NEW YORK - I woke up in Manhattan with NBA jerseys an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach this morning.
Perhaps it had something to do with the ill-advised street meat that I consumed outside MSG at 11 p.m. last night.
But more than likely, this queasy feeling is a direct result of watching the Ottawa Senators lose five consecutive games. Suddenly I'm covering Canada's worst NHL team. Wasn't this supposed to be David Bastl's gig?
Last season, everyone pointed to internal friction and team chemistry for the Senators' second-half downfall. As a result, Bryan Murray got rid of the so-called "bad apples" from the dressing room.
Yet so far this season, the Sens have looked as disorganized and flat as they did when they had a certain Hummer-driving, flight-missing tattooed netminder. Are we still going to blame locker-room friction? Pointing to team chemistry and friction as the source of all problems is a card that is played too often by the media. And most of the time, it is completely overblown - unless you are covering the Dallas Stars.
For once, the Sens can't pin their problems on the man between the pipes. Alex Auld has been nothing short of spectacular on most nights. Right now, they could have Patrick Roy or a sumo wrestler in there and it wouldn't make a difference in the win-loss column. I am officially the first media person in modern Sens history to write the following sentence: Goaltending is the least of Ottawa's concerns.
I know there have been whispers that perhaps Craig Hartsburg's system is at fault for the team's slow start. But this group has now had three coaches in this calendar year and none of them have turned this ship around. You could have Scotty Bowman or a sumo wrestler behind the bench and you probably would have the same result. (That second sumo wrestler reference is just to see if you are paying attention). Hartsburg and his coaching staff aren't the problem here.
So if you can't pin this on the coach, logic dictates you have to blame the captain, right? But if anyone thinks Daniel Alfredsson is at fault for the team's current malaise, they are out to lunch and dinner. (And they might even go out for some ill-advised street meat after that.)
Alfredsson has been this team's most consistent forward this season in the one area that matters most - work ethic. He just went through a stretch of 10 games without scoring a goal, yet I didn't hear a single complaint about his play from the coaches, media or fans. This is the guy who missed only one game after he had knee surgery in October. Nick Lidstrom proved last season that mild-mannered, Swedish captains can win the Stanley Cup. It's just that he had a little more help around him.
So there you have it. For a change, you can't blame chemistry, goaltending or Alfredsson for the Senators struggles. And come to think of it, we can't blame Wade Redden and Andrej Meszaros either.
We need to come up with a fresh list of what is wrong in Ottawa. But I'm afraid that blog might take me a couple of weeks to write.
Now, I've read all the theories as to why this team has fallen so far in such a short period of time.
I've covered this team as closely as anyone over the past few seasons and I still have no clue what is wrong with this team.
So I figured it would be easier (and quicker) to write about the things that AREN'T the cause for the Senators early season struggles. Here are four things we used to always blame for Ottawa's problems that are no