The Ottawa Senators reached the halfway point of their season Tuesday night and the first 41 games of the season have made several things clear:
1. This team will not make the playoffs.
2. Brian Elliot just might be an NHL-calibre goaltender.
3. Martin Gerber is not.
As they embark on the second half of what has become a lame-duck season, let’s take a look at the first 41 games.
Most pleasant surprise:
That’s a tough one but we’ll go with defenceman Filip Kuba, whom the Senators received from Tampa Bay when they were forced to deal Andrei Meszaros. Going into last night’s game against Atlanta, he led the team at plus-9 and in ice time at almost 24 minutes per game.
Players often don’t change, but expectations do and that might be the case when it comes to Mike Fisher. Still, four goals from your second-line centre at this point in the season is dismal, no matter how much you’re paying him.
Most likely to be dealt:
You’re probably expecting me to say Jason Spezza. In fact, there are rumours out there that the Senators are in talks with the Columbus Blue Jackets to deal Spezza for a package that would include goalie Pascal Leclaire.
But Spezza’s contract will be almost impossible to move, especially mid-season. A more likely scenario would see the Senators deal someone such as Chris Neil or Antoine Vermette before the trade deadline.
Most startling development:
That a team as talented as the Senators could have the most anemic offence in the NHL.
High point of the season:
Taking three of a possible four points against the Stanley Cup finalist Pittsburgh Penguins in the first two games of the season in Stockholm.
Low point of the season:
The moment the plane’s wheels touched the runway in Ottawa and every minute since then.
Reasons for hope:
Erik Karlsson looked pretty good at the world junior championship and the Senators have set themselves up nicely for a top-five pick in a deep draft.
Reasons for despair:
Once one of the top talent producers in the league, the Senators have hit something of a dry run in terms of young talent and there’s not much on the horizon. And they have big-money, long-term contracts tied up in three players who are not producing commensurate with their salaries.
A team that allowed Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden to walk away for nothing and ran Joe Corvo out of town now needs a puck-moving defenceman.