November 07, 2006

What's Wrong with the Ottawa Senators?: Why has a team seemingly bursting with talent continued to disappoint? Why the perpetual playoff pathos, brought sharply into focus this season with a 5-7-1 record? Longtime blogger Chris McMurtry puts forth his official theory: It's all John Muckler's fault.

posted by DrJohnEvans to hockey at 08:42 PM - 33 comments

Hopefully this is just a glitch in the matrix, and Ottawa will pull things together. Detroit started out of the gate limping, but has since got their stool samples together. It's too early in the season to blow a gasket yet, though. We still have quite a few games to be played.

posted by wingnut4life at 12:50 AM on November 08, 2006

This is some serious sour grapes. Muckler hasn't made nearly as bad moves as this guy implies, and the way he frames it blames Muckler for things that happened not as a result of trades, but of other circumstances. And I defy anyone to suggest that the Heatley deal wasn't the best one available. He's not the calibre of Hossa? Uh - I'd maybe re-think that. And the Hasek deal? He was playing great before he got injured (which was probably inevitable, but still - not a performance issue). I mean - GMs can't play the game. You look at the talent in that dressing room and I would say without hesitation that, while he hasn't been perfect (and no one is), Muckler has given that club a good chance to compete at the highest levels. They just haven't got it done. The pieces are absolutely there.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 07:56 AM on November 08, 2006

Having not tasted the Spezza Kool-Aide I, like McMurty was scratching my head when he was rewarded for the disappearing act he preformed last year against the Sabre's in the playoffs with a fat short-term contract. When you get a contract like that one would expect to see some leadership from this player. Instead we see dissension in the ranks, personified by Alexei Kaigorodov's refusal to accept an assignment to Binghampton. It appears Muckler is being compelled to consider bold moves, the latest being the impending trade of Captain Daniel Alfredsson (to the Kings!) by an ordinary start to this long NHL season. It's not as if the goalie haven't done there job despite Gerber's (2.88 GAA, .917 SV%) collapse in one game and Emery going strong (1.86 GAA, .939 SV%). I've said it before and it bears repeating, you can't consistently win NHL games by platooning Goalies. Pick a guy and stick with him. Players need a strong attachment to the guy in the pipes and if you go out and get a guy like Gerber and pay him that kind of money play him. At least they've had the sense to not rush Wadden into the fray before he's healthy enough to hold-up for the season. That's the piece this team really needs to regain the confidence we're so used to seeing from a Sens Squad. Remember it's not the President's Cup that matters in this league. (Ask the Red Wings) but what happens to get this team into the playoffs. Senator fans need to tune-down the distress signals, it's only early November.

posted by skydivedad at 07:58 AM on November 08, 2006

Maybe they're just getting the annual playoff fold out of the way early this season? Seriously, they'll be fine, although I do see some sort of trade coming down the pike. I doubt it'll be Alfredsson, but I can see them moving Emery for a solid defenseman.

posted by wfrazerjr at 08:54 AM on November 08, 2006

-They should've stuck with Emery, and got him a back up. -Arnason wasn't the greatest of rmoves, though it appears another change of scenery is what the doctor ordered. -Murray gets out-coached on the regular. Sabres' fans joke about it. -I would've kept Chara and let Redden walk. Marketing considerations aside, mobile defensemen are sprouting up around the league like mushrooms, but mobile giants are very rare. -Havlat wasn't given the ice time he should've played. Though he is peanut brittle. Having said all that, the Sens have tons of talent. They just need to get their heads on straight. Going up 3-0 early in the midst of a losing streak and getting cocky is symptomatic of an attitude problem, and I don't think Muckler has much to do with that. Then again, maybe he does. Muckler needs to look at how Tampa Bay handled their slow start, placing the onus on the players to wake up, rather than firing somebody just to fire somebody.

posted by garfield at 09:35 AM on November 08, 2006

I doubt it'll be Alfredsson, but I can see them moving Emery for a solid defenseman. I sure hope so. Having Martin Gerber as a number two goalie in fantasy hockey might actually become beneficial.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 09:47 AM on November 08, 2006

