There are two ways to interpret Senators captain Erik Karlsson’s comments after the Ottawa Senators’ disappointing loss to the Buffalo Sabres at Canadian Tire Centre Tuesday night.
Speaking with reporters after the game, Karlsson uttered the dreaded ‘B word’ in trying to explain why his team didn’t manage to pull out a victory against the NHL’s 27th-place squad (despite nearly tying the game with a second to go in the third period).
“First off, we’re a budget team here,” he said. “We don’t have the same players as most teams do that are high-skilled and we’re not going to win games by scoring fancy goals and stuff like that.”
Ironic, that, coming from perhaps the highest-skilled player in the game today. Karlsson may just have been toeing the company line, repeating the message head coach Dave Cameron has been trying to sell all season long. But if invoking the budget, that glass ceiling, was the first indication that Karlsson is tiring of of trying to overcome the mediocrity of the roster around him, that’s a cause for concern for both fans and management.
Karlsson is right on one point – the Senators don’t have enough skill to win the Stanley Cup, and are currently a long-shot to even qualify for the playoffs. Had they not managed to pull off a once-in-a-generation run last season, they wouldn’t even have last year’s appearance to fall back on. They’re currently ranked 27th in the league in CF% at five-on-five, and if not for some above-average goaltending and Karlsson, who, as a defenceman, is fourth in league scoring, this season would likely be seen as an unmitigated disaster instead of a disappointment.
There are several reasons the team remains average, bordering on bad, including some so-so drafting, a handful of bad contracts that have hamstrung an already budget-conscious team, and management’s inability to address the main problem – a leaky defence corps – while trying to land something it doesn’t really need: a top-six forward. Cameron suggested the other day that some of his players aren’t really NHL-calibre.
The end result is that the Senators have failed to build around a generational player in his prime years, one who can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018-2019 season.
And it appears help isn’t coming before that, at least from a budget perspective. In an interview with Bruce Garrioch Wednesday, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk tried to sell fans on his group’s bid to redevelop the LeBreton Flats – a plan that includes a new rink downtown at some point in the future.
Melnyk told Garrioch: “The total project is going to be a net contributor to the Senators. Imagine if we were able to bring in, and pay for, two power forwards or a forward or a defenceman with an extra $10 million … we can add that (now) and we have the cap space, but the team cannot afford it. It’s simple.”
This is what plugged-in fans and bloggers have been saying for years now. Coming a day after he pointed out the team’s financial shortcomings, one wonders how it fell on Karlsson’s ears.
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