Sens not making the grades

BRUCE GARRIOCH

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

It isn't for lack of time in the classroom, but the Senators' mid-term grades are disastrous.

In past years, there have been teacher's pets -- A-students who have worked hard for success. But the class of 2009 has underachieved, much to the dismay of their "teachers."

The Senators stumbled past the halfway point. sitting at No. 14 in the Eastern Conference. That was acceptable in 1995 when the club was building a contender, but it doesn't pass the smell test for a team that went to the Stanley Cup final in 2007.

If these marks were based solely on the team's record, many or all of the players would get failing grades. The marks are based on effort, expectations and results.

Defenceman Brian Lee and goalie Brian Elliott were not graded, but you can bet they'll pop in the year-end final marks.

GM Bryan Murray

D+

This team hasn't performed the way he or most everyone else expected. He was lauded for signing RW Dany Heatley, C Jason Spezza and C Mike Fisher to contracts last season, but never brought in a puck-moving defenceman. Judgment will be made at the end of the year.

COACH CRAIG HARTSBURG

D+

Did he know what he was he getting himself into? He knew this wasn't going to be an easy turnaround, but he couldn't have predicted it would be this tough. He has to bring more accountability to the table. That's what he promised.

GOALIES

Martin Gerber

F

Even with former classmate Ray Emery leaving to become a foreign-exchange student, Gerber hasn't gotten the job done. After not living up to expectations here, he'll try to get his game back on the farm. Too bad. He tries hard and is popular among his teammates.

Alex Auld

C-

He was brought in to be the backup goalie and not the starter. Went on a nice run. But it doesn't bode very well for him when the club reaches out to Binghamton to bring in a new starter, Brian Elliott.

DEFENCE

Chris Phillips

C-

Tries hard and he cares. Gets caught trying to do too much and that's where he runs into trouble. His plus/minus is among the worst in the league and that's tough for a defensive blueliner. Has tried to step up in the absence of a puck-moving defenceman.

Christoph Schubert

F

He's getting his wish to be a full-time defenceman and that's not going very well. Has been a healthy scratch. Like many teammates, he needs to get his consistency back, but that comes with hard work. A change of scenery might help.

Alex Picard

C-

He is still young and learning, but has work to do. You don't notice him when he's playing well, but you do when he makes mistakes. Doesn't have a whole lot of experience in the NHL and hasn't been with many teams that have had success, either.

Brendan Bell

C

Was brought in to help the power play. Give him credit for staying a lot longer than some "experts" expected. Hasn't contributed as much offensively as the Senators would like, but he's shown he can play at this level if given the chance.

Filip Kuba

B-

Has been the brightest light in a bad year. He's the closest the club has to a puck-moving blueliner. Has helped the power play. He isn't going to beat anybody physically, but that's not what is expected of him. Could be attractive trade bait at the deadline.

Jason Smith

D+

He wasn't brought in to provide offence so you can't downgrade him for that. His job was to bring character to the dressing room and be solid on the ice. He hasn't always delivered on the ice, though.

Anton Volchenkov

C-

Has been out with an injury lately and he's missed. Still blocks shots, but he's struggled alongside Phillips. They were not so long ago one of the top shutdown pairs, but an NHL GM noted the other day: "They were never expected to be the No. 1 pairing."

FORWARDS

Daniel Alfredsson

B-

The captain hasn't seen these struggles since his first year in the NHL. The way this team is playing is testing his patience and his leadership. He gets caught in the trap of trying to do too much when the club doesn't have success.

Jason Spezza

C-

Is the lightning rod for criticism and the whipping boy. Here's a thought: He's never going to be a Selke Trophy candidate. There's nothing wrong with his creativity ... when it works. Has to make a difference every night. Not once in a while.

Dany Heatley

C-

Has to do a better job scoring goals. He was given an "A" and is expected to provide leadership as a result. Will make a trip to the all-star game next weekend in Montreal, but this has been anything but an all-star season for him.

Jarkko Ruutu

C-

A real competitor. Gets under the skin of the opponent ... and sometimes bites. Just ask Buffalo's Andrew Peters. Has been suspended twice. The Senators need him in the lineup.

Dean McAmmond

C+

Missed a lot of games because of a bout with pneumonia, but is playing his role as a fourth-liner. Chips in with the odd goal and brings energy. One of the few guys on this team who might actually be getting his job done.

Shean Donovan

C+

Doesn't get a lot of playing time and has to work for everything he gets. Isn't going to wow anybody with his natural skills, but he makes himself noticed by winning battles. Should play more some nights.

Chris Neil

C+

The absence of Brian McGrattan has meant Neil has dropped the gloves more. Sure, Neil could contribute more offensively, but his role has changed. He'll be a player to watch at the trade deadline.

Mike Fisher

D+

He's working hard, but an NHL executive says he's not working smart. Teams have called about him. Two years ago, there wouldn't have even been whispers about him being traded.

Antoine Vermette

D+

Went through a stretch where many wondered if he was even going to get a scoring chance again. Puts a lot of pressure on himself and was expected to score 30 goals. Could get dealt.

Chris Kelly

D+

Signed a big deal on the eve of becoming an unrestricted free agent last summer and hasn't come close to living up to expectations. He works hard and he cares. Is still pretty useful killing penalties. Needs to produce more in all-around game.

Nick Foligno

C+

Has probably been one of their most consistent performers. The Senators are still trying to figure out where he's most useful. There was some question whether he'd spend the year here. There is no question now.

Jesse Winchester

C-

Was a first-liner to begin the season, but didn't produce enough to stay there. Struggled with concussion-like symptoms for part of December. Can be hard-nosed some nights and compete for pucks, but has to do it more consistently. What kind of player is he? Nobody is sure quite yet. Has to carve out a role in the NHL.


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