It seems like Ottawa Senators are in Groundhog Day time loop

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It’s sort of like Groundhog Day, the 30-year-old movie where a stuffy weatherman, played by Bill Murray, gets caught in a time loop.

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He relives the same day over and over again, with Sonny and Cher’s I Got You Babe playing on the clock radio.

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Admittedly, the comparison is far-fetched when talking about the Ottawa Senators, who have won 25 times in 61 games as they head down the stretch.

So, it’s not always the same old story, same old song and dance, my friend (sorry, for tossing in an Aerosmith reference). It just seems that way to a befuddled and disappointed fan base.

The Senators show glimpses of what they can be, snapshots of a team that can hang with the NHL’s best. Then, they show they can also sink to the depths of the league’s worst.

Going back to the Groundhog Day comparison, it’s not a specific day the Senators loop back into, it’s more of a script, a series of events that way too often lead to an all-too-familiar crushing ending.

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Thursday night in Los Angeles, the Senators stuck to their script: Against a good Western Conference team that’s fighting for a playoff spot, Ottawa played well enough, for the most part, to win.

Coming off a 2-1 loss in Anaheim and minus defenceman Thomas Chabot, who was being evaluated for another injury, the Senators had energy, they had zip. And, they also had some bad luck.

As has become too common this season and for much of any season going back to 2017, when they most recently made the playoffs, the Sens found ways to fritter away another one, losing 4-3 to the Kings in overtime.

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The losing skid is now at six games. And even what should be a gimme Saturday in San Jose, against a team that’s tied with the Chicago at the bottom of the standings in the NHL’s basement derby, isn’t a slam-dunk victory.

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It never is for the Senators, who find themselves tied with the Coyotes for the fourth-worst record in the league.

If you want to lay money the Senators are going to roll over the toothless Sharks, remember a week ago when the Senators fell 5-3 to the Coyotes, who snapped their 14-game losing streak.

If the criticism comes off as too stinging and unfair to the Senators, it comes back to the potential that has yet to be unlocked — by either DJ Smith, who was fired in December, or by his replacement, Jacques Martin. This should not be a team that’s anywhere near the bottom of the standings.

With all the bad in this 2023-24 season, there is good. And that’s where much of the frustration for the organization and its fan base lies.

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On the roster, there are plenty of very good players, capable of playing very good hockey. It’ll be up to general manager Steve Staios and his hockey operations department along with whoever the team hires as its next head coach to put the pieces of the puzzle together and figure out a way to find the consistency that’s missing.

A new beginning with a new owner, Michael Andlauer, was a step ahead. In his first year on the job, Staios will be judged by what’s ahead, not the mess he was left with.

Before Thursday’s game, Martin talked about his team losing a good vibe during its current losing streak. He also talked about his better players having to be his better players.

Too often, that hasn’t been the case.

Asked how far way the Senators are from being a contender, Senators captain Brady Tkachuk told TSN 1200’s Gord Wilson on Thursday: “I think we’re close. We’ve shown progress. But, internally and externally, it’s been a frustrating (season). We thought we’d be in a different position than we’re in now, especially around the (trade) deadline, instead of being sellers, it’d be the other way around.”

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Wednesday, the Senators dealt away Vladimir Tarasenko, who was handed a one-year, $5 million free-agent contract last summer. The contract also contained a no-movement clause. Tarasenko told the Senators the only team he would accept a trade to was the Florida Panthers (his wife and children live in nearby Fort Lauderdale).

So the trade return — a 2024 fourth-round pick that becomes a third-rounder in 2026 if the Panthers win the Stanley Cup and a third-round choice in 2025 — was mediocre 

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As Friday’s trade deadline was winding down, the Senators were pondering other moves as they look ahead to what needs to be a future with hope, not the disappointment after disappointment they’ve been delivering.

What’s happening isn’t fiction, we’re not in Punxsutawney.

The 2023-24 season and the angst it has caused for a fan base that’s again showing up to watch games at Canadian Tire Centre is all very real for the Ottawa Senators. 

Maybe the calendar finally rolls ahead. And, everybody can live happily ever after.

Just like in the movie.

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