clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Senators Season Going To Hell

(WARNING - This is an extremely long read, but worth it. It is everything I've wanted to say about the Ottawa Senators for 6 months. It alludes to a whole wack of mistruths, rumours, and press bullshit you may or may not have read. It has everything to do with how to manage a team properly versus how it gets played out in the media. As you will all recognize, the truth will always be more forthcoming in a blogger post than in the kiss ass spins of a writer with tickets to a home teams games).

Well, what will they say now?

With the Ottawa Senators having hit their first five game skid in 10 years with the 5-4 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers tonight, I'm curious to see what spins the lame Ottawa media trot out in guise of protective excuses this time.

The Ottawa media, especially the Sun's Bruce Garrioch, have been on a month long drill of questioning every aspect of the Ottawa team without putting the finger on a single personal specific issue, or even taking claim of the questions supposedly being asked.

This Garrioch scribe is a real beauty! He never comes out and says anything you can tag his name onto. His comments fall into grey areas constantly. His quotes always contain the cowardly "rumour has it's", "it has been said's", and "issues surrounding's" when referring to team problems. Subjects of his most recent columns have included the captaincy of Daniel Alfredsson (he backs him), the standing of coach Bryan Murray (he'll get thought it), moves made by GM John Muckler (he's been cornered by the cap), and owner Eugene Melnyk (good faith that all in position are the right people for the job).

Garrioch has never once stated his opinion or brought issues to the fore in his daily redundant pieces on the team. You'd think the man is on salary, he's such a company man. His lack of stance mirrors an organization that has failed to rectify or own up to the least of errors.

Like Muckler and Melnyk, Garrioch seems to have bought into the notion that all the Sens early woes are due to having to deal with the salary cap. I don't buy it at all. Muckler has ducked every issue and question before it came to a head. When dealing players, he has panicked in every scenario.

He may have brought a good return on Marian Hossa in Dany Heatley. Some suggest otherwise, including myself, that he blew the deal. Not because one year later Hossa has emerged as the superior player, but because Muckler threw in a sturdy defenseman named Greg DeVries to seal the deal. If you question why this deal needed to be a two for one, then the obvious answer points towards the deal being a more pressing issue for the Sens GM than his Atlanta counterpart in the trade. Trades are often about bodies, physical values a GM uses for present or future needs. Salary dumps excluded, GM's always like a certain return when giving up assured commodities. Hossa was dealt after signing a 6 million dollar deal and DeVries was an apparent throw in. Today Muckler flat out lies that if he'd not traded Hossa, he'd have lost him to free agency. What bull? His contract was signed with the Senators. He was traded after it was signed.

This summer he tossed off Martin Havlat in a three way deal with Chicago and San Jose that brought the Sens Tom Preissing from the Sharks plus three spare parts compliments of both the other trading partners. Muckler blew that deal as well by assuming that Havlat's market value was beyond the Sens financial means again. The fact that Chicago offered the winger 18 million over three years doesn't enter into the equation. Havlat was coming off an injury plaged season, and the bargaining power tilted heavily in Muckler's favor. Only he didn't realize it. Surely Ottawa could have kept him in the fold at a cheaper price, on a less longer term deal, even a year or two, and shopped his value during this present season in which free agency would have set him loose. He had time, options, and arbitration in his corner, but buckled for whatever unknown reason. When I say buckled, don't forget he threw in dependable center Bryan Smolinski into the deal. Another short sighted goof.

Muckler lost all control of his wherewithall when he quadrupulled Jason Spezza's salary into an unworthy 4 million dollar startosphere. That gift spiralled into many a mistake. Spezza may have settled for less, on a one or two year deal. I'd have taken that gamble to arbitration.

He then overevaluated free agent goalie Martin Gerber while tossing the more economic signing of the suddenly unpopular goalie Domink Hasek away. While spending a good portion of June defending the Hasek's brain quirks, Muckler surprised every astute hockey thinker by throwing his load on Gerber, to the tune of 3.7 million. On the opening day of free agency, Muckler assumed this would be his coup, and did not want to be outbid by other gamblers.

What the GM did wrong here was buy into the wrong spin on Gerber. When last seen, in the '06 playoffs, Gerber was handily undone by a spit and sputter Montreal Canadiens offense that literally pounded him in the first two games. It was told at the time that Gerber had suffered a stomach disorder, causing him to lose almost 20 pounds. Cam Ward replaced him, and the rest is now Stanlet Cup history. I ask you this though, what coach would start Gerber then, knowing he is hardly up to par due to the so called illness. I never bought the stomach story, especially after two starts. Apparently Muckler did.

Brian Pothier, a solid D man in a 4th to sixth slot is allowed to slip away from the Senators without barely a meager contract offer. Today he is logging close to 25 minutes per game on a resurgeant Washington Capitals team. Alexei Kagairodov, I've nicknamed him Kangaroo-ov for his tendency to free heavy traffic in exhibition games, is a whole other bluff and dream. Muckler ranted and raved about this wimp stepping right over Mike Fisher into the number two spot at center on the team. For two weeks, the Ottawa media reached a frothing point frenzy over the excesses of this spineless ghouls talents based on the GM's slant. Muckler's opinion had originated from watching him play during the lockout season alongside NHLer's Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora, familiar with each other through years on the top line with the New Jersey Devils. How could the kid not look good? Kaigorodov played some uninspired exhibition games and was given a million dollar contract before being tested in a few real NHL contests. He failed miserably before being sent to the Binghamton farm team. The wanker bailed off to Russia, suspended by the team saving it a wasted sum it could have used more profitably in the off season.

