Playing What If

It has been a tumultuous last few weeks and with a season that the statistical probabilities are already indicating is forlorn, the fans, media and most certainly (hopefully?), Eugene Melnyk are looking for answers.

Despite the incessant clamouring for a change, nothing appears forthcoming. Sorry Bruce. Tim Murray has already gone on the record saying that a deal at this time is completely unrealistic. So sadly, this Craigslist Ottawa posting might be the most creative and proactive occurrence that we’ll see before the holidays. (Note: If we still ran The 6th Sens Store, I’d be selling t-shirts with the slogan “Something has got to give.” ~ Bruce Garrioch)

In our most recent podcast episode featuring Sean McIndoe from Down Goes Brown, Sean made one comment that I’ve spent a bit of a time thinking about.

When Bryan Murray made his ascent to the General Manager role, he did so at the expense of John Muckler – A man who was given his pink slip roughly two weeks after the team was soundly defeated in the 2007 Stanley Finals.

In retrospect, it’s hilarious to look back at the Muckler firing and acknowledge that he was let go because he couldn’t acquiesce the owner’s request to acquire Gary Roberts at the 2007 NHL Trade Deadline. Allegedly. More so, when you consider the whispers that Melnyk heavily influenced Murray’s decision to ink Alexei Kovalev to that 2-year, $10-million deal.

As much as we make fun of Muckler for failed draft picks and selling the farm to acquire veteran fodder like Bryan Smolinski and Oleg Saprykin, at least he stood up to the Euge and wouldn’t let the owner affect his hockey decisions… even if they were for the most part, wrong.

So here we are, almost three and a half seasons later. Despite the fact that the Senators have been a middling team for the past three seasons and that they have been given every opportunity to recapture the magic and get back to the 2007 Cup Finals level, until recently, Bryan Murray has been absolved of much of the blame.

The years of complacency, regression, bad coaching and poor roster mismanagement look like they have finally caught up to the organization. As the late Jim Kelley wrote,

In listening to the siren song of your new GM and former coach Bryan Murray, you, by extension, told your team their horribly one-sided loss to the Ducks in the Stanley Cup final wasn’t their fault. The statement that trickled down to a group that had always been fragile in the confidence department and almost never held accountable in the blame department is that they didn’t fail, management did.

As a result, what should have been a focused and driven group of players, a collection of talent that with a few upgrades in leadership and some additional talent could grow and perhaps finally be focused into a team that could learn from its failure, build on it and achieve something that had long been anticipated but never accomplished. Didn’t happen Eugene, instead your team went all soft again.

And that’s the problem you created, Eugene. Teams are like kids. You have to guide them into adulthood. You didn’t let that happen and as a result you don’t have a team that’s accountable for its actions.

Oh, you have some talent, you’ve had that for the better part of a decade, but there’s no real team, not like one that would force goalie Ray Emery to deflate his head and get with the program or one that would hold players in the room accountable for not scoring a goal against a team it should beat playing with blindfolds on and sticks upside down.

You’ve got a collection of guys who really haven’t won anything and don’t know how and instead of listening to a guy who has won a championship — actually, a handful of championships — you went the way so many failed parents do. You refused to accept that your child could stumble. You refused to accept failure and the need to learn from it. Instead you fired the guy who ticked you off and that told the players they could just stay in their comfy little sand box. This was Muckler’s fault. That’s what you told them and that’s what they easily accepted.

So now you’ve got nothing, Eugene. You’ve got a team without drive, a team without focus, a team without passion or purpose. Instead of having a goalie that was on the rise, you’ve got one who is on the slide. We don’t absolve him of blame for most of that (nor does Muckler get a complete pass), but think how different it might have been if he had been challenged to get just that little bit better for the good of the team and even for his own still-emerging legacy. You can say that about a lot of the players on your team, Eugene. You gave them all a crutch and, like they have so many times in the past, they took it. ~ via Sportsnet, February 28th, 2008.

It all leads to question where we’d really be had John Muckler given in to ownership’s demands and outbid the Florida Panthers for Gary Roberts.

It’s like the ultimate what if for the franchise…

  1. Would the Senators have fared better against the Ducks?
  2. Would Muckler have been retained following the ’07 Finals?
  3. Would either of Murray/Muckler still be here?
  4. Muckler never put up with Hossa’s expensive trade demands, would he have sold high (like Hossa) and moved pieces like Spezza and Heatley?

What say you?

Memo to Doug Wilson:

Yesterday, the San Jose GM was asked a question by a Mercury News reporter concerning Jonathan Cheechoo’s play in the AHL. Here was his response,

“Out of respect to cheech, we wanted to give him the opportunity to play if he didn’t cannibalize the opportunity of a younger guy. He has a great relationship with us and with Roy Sommer. The thing about Cheech is he was going to come in and work as hard as he could. He’s our leading scorer down there and I think he scored again tonight.

“As I mentioned before, this game is getting quicker and quicker and quicker. And when you lose a half-step and you’re not a great skater, it’s kind of tough. Is there a chance he could get it back? We hope so.

“But I think he just needs to play and enjoy the game of hockey. The last couple years, I think were difficult. Personally, I think he was treated unfairly in Ottawa. Sometimes you have to put a person in a role to succeed and give him a chance.

“He’s getting the chance in Worcester. He’s helping our team win games. He’s helping the young guys realize you play the game because you love it. He’s a positive experience for us. Can he get back? We’ll see. Time will tell.

Right and your insistence that the exclusion of Jonathan Cheechoo in any Heatley trade was a deal breaker wasn’t complete and utter bullshit? As much as I hate Heatley, I can’t wait for the day that he asks out of San Jose.

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