• By: Dave Gross

Under .500 Again? It’s not all on the Coach

It’s the justification I just don’t get.

Ottawa management, yeah the new group, keeps bringing up the suggestion that sending Senators’ head coach D.J. Smith and his crew packing would just simply be . . . a bad idea.

The reason?

‘The players have told us there’s already been far too much chaos around here in recent years.’

So then, not making the playoffs for the seventh-freakin’-consecutive season is OK and fine, just as long as no one’s undershorts get tied up in knots? So long as no one’s feelings get jarred? Kumbaya. Let’s meditate, work in some yoga, tear down a few statues, rename some streets and relish in another losing year.

Yippee, the organization is happy, content, fulfilled, woke and secure. Peace to all.

Well, maybe the coaching, the systems, the injuries, the schedule etc., aren’t the only problem here. Maybe the players should own a chunk of this property; a property that perpetually takes one step forward, then another step back.

The clock’s ticking folks. The over-used excuse that Ottawa’s a young team in development is reaching an end. The NHL, excluding Pittsburgh seemingly, is a young dude’s league. Twenty-three, 24 and 25 are the new 27, 28 and 29. Maturity comes quickly, and you’d be best suited to hop on board promptly.

Timmy Stutzle and Jake Sanderson get an exemption. These two dynamos are 21 (Stutzle turns 22 in a month) and get a pass on the better-get-on-with-it(!) ranking metre. No doubt Stutzle and Sanderson will get stronger and more effective in the next two-to-three years.

The core ‘older’ guys though don’t get the same pass.

Go ahead, fire your arrows this way but the fact remains this team sits a game below .500 under the on-ice guidance of Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson, Thomas Chabot, Jakob Chychrun and to some degree Erik Brannstrom . . . AKA, the young core. Is it really all coaching here when, positionally, there are such dramatic difficulties?

Maybe I’m off base here and maybe it is all coaching. Maybe not, and maybe you’d think after five or six or seven full years into their pro development the attention to detail would be better.

Should Smith still be running the show here, just so everyone can avoid chaos and a little anxiety?

Not a good call. It’s well past time for a change in Ottawa with your team (so you keep telling me).

The players?

No way they too don’t bear a big chunk of the responsibility for Ottawa being where it is.


THOUGHT, SEEN AND HEARD: Shortly after Ottawa’s loss Tuesday night I sat here and wrote: “If one day Craig Berube gets fired from the Blues . . .” . . . Fill in the rest . . . Wednesday morning I wake to a ‘it-really-happened’ motif . . . From X and former referee Tim Peel Wednesday: “If I’m Steve Staios and Jacques Martin I’m buying Craig Berube a one way plane ticket to Ottawa this morning!” . . . As a baby cub reporter in Toronto, one of my first big-league interviews was with Berube. He was banging heads for Philadelphia back in the day . . . ‘Chief’ had all the time in the world for me. Accommodating to be sure . . . Best chat-site post of the week: “If only we (Ottawa) could play Detroit 82 games a year” . . . No. 2: “Maybe we could trade for players coached under winning systems, use them for a while, and trade (them) again once those players forget how to play too” . . . Sometimes I watch the tirades and the ‘challenge-the-other-bench’ moments and think – this is getting pretty tired there, Brady . . . Mind you, if someone else felt the inclination to step up from time to time and rip Ottawa out of the doldrums, that might help . . . Ridley Greig might be that guy eventually, but he appears a bit gun shy right now . . . You ever wonder if the NHL got rid of second periods just how good Ottawa’s record could be? . . . My thought on Dominik Kubalik: Quieter than a church mouse enjoying a particularly quiet day in a particularly quiet church . . . He’s not even my favourite Dominik. That’d be Mysterio . . . Claude Giroux is one smart cookie. Take a good look at just how he maintains his place as a top-drawer NHLer at the soon-to-be age of 36. Giroux sees the ice, so very, very well.

WHAT, THERE’S MORE??: I watch your Leafs and agree with what’s being said around the league – this is the weakest group of the last three seasons . . . I watch your Habs and think – If Arber Xhekaj truly has fallen out of favour with Montreal and boss Marty St. Louis, there’s 31 other teams shouting: “Over here!” . . . Connor vs. Connor ended like this: Two points for one Connor and a goal for the other . . . You figure out the rest . . . My two choices for best TV drama ever are Homicide: Life on the Street (NBC) and The Wire (HBO). And so, what a past few months. Lost but never forgotten – Michael K. Williams (Omar), Lance Reddick (Lt. Daniels) and the great Andre Braugher (Lt. Frank Pembleton). Braugher passed Monday and was only 61.



Thursday, Dec. 14: Ottawa at St. Louis (8 pm)

Friday, Dec. 15: Ottawa at Dallas (8 pm)

Sunday, Dec. 17: Ottawa at Vegas (8 pm)

Tuesday, Dec. 19: Ottawa at Arizona (9 pm)



Photo: CourtesyCP