Hockey fans in Ottawa have been left frustrated lately as the lackluster Senators have been subject to yet another coaching change and possibly another disappointment at the helms. In a questionable move, Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg was relieved of his duties after only 48 games and a 17-24-7 record. Though the senators have struggled this season, their troubles trace back to before Hartsburgs term as coach, and in fact go back as far as November 2007.
Leading up to the 2005-06 season, the Ottawa Senators were not known for their playoff success. Losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs time and time again, they were widely considered playoff duds.
After a successful regular season in 2005-06 however, expectations for the Sens shot up, and they delivered on all fronts. The team brushed off their bad playoff reputation and advanced to the conference finals in the 2006-07 playoffs before losing to the Anaheim Ducks in five games.
Senator fans stood disappointed at the loss, but their first appearance in the Stanley Cup final was a breath of fresh air from their previous failures and a promise for the future.
Then the unexpected happened. Instead of rewarding a team that made it to the finals, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk fired GM John Muckler and promoted head coach Bryan Murray. The move was deemed questionable to say the least, considering that it meant the splitting up of the general manager and coach combination which brought the team success. Presumably, the message posted was that the only acceptable result was to win the Stanley Cup. Perhaps this was lost in translation.
After a good start to the 2007-08 season the Senators began to plummet, failing to advance past the first round of the playoffs after getting swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins. It seemed that the message sent after the Senators remarkable cup drive the season prior did not imprint in the players heads, and perpetuated the culture of losing instead of motivating the team. What was seen as a success in the hockey world was treated as a failure in Ottawa, and they stumbled over the process of mimicking the magic from the 2006-07 campaign.
Ottawa have only tinkered with their line-up, but have ran the gauntlet with coaches John Paddock, Bryan Murray, and Craig Hartsburg all acting as the bench boss at some time or another. Each experiment resulted in the same conclusion, begging the question: When will the general manager or owner take responsibility for the poor performance of this team? If the problem is on the ice, the player holds the responsibility of making it better, but it is also the general managers job to put a competitive roster in place. Murray seems to follow the same tactic as when he was with the Anaheim Ducks, pushing the blame on others for the purpose of saving his own behind.
The situation in Ottawa is definitely a head scratcher, as it seems there is a rapidly revolving door for coaches, but no one else is taking responsibility. Even if the coaches were a problem, who is it that keeps hiring these individuals who do not seem to make a difference? The general manager and owner of the Ottawa Senators must begin to take some responsibility for the mess and stop dragging different coaches through the mud.