Johnny on the spot

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

It is another typical trade deadline, disappointment for most, hope for the few.

Put Ottawa in the former category.

After all the great expectations, all the breathless speculation about the acquisition of Marian Hossa or Brian Campbell or Dan Boyle, the Senators are left with Martin Lapointe, at best a third-line grinder who does give Ottawa a little more meanness.

Not a bad thing, but certainly not nearly on the scale of what many Senators fans felt was necessary to help their floundering team.

Hossa wound up going to the Pittsburgh Penguins (nobody in my business seemed to see that one coming) for a steep price. Boyle opted to take the money and not run, remaining in Tampa.

Campbell?

That's a player it looks like got away.

STEVE BERNIER?

A guy who could have been a dynamic addition to the Senators' blue line went to the San Jose Sharks for Steve Bernier, a soon to be 23-year-old forward with a limited offensive upside, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, and a first-round draft pick.

The Senators couldn't have done better than that?

They certainly have players, both forwards and defencemen, who look like better prospects than Bernier, who could be expendable at this point.

Maybe the Sabres didn't want to trade Campbell here or anywhere else in the Eastern Conference. Maybe the Sharks didn't like what the Senators had to offer.

Granted, Senators GM Murray made a good move a couple of weeks ago to land Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore. If Murray had done the Stillman/Commodore deal yesterday, I bet a lot of people would have been more inclined to view his actions at the deadline favourably.

Some Senators fans really wanted another Top 6 forward and had their hearts set on Hossa (I won't even get into his spotty playoff record). Thing is, this team's problem isn't scoring goals (top-scoring team in the league), it's stopping them.

That's why I liked the idea of Campbell coming here, a guy who can skate the puck out of trouble and help get the puck moving away from the Senators net.

What's done is done.

The grim reality this morning is there are no other players coming from the outside to help. This is it.

The only solutions that will rescue a Senators season that is veering from disappointment to disaster will now have to come from within.

The focus, inevitably, will now shift to Senators coach John Paddock.

He has increasingly become a lightning rod in the storm of Senators' shortcomings from the handling of the goaltending, the overplaying of the top line and the team's current shocking standing of 23rd overall in the NHL in goals-against average.

BIG LINE BURNED OUT

Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley, upon whom Paddock leaned so heavily earlier this season, have been playing like they are burned out lately. Alfredsson topped 26 minutes in five games as the calendar turned to December and played more than 24 minutes in 10 of the first 17 games.

"I could have told you this was going to happen back in October," said one player the other day.

This next point benefits from hindsight, but Paddock also has to take his share of responsibility for allowing Ray Emery to get away with his lack of work ethic earlier this season, which now seems to have buried the goaltender in a hole from which he appears incapable of escaping. In the process of coddling Emery and looking the other way for his trangressions, the Senators have likely alienated Martin Gerber.

That's not a healthy situation, no matter which way you look at it.

The Senators' team defence is in tatters right now. They constantly lose their third man in the offensive zone, leading to easy breakouts for the opposition and entries into the Senators zone. They don't make the other team earn their chances or goals.

Maybe the passing of the trade deadline will permit some of the stuffy air that has clogged the Senators dressing room lately to escape. Maybe Lapointe's arrival will help.

The roster is fixed now.

Paddock, whether you believe it is by his doing or by his players' undoing, is the man upon which the light fully shines now.

If his players respect him, as Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said last week, now is the time to show it.

Or Melnyk could be telling Murray to go back behind the bench.

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13 TEAMS BETTER THAN SENS IN LAST THREE MONTHS

EASt

New Jersey 55

Pittsburgh 55

Montreal 48

Washington 47

Ottawa 45

Buffalo 45

NY Rangers 44

Boston 44

Toronto 42

NY Islanders 42

Philadelphia 41

Florida 40

Atlanta 40

Carolina 40

Tampa Bay 35

WEST

Detroit 57

Dallas 53

Anaheim 53

Calgary 51

San Jose 49

Minnesota 47

Phoenix 47

Vancouver 46

Nashville 46

Colorado 43

Edmonton 42

Columbus 41

St. Louis 40

Chicago 38

Los Angeles 37


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