It shouldn’t come as a shock to hockey fans that the Sens are in the midst of a torrid season, one which is currently on par with the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres. What has come as a shock however, is the Ottawa Senators’ firing of Guy Boucher mere weeks before his contract was set to expire as head coach. The team is currently sitting at the foot of the Eastern Conference and hold a 22-38-5 record (correct as of 02/03/19), which ranks as the worst in the NHL.
It was widely understood that Ottawa would be a struggling team most probably placing within the bottom-five in the league. They had already lost Erik Karlsson to the San Jose Sharks, indicating that this season would see the franchise shift into full-on rebuild mode. Ottawa have now traded away Mark Stone, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel in one trade deadline. Even with that talent, the Senators were still the worst team in hockey and were riding a seven game losing streak.
Here are some further sobering numbers (correct as of 02/03/2019):
- Goal Differential: -52
- Road Record: 8-23-1
- Goals Allowed: 239 (last)
- Versus the East: 12-25-2 (last)
- Shots allowed per game: 36.2 (last)
- Ottawa power play: 20.9% (14th)
- Ottawa penalty kill: 77.9% (24th)
- Their three leading scorers all traded. Current leader has 47 points (Thomas Chabot, a defenseman)
Alas, one could make the case for firing Boucher considering how poorly last year ended. That was last season when a move probably should have been made. If a coach did not adapt then, why not make the move then?
Yes, quite a few players did not lose much sleep over this news, for them it has been a nightmarish season that has only became worse because of Eugene Melnyk. Melnyk taking loans to keep the team afloat, the failed downtown arena, declining performances on the ice, and not to forget the social media blunders. The list of problems is endless right now for the Ontario franchise.
The question has to be asked, besides the young Thomas Chabot and some good prospects, what positives currently lay ahead for the Senators? Reinforcements are not coming as Melnyk likely will take on “dead contracts” to make the salary cap floor. Any coach that comes in will have to play part-time psychologist for the team, and the Melnyk 2021 plan could even outlast the next coach.
Desirability wise, Ottawa is the worst place to coach in the league. Consider that Pierre Dorion must constantly answer to the owner. The coach also must answer to the general manager and the owner. It is not an environment conducive to future success at this moment in time.
Melnyk’s expectations seem to be beyond reason at this point. The team has been picked to the bone and he’s still expecting results to come on the ice. It should not be forgotten that Guy Boucher was the lowest paid coach in the league and looking forward, Melnyk certainly will not be looking break the bank to hire his replacement. Everything about this franchise has been “on the cheap”.
Fortunately for Guy Boucher, his contract was not getting renewed. The former coach got a decent amount out of an awful team. Now, Boucher gets six weeks paid vacation where he can sit back and relax. That is not a bad deal for a coach who endured losing his four best players and have them replaced by next to nothing.
The fact that the Ottawa Senators are hanging on by a thread is scary. What may be scarier is that Eugene Melnyk is still the owner. The next couple seasons will be interesting to see how Ottawa handles the situation. So many short comings and poor decisions, Melnyk’s frugality has seriously comeback to bite in a big way. The team’s success on the ice has been an afterthought by management and Boucher’s release seems like their kneejerk reaction to try and shift the concentration from the poor running of the franchise, not that of the team. Despite this, all Melnyk and Ottawa can do is suffer with each other until there is a merciful end. At least, Guy Boucher got out early.
By Chris Wassel