A snapshot of the Ottawa record since the lockout is revealing.
2005-06: 52-21-9, 113 pts, 314 gf 211 ga, 1st place East
2006-07: 48-25-9, 105 pts, 288 gf 221 ga, 4th place East
2007-08: 43-31-8, 94 pts, 261 gf 247 ga, 7th place East
2008-09: 13-17-5, 31 pts, 83 gf 100 ga, 12th place East (after 35GP)
which can be projected as 30-40-12, 72 pts, 194 gf, 234 ga.
The slide being consistent, the decline this year would seem less of a shock than a manifestation of the inevitable.
Just to match last year's win and/or points total and (presumably) sneak into the playoffs, the Senators would have to win 32 of their next 47 games or somehow get 63 of a possible 94 points.
Not a good bet.
Even the Vegas odds makers confirm the Senators' fall. Belmont Sports rates the Senators' chances at finishing first in the East as the worst: 50-1, same as Atlanta and the Islanders. Their Cup chances? 100-1, last among the last.
Yet Senators owners Eugene Melnyk comes out and declares:
"Watch this team. You're going to be very, very surprised. We have nine new players. We have a new coach. We have a new system. It's only 30 games into the season and we will be a Stanley Cup contender. Mark my words. You'll see. Just give them some time and that time is right now."
Fans can be justified in asking themselves why management hasn't taken steps to improve the team. The lessons were clear after the Cup Final loss to the Ducks. The Senators were already sliding in the pecking order, and had shown they couldn't match up to an opponent built for the post-lockout NHL.
Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, all non-playoff teams in 2006-07, have all surpassed Ottawa and continue to improve. What has Ottawa management learned from those teams? Apparently, not much.
And what about going forward? Will ticket-buying fans tolerate a mediocre product, especially in difficult economic times?
Is Eugene Melnyk not thinking about the health of the hockey component of his business empire? Or has he become so enamoured of his idea of a soccer franchise that the Senators are left to their own devices?
Rebuilding is challenged by the bottleneck of mega-contracts and absence of salary cap room. At 54 million, the Senators don't have any money left to spend on the players they will need (like scorers, a puck moving defenseman and a goalie), without dumping at least one, if not more of these contracts.
Less than sixty days until the trade deadline. The clock is ticking.
Talent in the pipeline? A look at the boys from Binghamton shows some promise, but the Senators are ranked 27th out of 30 teams in prospect strength by HockeysFuture.com.
One can try to look for positives, but one would have to be delusional not to admit that this team is in serious trouble in terms of its personnel.
As the consistently astute Lyle Richardson (Spectorshockey.net) said this past week, "For the Senators, rebuilding could not only last beyond this season but could also be more difficult than many believe."
If Bryan Murray is looking over his shoulder, it is understandable.
He would do well to heed the words of the Ancient Roman philosopher Seneca: Omnio fieri possent.
"Everything may happen".