doubt that Melnyk had to approve of before Murray completed it. Therefore, Murray is still in charge as long has he decides to remain as general manager.