Handing out grades

Before we examine how to go forward, it's only fair to address where we've been. On that note, it's time to evaluate how the roster performed in this most recent postseason.

Daniel Alfredsson C
Much will be written about Daniel Alfredsson’s performance in this series, and his future or lack there of with the organization, and I plan to give my two cents in due time, but if we’re evaluating how his playoffs went, the word that comes to mind, above all others, is disappointing. The effort was there, but he’s paid for execution, and he could not produce the way he’s supposed to. Alfredsson once again looked to be trying to do too much. The label of a choker is being to become more appropriate every year.

Jason Spezza B-
Spezza produced and tried, but too many of the same mistakes that we saw throughout the regular season and hoped he learned from reared their head for my liking. Ill-timed passes that lead to turnovers, bad decisions with the puck in the offensive zone, trying to force plays. All things I’ve written about throughout the season, and yet to see them emerge in identical forms makes me question if Spezza’s maturity level is where it needs to be for a #1 center.

Dany Heatley D
The most discouraging performance, his apologists are already pointing to his decent numbers as evidence he didn’t suck as much as we’re all saying. They’re wrong. Dany Heatley was terrible. He could not finish, was floating in his own end with regularity, and refused to be a consistently physical player. These are all things he was advertised as bringing to the table when Heatley was traded for Marian Hossa. I bet those of you would said Heater wouldn’t let us down in the playoffs the way Hoss did (he did?) feel pretty stupid, and you should.

Martin Havlat C
He was absolutely terrific in the first round against the Bolts, showing no signs of rust after missing the majority of the season with the shoulder injury, yet essentially disappeared in the second round. What happened? Havlat's playoff history is riddled with similar disappearing acts so you have to wonder about his makeup as a player. His return to the lineup was thought to bring the team another big scoring threat yet he was just another sniper who couldn’t score when it mattered most, and there is little else to Havlat's game besides offence. He doesn't hit, doesn't kill penalties, and doesn't take faceoffs.

Mike Fisher C+
Fisher had a breakout season, scoring 20 goals despite not playing all 82 games, and was thought to be one of the secondary scoring options who could chip in with timely goals when the big guns got shut down. Unfortunately, Fisher went down with them. I give him marks for never giving up and winning a lot of one-on-one battles but they needed more from Fisher, a guy who you would think would be a big playoff performer, and he didn’t come through.

Peter Schaefer C+
Schaefer's another who had a career year yet could not carry it over to the playoffs. Everything said about Fisher can be applied to him.

Bryan Smolinski C+

If I was able to look past my anti-Smoke bias, I might even grade him higher. Though Bryan Smolinski has never been popular in Ottawa and has been deservedly labeled a floater, I felt like he had a good postseason. Scored some goals, won a lot of the battles behind the net that led to chances, and was good in his own end.

Antoine Vermette C
Ottawa’s best penalty killer in the series, Vermette gets a low grade because he was given a shot to play on the big line and could not produce. This is not a new phenomenon for Vermette, as it’s happened basically every other time the team tried to give him an increased even strength role. Hopefully this quells the calls for Vermette to be on the top two lines. He’s proven himself to be most effective in a limited 5-on-5 role.

Patrick Eaves C
Eaves seemed overwhelmed for most of his first NHL playoffs. He didn’t go to the net with as much enthusiasm, wasn’t as physical, and joined the long list of Senators who were gripping their sticks too tightly and thus couldn’t score.

Chris Neil B+
Had a tremendous first round and tried his best to make an impact in the second. It was difficult when he was getting such limited minutes, and not used on the powerplay. Neil was probably Ottawa’s most consistent hitter and managed to get under the skins of the opposition, often drawing them into dumb penalties.

Christoph Schubert B
When called upon, he shined. Always hitting and relentless on the forecheck. In game 5 of the Sabres series, he missed a huge hit on a defenceman. You’d think after that he’d be gun shy but he continued to throw his body around throughout the game. He was good on the blueline in game 1 of the second round as well, subbing for the injured Pothier.