I didn't like John Muckler in Buffalo (I hold him personally responsible for running Ted Nolan out of the NHL for a decade over petty vindictive bullshit), and I'm inclined to give him no slack whatsoever here. But to be honest, I'm with the don't-panic crowd. Spezza, Alfredsson and Heatley have enough leadership ability between them that this team can't help but forge some kind of identity long before playoff time. Even without Chara, the defense is solid, and Ray Emery should only get more work as the season goes forward (my fantasy team is begging for this). They'll be fine. The playoffs are another story, but don't go having kittens over the Sens' season yet.

posted by chicobangs at 09:48 AM on November 08, 2006

DJE, Succa, and any other Spofi Sens' fans, what say you?

posted by garfield at 10:13 AM on November 08, 2006

The Spezza contract is a fantastic contract. I don't get all the bitching. It's not a long term deal and it's moveable if need be. Same with Redden. Ottawa has flexibility with these deals. But Spezza rewarded for disappearing in the Buffalo series? Ottawa was the completely inferior team in that series - and I'd start in net. Hanging that on Spezza - who's per game point average was in the top five in the league (top FIVE) - is ridiculous. Arnasson cost them little or nothing, Smolinski wasn't the answer anyway (and if you thought so, blogger, you're in the minority) and Chara was going to command a five year 7 million deal - so instead they keep Redden at a fraction of that total cost. All good moves save resigning Smolinski. They just aren't playing well. And the pressure to change is going to be very beneficial to other teams. Go ahead, blow it up less than 20 games into the year. That's a better idea?

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:26 AM on November 08, 2006

Go ahead, blow it up less than 20 games into the year Speaking as a Leafs fan, I whole-heartedly concur.

posted by garfield at 11:55 AM on November 08, 2006

DJE, Succa, and any other Spofi Sens' fans, what say you? I don't think that this year is really fundamentally different than any in recent memory: the main difference is that they're having their slow streak at the beginning of the year instead of in March. Nonetheless, it's still a manifestation of the lack of consistency that has always plagued this team. They have the talent to play a strong game at both ends of the ice, controlling the pace of the game and keeping the movement flowing in their favour, but they can't seem to do that for more than twenty or thirty minutes at a time. Living outside the Ottawa media market, I'm not in a position to expertly break down the players' performances on the ice (I actually get all my comprehensive game reviews from Chris McMurty's blog), but with the same problems occurring through so many roster changes, the blame seems to settle quite naturally on the coaching and administration. More than a year into his tenure, I do not know what Bryan Murray brings to the team. I don't know what his offensive or defensive philosophies are. I don't know what kind of game he wants to see on the ice. I don't know what he's telling his players to do. All that I know is that he's not as anal about defense as Martin was, and that he has no patience with his lines and like to shuffle them at least once a week. Is he single-handedly destroying this team? Probably not, but I don't see what he's doing to help, either. I'm not a big fan of knee-jerk coach firings, but if Murray were canned, I can't see how it would immediately hurt the team. Depends on his replacement. Still, that's unlikely to happen, because Murray is a Muckler hire. As for Muckler himself: I do not have great confidence in his management ability. He has a great pedigree and I have a lot of respect for that, but his recent actions make him out to be a little too sensitive to the trigger-happy Ottawa media. The Greg de Vries, Tyler Arnason, and Martin Havlat deals all seemed to be made only because everybody thought a deal should be made. Maybe even the Smolinski move too. John Muckler seems to be adept enough at mucking about at the right timeówitness the excellent Hossa-Heatley dealóbut his impatience at the wrong time is what worries me. This team was not built on impatience. Short-term: the problems are not as big as they are being made out to be. The fundamentals of successful hockey, goaltending and defence, are there. 2nd in the conference goals against is pretty good when you're third-last in points. This team doesn't need scoring itself, but scoring consistency. These guys on the roster have to be hitting the ice with the same mindset every single shift. These guys have to be patient, disciplined, and focussed. Whoever's responsibility that is... they're the ones to blame right now.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 01:14 PM on November 08, 2006

Well it's now five losses in a row, following another meltdown in Atlanta, where the Senators were unable to hold on to 3-1 and 4-2 leads. It does smell like a coach and/or GM getting fired.

