DETROIT -- Based on the results of this season, it's hard to believe the Ottawa Senators were one shot away from the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.
After they lost, 3-2, in overtime to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Final, the Senators entered this year with lofty aspirations.
Instead, they have been a team in turmoil.
From all-world defenseman Erik Karlsson essentially telling the hockey world he will be testing the free agent waters when he hits free agency in 2019, to owner Eugene Melnyk saying he cannot rule out relocating the team because Ottawa is "fighting every day to sell a ticket," and former player Kyle Turris believing he was traded to Nashville because Melnyk didn't want to re-sign him, you can see why Ottawa has been reeling.
Saturday's 5-0 home loss to Boston was the fifth time in December the Senators have been shut out. They finished December with a record of 4-8-2 and are 4-14-3 in their last 21 games.
"It starts at the top. Our best players haven't been our best players," forward Mark Stone told NHL.com after the loss to the Bruins. "There's a trickle-down effect. When guys see top players cheating, they do too. I don't think it's work ethic. It's a little bit of stupidity more than anything, stupidity and frustration. We put ourselves in terrible spots."
Stone has been anything but terrible for the Senators (12-17-8, 32 points) who face the Red Wings Wednesday night at Little Caesars Arena (7:30 p.m. face-off). He leads the team in scoring with 34 points in 37 games. His 15 goals and plus-6 rating are also tops on the club.
Left wing Mike Hoffman (nine goals, 15 assists, minus-12 in 37 games), center Derick Brassard (10 goals, 14 assists, minus-1 in 37 games) and right wing Bobby Ryan (five goals, nine assists, plus-1 in 28 games), have not been the offensive weapons the Senators were counting on this season. They have not been atrocious, but they have been wildly inconsistent.
Hoffman is currently mired in a 13-game goalless drought, Brassard has seven points in his last nine games, including four goals, but he was held goalless from October 24 through December 9, a span of 19 games, and Ryan didn't score his first goal of the season until his 16th game.
On November 5, many believed the Senators addressed their offensive woes when they acquired center Matt Duchene from Colorado in a three-team trade that sent Turris to Nashville.
Duchene has not been the elixir. In 23 games since the trade, Duchene has three goals among six points and is minus-10.
Defensively, Karlsson leads the Senators' blueliners with 25 points in 32 games. He has three goals among his 25 points, is minus-20 and leads the Senators in ice time, averaging 26:21 per game.
He is also embroiled in some controversy after his free agency comments. There is mounting speculation the Senators may trade Karlsson before he reaches the free agent market in the summer of 2019.
Veteran defenseman Dion Phaneuf and 24-year-old Cody Ceci have helped Karlsson anchor the blue line. Phaneuf has three goals among his 13 points and is minus-2 in 34 games.
Ceci has five goals, three assists and is minus-7 in 36 games; he is second on Ottawa in ice time, checking in at 22:53.
Goaltending has been an issue for Ottawa. Like most of the team, the Senators' netminders have been inconsistent. In 27 games, starter Craig Anderson is 9-12-4 with a goals-against average of 3.12 and an .896 save percentage with two shutouts.
Backup Mike Condon has appeared in 13 games and is 3-4-4 with a 3.13 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage.
"We definitely have to rebound next game," coach Guy Boucher told reporters after Saturday's game. "It's on the road and we have to be good on the road and we have two days now to reload and get a practice in before we go into Detroit and be better than we were (Saturday)."
Ottawa's road record is 5-10-3, and Stone was blunt when asked what the Senators need to do to turn around this nightmare of a season.
"We've put ourselves in a hole where we are going to need a fantastic run and we're going to need help," he said. "We've put ourselves in a deep, deep hole."