Thursday, October 23, 2008
A Good Team, But Not A Great Team
Nobody should be jumping all over Ottawa GM Bryan Murray just yet. He deserves time to fix this team. But, all the same, he better damn well fix it.
This version of the Ottawa Senators can be a good team, probably a playoff team, but as it stands right now, there is simply not enough talent to contend for the Stanley Cup. Not on forward, not on defense and especially not in goal.
While it was John Muckler who let Zdeno Chara walk away for nothing to Beantown, Murray worsened the problem by allowing franchise defenseman Wade Redden to also leave without compensation and traded away the team’s last true offensive defenseman in Andrej Meszaros. They might not have been fan favourites but you can’t deny that their loss has had a negative impact on this team.
That’s not a criticism of their replacements like Filip Kuba, Jason Smith and Alex Picard. They’re playing exactly as advertised and in the same manner that they’ve done throughout their careers. Smith in particular, was a great addition to this team. But Redden and Meszaros were too valuable to let go all at once and now Murray is going to have trade away some valuable forwards or prospects to fix the problem.
Under Murray, too often it’s been the fans who’ve run the team. They wanted Ray Emery gone and he was sent packing. They wanted Redden and Meszaros gone and they got their wish. When the fans finally turn on Martin Gerber (and that's right around...now), he’ll be gone too. Next up is boo-bird favourites Jason Spezza and Chris Neil whose only crimes are that fans are simply too familiar with them. They’re bored with them. Small faults are turned into irreconcilable sins. The Senators fans crave constant change and no player is too valuable to spare their wrath.
Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that the fans wanted Daniel Alfredsson traded. Call-in shows and message boards were filled with anti-Alfie rants but not many will admit to taking part in it now.
Murray was quoted numerous times saying that he wanted the fans to have a team they could be proud of and not the bunch of carousing personalities who were dispatched to other teams, and in Emery’s case, to another country altogether.
The problem is that those players took their skills with them and Murray has not suitably replaced them. Ray Emery, love him or hate him, was the most successful goalie the Senators ever employed and despite his issues last season, was on track to have a real solid career in the NHL with a Stanley Cup run already on his resume.
Yes, he was immature but that’s not out of the ordinary in big league sports. Kids grow out of it. Grant Fuhr grew out of it. Mark Messier grew out of it (Messier used to miss planes and buses in his younger days and was sent to the minors by Glen Sather as punishment), Patrick Roy never grew out of it but he still won anyways. Murray made a fair decision to buy Emery out but it’s hard to believe that he truly thought he could succeed with Gerber as his number one goalie this year.
Yet there’s Gerber letting in the same soft goals, deflating his team in the early stages of important games and the defense can’t even execute a puck-transition strategy because they simply don’t have the high-end skill.
Character is great. Who could argue with that? But the first thing you need to win in this league is skill. Pure and simple.
Ottawa once had an abundance of it but the great “character purges” have left this team weak in too many areas to properly compete for the Stanley Cup.
You could bring the whole team home to meet mom but that’s still not going to win you anything.
Murray has done his part to bring in character. Now he has to get some skill back in this lineup before it’s too late for veterans like Alfie and Chris Phillips to taste some much deserved champagne.
More Senators Theme Song Blues
Finally attended my first game at the rink last night, and like everyone has been saying, the Senators traditional theme song had been replaced by some awful, anonymous and meaningless commercial radio crap.
It's not enough that the music guy plays the same types of songs all through the game. He has to play it in the only spot that was sacred - when the Senators take the ice.
The visuals were great, the lighting was great and the crowd was great. Then... a big fat nothing. It actually seemed to kill emotion it was so ... ordinary. Maybe that's what's wrong with Gerbs this year... he can't get into it without the Ottawa civic anthem.
Remember how the theme song would build with deep pulses as the rink went dark until pouring forth in all it's corny but heartwarming glory?
Why Roy Mlakar? Why have you ripped the only tradition the Senators have had since day one? You keep changing the sweaters every two years. You change the logo every four years? You hire cheap actors to don clumsy outfits and embarrass the whole organization nationally during the playoffs.
Why couldn't you leave the simple little Senators song alone? It didn't hurt nobody.
If your bummed out by this heinous turn of events, feel free to contact the team through their website. They do read and usually respond to e-mails. Or start a petition. Or just forget about it. Either way.