Chris Kelly C+
Reliable in his own zone and very good on the powerplay, Kelly was put into a position he wasn’t ready for when paired with Spezza & Heatley on the top line. Chris Kelly is not a top six forward, and try as he might, he can’t do what a top six forward is supposed to do.

Vaclav Varada D
Was pulled from the line-up for a reason. In the limited minutes he got, Varada wasn’t able to be much of a factor one way or another. If nothing else, you’d expect him to mix it up and cause trouble, but he couldn’t even do that. His time as a Senator is over.

Wade Redden B
Redden was the best Ottawa Senator in the first round, by a wide margin, and therefore, he gets a good grade despite a subpar second round, though in comparison to the rest of the D, Redden was superb against the Sabres. He still made too many errors with the puck, but when you handle it as often as he does, against a strong forechecking team like Buffalo, that’s to be expected. Redden was playing with a heavy heart, and perhaps the adrenaline he was running on for the first round was tapped out and he came back down to Earth.

Zdeno Chara F
If you would have told me six months ago that Chara would quit on this team, I would’ve found that to be incredibly difficult to believe, yet that is what it looks like took place. Some have theorized that he was playing with a bad hand still, but a hurt paw doesn’t result in a diminished effort, and that is what we saw. He wasn’t hitting, he was consistently being outhustled and outworked, and with the puck, was a nightmare. In game 5, every time he got the rubber, my heart stopped. Zdeno Chara’s mind was clearly on the big bucks he’ll be getting in two months rather than doing what it took to win the Cup. And frankly, it’s not as if Chara has a sparkling playoff track record with this team for those who maintain he was injured to fall back on. Chara had one great game of the 10 postseason contests the Sens had, that’s just not acceptable given the responsibility this team has given him and the paycheck he cashed this season.

Chris Phillips C+
While I don’t buy the argument that Chara was hurt, I do think “The Big Rig” was, just because he’s been such a great playoff performer in the past. Even when the rest of the team was crumbling under pressure, Philly shined. He tweaked his knee in the Tampa series and it looked to be effecting his game. He wasn’t skating with as much vigor and shied away from contact in the corners more than he usually does. Even though he had more goals (2) in the playoffs than he did in the regular season (1)

Andrej Meszaros D
Another one I didn’t see coming. Meszaros might be given a mulligan because it was his first playoffs, but he played like such a season veteran all season long that we sometimes forgot he was a 20-year-old kid who might be overwhelmed by it all when the level of play was elevated. He could not deal with it all and became a liability too often, yet continued to get big minutes. Like Chara, when the puck was on his stick, my anxiety level increase significantly. Let’s hope he got all the playoff jitters out of his system.

Anton Volchenkov C
He recovered with a better second half of the series, and is getting a bum rap as far as goats because of one (incredibly) bad play, but he still did not have the playoffs he should have, and unlike Meszaros, cannot use the excuse that he has no experience.

Brian Pothier B
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the playoffs for Ottawa was the way Pothier stepped up. He was one of their best defenceman, which tells you the problem with the team. When your 6th defenceman is among your top blueliners, something is wrong. He scored two big goals, didn’t get outworked very often, was good on the powerplay, and didn’t turn the puck over too much.

Ray Emery B
A lot of the blame for the loss is being placed at his feet, because that’s apparently what we do as Sens fans, but Ray Emery should not be held responsible for the loss. Yeah, he gave up some bad goals, but on almost every one, a Senator in front of him let Emery down. In the deciding game Saturday night, he was too timid on the first two goals, but why was Chris Drury allowed to walk out in front untouched like that? The OT winner was not a good one, but how did Pomiville beat Alfredsson with such ease? Ray Emery did everything you could’ve asked of him, and in the first round and a couple games in the Sabres series, more. He was asked to make big saves and he did in games three and four, and even in game five. It wasn’t enough. The problem in this series was goal scoring, not goaltending.

Dominik Hasek F
Just cuz.