posted by qbert72 at 08:03 AM on November 09, 2006

Today sees the standard response from the team: Sens' owner & president back Muckler & Murray

posted by garfield at 10:35 AM on November 09, 2006

Yea. I watched parts of the Sens game last night, it was good to see Redden back but he didn't have alot of jump early even as the rest of the squad built an early 3-0 lead. Hey, they got a point out of it at least and remember they played the Thashers not exactly a push over now days, take the point and count your blessings. They did show enough offense early so that Hedberg had to get janked down 4-0. Lehtinen and the Atlanta offense seized the momentum and ultimately the 2nd point. Also heard the Alfredsson + _______ for Conroy, Kopitar and Norstrom hasn't been dismissed by Muckler as a possibility. They could use a Norstrom type D'man for sure.

posted by skydivedad at 11:16 AM on November 09, 2006

Lombardi would be foolish to let go of Kopitar.

posted by garfield at 11:39 AM on November 09, 2006

skydivedad, you're mixing up the Atlanta game with the Washington game. The Sens lost in regulation last night, blowing two separate two-goal leads. I do not see any trade helping right now. This team doesn't need a burst of enthusiasm, they have lots of those. They need to convert those bursts into consistent play.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 11:47 AM on November 09, 2006

Off topic: Just in case anyone here doesn't know about yet, go check it out. Great stuff.

posted by garfield at 11:53 AM on November 09, 2006

Sens' owner & president back Muckler & Murray Oh, the dreaded vote of confidence. They're toast.

posted by qbert72 at 12:19 PM on November 09, 2006

Right you are good DrJE. Silly of me considering I was in the campfire with you, goddam and skydivewifey as the Sens game was ending. I was watching the Wings game in my office at the time and had watched most of the 1st period of the Sens game. The trade rumor I heard again on a National Sports Talk Radio program this AM.

posted by skydivedad at 12:38 PM on November 09, 2006

Yeah, the rumours will fly until either a) a deal is actually done, or b) the team actually starts playing well. I just don't think it's a good idea right now, although I would not be surprised if Muckler pulls some boneheaded deal.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 12:51 PM on November 09, 2006

Lombardi would be foolish to let go of Kopitar. Probably - only because he's young, Alfredsson isn't (though he's not exactly old) and the Kings don't seem poised to go anywhere this year or next. But I like that deal better if I'm a Kings fan, than an Ottawa fan. But to suggest Kopitar is that much of a jewel is a bit premature, no? I think it'd be outstanding if he could ever approach Alfredsson's career production. My question is: why Ottawa would want that deal? Norstrom is the guy that could probably have the most impact immediately - but it's not like Ottawa doesn't have a talented blueline. Only one puck, guys - he'd be lower on the depth chart than probably Redden, Phillips, Mezaros and maybe even Corvo (when he returns). Not bad - but that's it for Alfredsson? A number 3 d-man and rookie centre for the second line? Where's Mike Fischer going to play, then? And Craig Conroy isn't much of an improvement. LA is dying to get rid of him. I would think the Coyotes have some more attractive players for Ottawa - Nagy and Doan to be specific. Oh - and they lost that Atlanta game because Gerber sucked. He was letting in un-screened thirty footers in the third. Now THAT'S how you make a GM look bad.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 12:55 PM on November 09, 2006

Funny you use the word 'jewel', as Lombardi used the word 'gem' to describe the Slovenian. He does lead the Kings in points, ahead of Frolov and Cammalleri. The high slap shot from Mellanby really rattled Gerber.

posted by garfield at 01:21 PM on November 09, 2006

So Alfie for Nabokov, then? I've got my finger on the trigger, here. I lost all respect in Gerber after his (non-)showing againts the Canadiens in last year's playoffs. I'm with you on the Sens D. They're pretty good as it is. Corvo is back. Preissing is not that bad. The biggest talent problem is in net. Other than that, it's an attitude problem. Hence, Murray is toast. Muckler almost.

posted by qbert72 at 01:21 PM on November 09, 2006

With all the reliability in net the Sens have enjoyed throughout their modern history, maybe they need to hire Bobby Clarke as the new GM.

