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Last season's Ottawa Senators appear to have disappeared

After the Senators Nov. 17 home loss to the Blue Jackets that dropped their record to .500, an irate Paul MacLean stated if his club was on the same path at Game 30, it’d be a realization that “[w]e are what we are ... and it’s not going to be much fun.”

With a record of 6-7-2 since that time, the laughs are sparse. The reality is, after 35 games, not much has changed. Repetitive issues continue to dog the club:

Poor starts

The Senators have trailed 1-0 in 23 of 35 games and 2-0 on 18 occasions.

Home disadvantage

The Canadian Tire Centre has become the enemy. The club is 7-9-3 at home, causing fans to become restless and apathetic. There have been four crowds of 16,000 or fewer. Adding insult to injury, the Senators are 1-5-1 in afternoon games, a new wrinkle that’s not panning out.

From top to bottom

The club’s goaltending has gone from the league’s second best last season to 26th. Craig Anderson hasn’t found his game. Robin Lehner is consistent but clearly hasn’t shown he’s an everyday starter. However, the players share the blame. The team is 27th in shots allowed per game at 34.1.

Parity rules the day in the NHL’s new playoff structure. There are currently eight teams, including the Senators vying for two positions. Ottawa trails eighth-place to Toronto by three points. However, they’re also having to play leap frog on a nightly basis with five squads who are within a point or two of one another.

Therein lies GM Bryan Murray’s dilemma. Does he attempt to improve the Senators roster that’s chasing a wild-card spot or unload players that don’t fit into next season’s plan?

The team is not in a position to rest on its laurels and has to make a change. Murray needs to look beyond this season. The contracts of Anderson, Clarke MacArthur, Marc Methot, Bobby Ryan and Jason Spezza all expire at the end of 2014-15. Murray must do his utmost to keep the roster as competitive as possible or risk losing key cogs down the road.

How the GM acts remains to be seen. Many pundits tabbed this lineup to be an upper-echelon playoff team, unfortunately for the Senators the games aren’t performed on paper and the players have yet to show any consistency.

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