Are the Ottawa Senators Really Emotionally Prepared to Rebuild?

2009-11-28 Senators at Bruins (92)
Photo by Dan 4th

James Gordon had a great piece on the Ottawa Senators’ rebuilding options.

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and GM Bryan Murray are finally admitting the Senators are in trouble. Melnyk said he won’t fire Murray or coach Cory Clouston before the end of the season, but beyond that, what can the Senators do to rebuild? And how long will it take?

Gordon points out the Flyers managed to rebuild in a year. But they had a lot of incredible pieces in place. The Senators have some solid players like Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen, but who else could carry a rebuilding effort?

And lost in all of this talk about the Senators is that they really had their chance to be a dominant NHL team, and the franchise couldn’t take the next step. Look at their 2003-04 roster. Danny Alfredsson in his prime. Marian Hossa. Martin Havlat. Jason Spezza. Zdeno Chara. A younger, more solid Wade Redden. How did this team manage to not win a Cup?

Ottawa’s rebuilding effort is going depend on how dirty Murray is willing to get. He has a lot of salary coming off of the cap this season, but historically the Senators have made poor free agent choices. Murray’s best shot is using the trade deadline to trade away NHL-ready players to playoff-bound teams, taking back prospects or draft pics in return. It’s not sexy and fans don’t always like it, but I can’t think of another way to turn this iteration of the Senators into a competitive team.

For instance, if Jason Spezza’s shoulder heals before the trade deadline, there might be teams willing to surrender prospects for an inconsistent player with a questionable work ethic, because a lot of GMs love a reclamation project.

Goalie Mike Brodeur might have some trade value with inattentive GMs who think they’re trading for Martin Brodeur.

And I’m surprised the Senators aren’t doing more with defenseman David Hale, who was solid for the Devils, but who’s been stuck in the AHL. Hale is the only Senator with a positive +/-, helped by the measly 13 games he’s played with Ottawa this season.

As Gordon says, rebuilding isn’t easy. It can be done, but Melnyk and Murray, assuming Murray keeps his job, need to make tough decisions. And to do that, they need to get the voices of the fans and the media out of their heads.

I’m not sure they have the emotional strength to perform a true rebuild. When push comes to shove, they usually find it easier to just splurge on one or two free agents and consider the team quality matter settled.