Muckler's biggest screwup occured during the free agency season this past year. Knowing that valuable assistant GM Peter Chiarelli was headed to Boston, Muckler alerted the NHL to potential conflicts of interest regarding the signing of free agents from his team. Without even bothering to tender a suitable offer, he watched duffus-like as prized possesion Zdeno Chara signed with the division rival Bruins. While the local papers tried to ignite a controversy, Muckler pissed on the burning fuse by declaring he was simply out of Chara's price range come negotiating time. The Bruins signed him to what he was worth to Ottawa, and the rest of the league. Somehow, the sign and trade in the Hossa case, or the trade before market rise of the Havlat deal passed him byin regards to a way to keep Chara on the payroll.

Muckler's entire mess got off to a leaping start when he axed Jacques Martin prior to the lockout season. Hiring Bryan Murray caught the entire hockey world off guard. Murray, who had appealing local roots, had everything but the credentials to guide the Senators. Through stints with Detroit, prior to their glory days, a longer spell with Washington where talent finally paid dividends, and Florida, in a midst of a confusing time, Murray simply never showed the stuff that made him the ideal benchboss for the Sens at this critical time.

Need it be recalled that Ottawa had become a team known for it's inability to overcome a playoff hump in the road - usually known as the Toronto Maple Leafs. With that in mind, Muckler hires a coach, out of action for years, whose track record identifies him as yet another dubiously hump weary leader, who has never experienced third round playoff hockey.

Yet, he was the man!

Ottawa media totally bought into the local guy, coming home to bring with him a Cup. It was as if the play were already written, the script sealed and delivered, and the party and parade planned.

I guess they were beginning to think and act like their bloody rival Maple Leafs.

What Murray forgot and failed to do, was teach. He was likely guilty as his players were of enjoying the ride a little too much.

For the first 55 games, the Senators pounded all oppositiom. It was not unusual to see them win by four and five game margins. How could anything go wrong? The playoffs and the parade were going to be a breeze, right?

The Senators, rather than developing a complete game strategy that would allow them a better playoff performance - read: correcting giveaways, limiting turnovers, and enabling cohesive defensive reliability - simply strolled on with pure unabashed offensive attack.

Their arrogance turned against them.

I must say, up to this point in the last season, I was in awe of the Ottawa Senators. They were killing everybody in their path, including the dreaded and freefalling Leafs. What coach Murray failed to address, get across to players, or simply teach, was that this was simply not how playoff games were won. Then again, how would he know, having never gotten there himself!

The red flag for me clueing into all this, goes way back into a last seasons January matchup with my Canadiens. The Senators made mince meat of the Habs, minimizing them during a 4-0 defeat. I recall it as a most boring game in which the Sens held the injury laden Habs to a mere 12 shots on goal.

The post game report was of more interest than the game itself. It was reported from both the Ottawa and Montreal medias that during the game the Sens had a running bet on the bench that they would hold Montreal to less than ten shots on goal in the match. This was confirmed during post game interviews with players such as Hasek who stated the game was so easy for him, he shouldn't even be credited with a shutout.

The following day, the Montreal media printed quotes from Habs captain Saku Koivu and defenseman Sheldon Souray, who mentioned in stride that memories were long. The Habs went on to win the final three meetings between the teams, but that fact can be considered more or less irrelevant to the Canadiens evntual outcome. Habs GM Bob Gainey put it best the following day, in a display of hindsight being experince's most thought out foresight, when he stated that the Senators best measure of prowess would come in the post season, and not against an injury plagued team searching for itself in a January slide.

How right Gainey would be!

I found that the most shocking thing about the Senators quotes was that coach Murray did not bring his team to order for saying them. Murray should have admonished them and raked them over the coals for it. He weazled out of it stating that he was unaware of the things said and never fessed up to hearing such taunts.

It must be noted that two days ago, while leading 3-0 against Washington, that ugly Sens arrogance again reared the same ugly head. Capitals players again mentioned that on ice trash talk motivated them in their comeback 4-3 win. And, once again, Sens brass, dismissed it as untrue, claiming that they have no idea why it should be called into question.

Players in denial, played off Caps Alexander Ovechkin's misunderstanding of the English language for their being misquoted on ice. Ovechkin, it has been noted, gives quite a witty English interview. That Sens spin did not serve matters well in Atlanta tonight, if they care.

My thought is this. During a three game losing streak, with his job on the line - seemingly , why is coach Murray defending such actions and playing ostrich to the problems with team attitude?
Why is the GM, the owner and the media, along for the bull?

Blatantly put, the Ottawa Senators are nowhere near as good as they think they are. They still prefer to believe they are the team that has shallacked the Maple Leafs in 3 of their 5 wins this season. Based on the odd scoring flurry, they are deciving themselves into a dream that they will find a way out of their quagmire. They are predictably doomed in close games and remain susceptible with a third period lead. The arrogance remains unchecked while hope without a reality check guides them to their next defeat.

The media spin won't tell you how early into the season it really isn't anymore!

I initially predicted one of either Murray or Muckler or Alfredsson would be gone by the New Year. A week ago, in a column you may or may not have read, I upped it to right before Christmas. Today, I'll go on a limb and state that around Remembrance Day, a major move in Sens history will take place.

The Senators players are performing as if they wish a coaching change would give them life. All deny it afterwards, once it happens, that it was within their control. Truth is, it happens every year. Alfredsson is playing like guy who's forcing it big time. Either that, or he wishes he be the first to go.

In the days to come, you can almost be assured, the kiss Sens-ass Ottawa media, will be the last to pounce on any perception of the truth - until after it happens.

Their truth is always a Stanley Cup hallucination away.

And the salt you can almost hear rubbing the wounds as subtle as a falling piano, is the notion of truth that rivals Toronto and Montreal are closer to the big prize than Ottawa.

By a leap!