It's all over but the crying for hapless Senators

2019-03-04 10:04:42China Daily Editor : Mo Hong'e ECNS App Download

The recent past, present and immediate future are all bleak for the Ottawa Senators, who fired coach Guy Boucher on Friday and replaced him with Marc Crawford.

On their way to missing the Stanley Cup playoffs for the fourth time in six years, the Senators dealt their top three forwards at last week's NHL trade deadline and, despite being dead last in the league, Ottawa has no chance at a top-three pick in the June draft because of a dumb deal last season.

Traded away in the past eight months were All-Star defenseman Erik Karlsson, along with forwards Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel.

What's left is growing uncertainty about how long it will take to rebuild a competitive team in Canada's capital.

For those left in the aftermath of last week's trades of Stone to Las Vegas and Duchene and Dzingel to Columbus, there will be lots of losing and plenty of hoping against hope that things will turn around.

"I knew there were going to be some aches and pains at some point and growing pains here," said Chris Tierney, who was part of the return when Karlsson was dealt to San Jose in September and is now Ottawa's top-scoring forward with 42 points.

"In years to come-I'm not sure, obviously, how long I'm going to be here-it's going to be fun watching this team grow and develop."

Right now isn't a whole lot of fun for the Senators, who scored just three goals in four games last week and were blown out 5-1 in Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Defenseman Thomas Chabot has been a bright spot in an otherwise lost season-made worse by having no hope of landing projected top draft pick Jack Hughes.

The Senators traded away their top first-round pick to get Duchene in a three-team deal in November 2017, so now the Colorado Avalanche could reap the benefits of taking Hughes.

"We're just going to see where it all falls into place at the end of the season," Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said last week.

Colorado could have two picks before the Senators get to take a player with the selection they recouped last week from Columbus for Duchene.

And even if the all-in Blue Jackets somehow miss the playoffs and win the lottery for one of the top three picks, the Senators would have to wait until the 2020 draft.

There's going to be lots of waiting for an organization that acquired 19-year-old defensive prospect Erik Brannstrom from Vegas in the deal for Stone and is counting heavily on Chabot and 2018 first-rounder Brady Tkachuk to continue developing into stars.

In the meantime, veterans understand it's their job to help set up the next generation.

"You've got to kind of block out that little voice in your head that might be telling you to kind of back off or take it easy," defenseman Mark Borowiecki said.

"You've got to sort of fight that human nature. Yeah, we want to help these guys grow and develop, these young guys, and that's our goal. But we still want to win games, too.

"Young guys are going to learn how to be winners in this league by winning. I get that there's a process to that, and we all know that. You're not going to go through a rebuild and win right off the hop."

Or probably any time soon.

Senators GM Pierre Dorion has amassed up to 17 picks in the first three rounds of the next three drafts, but that's a long time to have to wait.

Only five players are left from his team that went to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final against Pittsburgh in 2017, and he's no stranger to turnover and the challenge of trying to make the most out of far less talent than the Senators had even a week ago.

"We've had quite a few days where the names changed day in, day out, and now that I know what the names are, then we'll try to create some consistency over the next weeks," said Dorion.

Consistency won't be measured over the next few weeks but over the coming months and years for the Senators, whose plans for a downtown arena are falling through and whose fan base is going from angry to apathetic.

Inside the locker room, players say they'll play for each other and try to squeeze as much out of the rest of the season as they can.

"We've just got to stick together and try to stay positive," Chabot said.

"Obviously it's not going to be easy. There's a lot of good teams in this league, but we're just trying to get better."


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