I’d like to say the Ottawa Senators should be proud of themselves and ought to relax and enjoy the summer because, next season, they’ll return to the Stanley Cup final and become the first Canadian-based team since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens to capture the NHL championship.


I’d like to say all that, but I can’t. See, I don’t really believe it.


Frankly, I think the Sens should be ashamed of the way they performed in the Stanley Cup showdown. I think they should be embarrassed at how easily the Anaheim Ducks brushed them aside. And I alsodoubt the Senshave anychance of returning to the final nextseason.


Next season, I suspect, will be when Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins emerge askingpins in the Eastern Conference. They’re ready.


And so my hunch is that this is all she wrote for the Sens. And what she wrote, in retrospect, wasn’t all that impressive.

Yes, the Sens played skillful, hardnosed hockey in subduing their first three playoff opponents — the Pens, the New Jersey Devils and the Buffalo Sabres.

In the money round against the Ducks, however, the Sens were boys against men. Dwarfs against giants. Rosie O’Donnell against Oprah Winfrey.

Folks who earn their salaries by monitoring the NHL daily — Nick Kypreos and Damien Cox, for instance — predicted Stanley Cup rings forOttawa, but the Sens turned out to be pushovers, out in only five games.

“We had some guys who did not play to what they were playing in the playoffs,” Ottawa coach Bryan Murray lamented.

“That is most disappointing and they will have to live with that this summer.”

Murray wouldn’t name names,but:

Ray Emery. The goaltender was brilliant in the post-season but not in the final, where he proved he wasn’t comparable to the top-tier guys such as Martin Brodeur,Roberto Luongo or even his Ottawa predecessor, Dominek Hasek.

Jason Spezza. This is a talented centre who excelled all season and still has plenty of upside, but he did zilch in the final.

Wade Redden. He’s one of the NHL’s top defencemen but was caught out of position far too often in the final.

Chris Phillips. He may be the NHL’s best shutdown defenceman butgave away the puck too often in the final.

Bryan Murray. Yep, the coach himself. He stubbornly stuck to his system against Anaheim even though, realistically, it wasn’t working. I mean, even with the Ducks three goals ahead late in the third period during Game 5, Murray kept the Sensin their trap instead of trying to generate offence. Senseless.

Aw, well. There’s always next year — for the Pens.