posted by garfield at 01:26 PM on November 09, 2006

garfield's right. That Mellanby shot may have even hurt Gerber. The Ottawa Citizen recap speculated about the possibility of a concussion, although Gerber says he'll play tonight. If Kelly Guard isn't your backup goalie, Gerber gets pulled there. Maybe he should've been anyway. q and Weedy are also right. The Sens' D is fine. In fact, even up front, the Sens really don't have any glaring holes that could be easily addressed with a trade. Alfredsson - Spezza - Heatley Schaefer - Vermette - McAmmond Hamel - Fisher - Eaves McGrattan - Kelly - Neil This is not a bad team. A trade now would be making a deal for the sake of making a deal, which is definitely not how Ottawa got this far to begin with.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 01:52 PM on November 09, 2006

I think you have to go get a goalie with Alfredsson. That and/or a front line player; they wouldn't be making a huge mistake sticking with Emery, but they've already kinda made it by riding him all through the playoffs and then signing Gerber in his face. So I like targeting Nabokov. I've only watched one Kings game and Kopitar looked pretty good, but I can't say I've was blown away - he isn't really a speedy guy (BTW, garf - that article compared his production to Ovechkin and Crosby. That's more than a little misleading. He doesn't seem to have that kind of game at all). But the Sens don't really need more centres. They really don't even need too many forwards - they need a goalie and an attitude shift. That's why I like a Shane Doan, or similar type. Guy who can play on the top-line, in the corners. I think that's a better fit. This is all of us agreeing that they should deal Alfredsson right? I mean, that's basically the best hockey move they can make. Firing Murray and Muckler is okay, but these things rarely have the same impact for very long.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:00 PM on November 09, 2006

I think personnel isn't the problem, apart from Gerber. I think a new coach/management team could do wonders. And you just have to look to Toronto for an example of how a different franchise mind set with basically the same player pieces can produce a drastically different on-ice result. Getting Nabokov would a good move, but I don't know how you make that work. And Doan would make the Sens an immediate post-season threat. Yeah, that article is from week three of the season, so the "Can someone challenge Malkin" hype was cranked to overload. But I still take what Lombardi said about him as gold.

posted by garfield at 02:15 PM on November 09, 2006

So Alfie for Nabokov, then? I've got my finger on the trigger, here. I lost all respect in Gerber after his (non-)showing againts the Canadiens in last year's playoffs. I don't like them trading Alfredson for Nabokov. The Senators have a quality goalie in Emery, and to throw away the towel right now with Gerber seems foolish. I may be wrong, but I think Gerber can improve his performance.

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 02:17 PM on November 09, 2006

Oh, and another item for the 'fire the coach' column; apparently Murray admitted to never talking to the team after a loss. How stupid is that?

posted by garfield at 02:24 PM on November 09, 2006

I saw that, garfield. That's pretty stupid.

posted by DrJohnEvans at 03:22 PM on November 09, 2006

Isn't it? Unbelievable almost. Talk about not capitalizing on an opportunity to improve the team. Makes me wonder what he says after wins. "You guys rock. Take tomorow off!"

posted by garfield at 03:26 PM on November 09, 2006

Pat Quinn did that for years. He wouldn't talk to guys after, before, during...

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 08:28 PM on November 09, 2006

I'm with garfield on this one. As a Leaf fan, I'm really hoping the Senators overreact and make a stupid trade in order to get "character" or "leadership". They have one of the most dynamic teams in the NHL, and the potential to blow 7 goals by you before you can even blink. Losing Chara was a bigger blow to their team than most people first thought, but having Meszaros, Phillips and Redden on your defence still puts you ahead of more than 75% of the NHL today. Their goal tending might not be top notch, but they only need league average in order to be dangerous. Give Emery/Gerber a bit longer and I think they'll be fine with winning games 6-3 and 5-4. Grant Fuhr made a living by doing just that for the mid-80s Oilers. This is all of us agreeing that they should deal Alfredsson right? Then who are the mindless Leaf fans supposed to boo when the Sens come to town?

posted by grum@work at 08:44 AM on November 13, 2006

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