One of the top National Hockey League stories in the last couple of weeks has been the unraveling of the Ottawa Senators. Forced to go on an extended road trip because the 2017 Canadian Olympic Curling Trials came to town, the Senators have lost four straight and have been outscored 17-3 during that time.
Twice in the last week, the Senators have lost games by 5-0 scores. Those humiliating defeats came last Sunday to the Winnipeg Jets and on Saturday to the San Jose Sharks.
The start of the Senators downward spiral came on the night before Halloween. Ottawa lost 8-3 to the Montreal Canadiens in a game where their captain, and two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson was a baffling -6.
Things were supposed to get better for the Senators when they acquired Matt Duchene from the Colorado Avalanche in a blockbuster deal, also involving the Nashville Predators on November 5. However in 14 games, the Senators have gone 3-9-2 and are 10 points back of the Pittsburgh Penguins for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The major problem for the Senators is scoring goals, something Duchene was expected to help provide. Ottawa has the second fewest goals in the East with 77. Only the Buffalo Sabres have scored fewer goals at 64.
In 14 games with the Senators, Duchene only has two goals and two assists for four points and is a minus-11. Over the last two seasons, Duchene is a -44 as he was -34 last season while playing for the Avalanche.
The bottom line is that the Senators are underachieving. After reaching the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago, more was simply expected and the core Senators have not produced. After having a 2.28 goals against average in 2016-17, Craig Anderson is now at 3.11 in 2017-18. Mike Hoffman and Zack Smith were a combined +23 last year, and now they are a combined -22.
A playoff spot is unlikely for Ottawa this year. There are rumours Ottawa might trade Karlsson and there is also talk that Senators owner Eugene Melnyk wants a new arena.