Senators Deal Falls Through

Bryan Murray created quite the stir when he admitted in a media availability session this morning that he believed he was close to consummating a deal.

The keyword is that he was close. Apparently whatever opportunity there was to make such a deal has passed.

“I’ve talked to a number of managers. I think there’s a lot of people just saying, ‘We’d like to do something.’ But, there’s nothing on the horizon right now. I had a couple of teams I was talking fairly serious to about a smaller type deal that would add one player to our team, but it doesn’t appear it’s going to happen at this point. As of now, we are what we are.”

Murray never really disclosed whether it was him or another GM who affected the outcome of the trade. With that in mind, it’s worth reminding fans of Wayne Scanlan’s article from January 28th that illustrated Murray’s irresolution concerning whether the organization should be a buyer or seller.

“Do I add or subtract UFAs?” Murray said on Tuesday. “The team will decide that issue over the next couple of weeks.”

Already six points back of the first wild card seed, tomorrow night’s game in Pittsburgh may be the ideal litmus test for Murray to gauge how much of a threat the Senators can be.

Should the Penguins finish the regular season as the Eastern Conference’s top seed and the Senators claw their way up the standings and secure the second wild card seed, these two teams will face each other in the playoffs for the fourth time in seven seasons.

In their previous three series, Ottawa has only managed to win three of the fifteen games and judging by a recent Twitter poll that I put to this blog’s readership, the confidence that the Senators could eke out a series win mirrors Alfie’s confidence from last season when he was asked whether he thought the Senators had a chance to come back from their 3-1 series deficit.

I’m obviously getting ahead of myself, but allow me to delve into some hypotheticals here. Should the Senators play and lose to Pittsburgh again, their four career series defeats would match their futility against Toronto. (Note: Ottawa lost four playoff series to Toronto in a five season span.)

Yet despite this relatively recent suffering, there will not be that same level of introspective criticism or analysis for how the Senators have been built and why they cannot seem to get over the hump.

Granted, during this seven season span, we’ve seen the Senators transition from a Stanley Cup finalist desperately trying to hold on to its pretender status to that of a youngish team that is trying to prove it can compete with the NHL’s elite. Whereas during the Toronto series, talented Senators teams were undone by playing on the perimeter, untimely penalties and abhorrently shitty goaltending in series clinching games.

Obviously the build-up and emotional investments between Pittsburgh and Toronto series are a little different.

Toronto’s the natural geographic rival and many Leafs fans were born and bred before the Senators’ modern rebirth. Plenty of Leafs fans reside in this city and many of us work with these smug fucks on a daily basis. Eventually all of the losses, the incessant ribbing and the fact that the Leafs are a major market team competing against small to-mid-market team in Ottawa helped breed a lot of insecurities.

Fans began to loathe the CBC broadcasts because the national games were always Toronto broadcasts – which led to a better familiarity with the players and the numbers they wore.

Even as the cyclical nature of hockey took effect and the Leafs became mired in a vortex of shit, Senators fans took issue with the fact that a contending Senators team never really got the same level attention or respect that their rivals down the 401 received – leading resentful fans to dub TSN the Toronto Sports Network.

Over the years, in spite of the Leafs irrelevance, the bitterness from these series defeats has never really subsided. You can go to a Panthers/Senators game in November and the first out of town score that you’ll see will inevitably be a Leafs game followed by the organist playing some ditty that culminates with the crowd chanting “Leafs Suck” at the appropriate moment. It’s designed to rile the masses and drive the in-arena atmosphere that is devoid of one.

It’s been almost ten full years since the Sens met the Leafs last, but this lingering animosity still resides. (Hell, look at me, I’ve twisted a trade possibility piece into a Pens/Leafs comparison.)

When contrasted with each loss to the Penguins, the magnified effect that each Leafs loss carried for the Senators, it just isn’t there. Whenever the Sens lost a game, fans wanted someone to pay the price – whether it was Patrick Lalime or Jacques Martin, the fans wanted heads to roll.

If Ottawa were to lose to Pittsburgh, you can rest assured that it wouldn’t carry the same weight that did with Toronto. But, maybe it should?

At some point, the organization has to come to the realization that it needs more elite talent to compete with the NHL’s best teams. So does it make sense for the organization to willingly move future assets for a rental who will assuredly walk away at the conclusion of the season?

I’m not convinced, but here we are.

When asked whether the proposed deal was to add a forward or a defenceman, Bryan complimented the growth of the defensive unit and pointed to another need.

“I think our defence is going to be okay, despite occasional games where we have turnovers. I think our defence is young, it’s big and it’s pretty mobile. It’s getting better. There’s no question that a couple of our players back there are playing better. Adding Cody (Ceci) to our lineup has helped considerably, so if we can find one more forward of a particular type, I think that would help us.”

The organization has repeatedly expressed its intent to scavenge the impending UFA market – looking for a rental who can help the organization in the short-term without handcuffing the organization’s budget in the long-term.

Perhaps the organization’s long-term interests would be better served if it held onto its future assets for the purpose of drafting or parlaying as part of a package to net a young player or draft pick.

Murray’s full media availability can be seen below:

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