While many fans and the media in Ottawa think Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond (a.k.a. The Hamburglar) is the reason their team is in the playoffs after a poor start to the season, I think the real credit for the team’s turnaround should go to the man behind the bench.
Since Dave Cameron took over the head coaching reigns from Paul MacLean, the Senators have been playing winning hockey with virtually no change to the lineup. Cameron has been able to take his defensive system in junior and apply it to the pros. The result: a 32-16-7 record since he took over as head coach. That, and for no other reason, is why the team is in the playoffs.
For those who followed the St. Michael’s Majors (whether in Toronto or Mississauga) and the one or two in the media who covered the OHL team on a regular basis, Cameron’s ability to coach a winning team comes as no surprise to them. He has been able to get the most out of what talent he has available. Perhaps being under the radar in Toronto allowed him to flourish as a head coach.
If there is one advantage the Senators have against the Habs in the first round of the playoffs it is coaching. Cameron’s experience in the World Juniors and in the OHL will bode well as he helps guide his team against one of the best in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. If the Senators continue the way they have played under Cameron in the last two months of the regular season, they can shut down the likes of Max Pacioretty, Lars Eller, and Tomas Plekanic.
It is about time Cameron gets the recognition he deserves. People will point out the fact he was behind the bench when Canada blew a 3-goal third period lead to Russia and lost the gold medal game at the 2011 World Junior Hockey Championships, and his Majors lost to the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Memorial Cup final that year. But if the Senators do end up hoisting the Cup in June, the media better make sure Cameron’s name is the first one they mention.