Senators about to go separate ways

BRUCE GARRIOCH

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

The end is here.

The Senators will gather for a final time today for exit interviews and physicals at Scotiabank Place before heading in different directions for the summer after wrapping up a disappointing season with a 5-2 loss to the Maple Leafs on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Unlike past seasons when the Senators were eliminated from the playoffs, everybody has been able to plan and prepare for the end game this season. The players will meet individually with GM Bryan Murray and coach Cory Clouston before walking out the door, some for the last time.

Missing the playoffs wasn't expected coming into the season, but the Senators are buoyed by the fact they had a 19-11-4 record under Clouston after he took over on Feb. 3. Since then, only the Penguins (46) have had more points than Ottawa and Carolina, who both had 42 in that stretch.

"Obviously, we're disappointed that we didn't make the playoffs," said Clouston. "We basically just ran out of time. For the most part, we've done what we wanted to accomplish.

"We wanted to see how good we can be, see where our strengths are and see where our weaknesses are and move forward. We've been trying to build momentum, create some momentum in the off-season so our guys come back in the fall understanding what they need to do and build on it."

Amid the excitement surrounding Clouston, it shouldn't be forgotten there were a number of players who had underwhelming seasons.

That means returning to the playoffs in the Eastern Conference next year after missing them for the first time since 1996 isn't a forgone conclusion.

Forwards Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly and Chris Neil lead the list of underachievers. Centre Mike Comrie is going to have to take a paycut from the $4 million (all terms US) he made this season to something in the $1.5-million range if he's going to be back next season.

The story on the blue line was much the same. Chris Phillips improved under Clouston, but wasn't consistent. Anton Volchenkov works hard, but can be better. Filip Kuba was the best blueliner, but isn't a physical force and there are still questions about where Chris Campoli fits in. Brendan Bell, a potential UFA, might not be back.

The players know they have been disappointments.

"It's been weird. It's been a little while where we've just been kind of playing out the season," said Fisher. "That being said, we still managed to play pretty hard and play well, which is encouraging. It's a different feeling knowing this is it for a while."

It will be a long off-season, but not everyone is finished playing hockey.

HEADED TO WORLDS

Heatley will play for Canada at the world championship in Switzerland. Fisher, Spezza, Phillips and goalie Brian Elliott will learn today if they'll be invited.

While Kuba has declined the Czech Republic's invite, Jarkko Ruutu will suit up for Finland and defenceman Christoph Schubert will play for Germany.

"We definitely want to carry over the way we finished this year and played the last couple of months," said Fisher. "We know there's going to be a few changes here. We're going to be a better team next year. (Clouston) has gotten a chance to kind of feel the group out. He's done a great job with that and we know we need a great start next year, there's no question."

Captain Daniel Alfredsson, who missed the club's final game with a back injury, said Clouston has set the tone for next season.

"The way we've been playing lately it's been encouraging and it should help us get ready for next year. It's been a good stretch and it's nice for us to turn things around," said Alfredsson.

The Senators have all summer to think about getting it right.

BRUCE.GARRIOCH@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos