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, 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.


nate. said...

This seems to be worst case scenario for the sens as Gerber is dying in there, Lee has been sent down picard is making bad mistakes. All the question marks other than secondary scoring (which is just meaningless anyways). They're still a defenceman and a goalie away from being a cup contender which is what makes me so frustrated.

Peter said...

To be fair, Murray didn't let Redden walk. He had two opportunities to trade him, but his no-trade clause (which Muckler gave him) allowed Redden to say no. Rather than unduly pressuring him to waive it, like Tampa Bay and Toronto did, he respected the agreement he had made. After the season, he had decided that $6.5 for five years is too much for Redden--and I don't see how anyone can argue with that.

As for Emery, I don't think you can say that was a decision made by the fans. He didn't even get a gig at all in the NHL; was that because Ottawa fans were ragging on him? Nope, it's because he had greatly tarnished a previously respectable (if not sparkling) reputation.

Jeremy Milks said...


Good points. However Glen Sather thought Wade Redden was worth 6.5 million. He's a Hall Of Famer with 5 Stanley Cup rings. The Rangers have been great since the lockout so you can't use the "has-been" excuse with Sather either.

My argument is not that Murray should have kept Redden at all costs, it's that it was wrong to let both Redden and Meszaros leave in the same year. One of them should still be on this team providing capable puck movement from the back end.

P.S. I should have known better than to bring up Emery again. I can confidently say that I am virtually alone on one side of that argument. I still stand by what I said.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of what you have written. I differ in that I am a lot harder on Bryan Murray.

Fourteen months ago we were in the Stanley Cup Finals with with fourth youngest team in the league that was pegged to only get better. Today, we have the the fifth oldest and it looks like we are getting worse by the day.

Check the Sens record with Redden in the lineup, and out of the lineup over the last few years to get his true value. It's indisputable.

I never understood the fixation with Emery's off ice activities by the fans or the media. From my viewpoint, what people do in their own free time is their own business. He's expected to stand in front of a net and stop rubber, not fly a plane full of people or perform a life saving operation. The players have repeatedly said that he was not a distraction and I believe them. Whatever problems he had, I think that we gave up on him too easily. He should have been punished, but not thrown off the team. Sather said it best, "If a player has talent, it's the coach and management's job to get it out of them". I'm paraphrasing, but he said something like that about 15 years ago.

Murray has been in hockey for 30 years and has not won anything, and yet we dump Muckler (five rings) for him. Detroit and Anaheim both won after Murray left, so will we.

Anonymous said...

The management have screwed up big time. Not once but over and over again.
I am sure Jaques Martin can say I told you so, especially now.

They have ignored and gotten rid of their most talented players, and seem to shed light on those players whom are inconsistent. "I.E. Spezza".

The Sens organization made the biggest mistake when they got Rid of Jaques Martin as well. By not allowing him to finnish what he started we have have seen a non consistent team since.
The Sens organization only has itself to blame I.E. higher ups.

I feel the fans should be ashamed as when players do well , oh yeah they are fans but when a player has a bad game or few or more bad games, the fans cuss and diss the player instead of supporting them. They are only human.

This new Sens Team are not the "True" Team of old and no one will ever replace them or their skill. Had they been allowed to complete what they started without the disruptions of changing the head coach and great players, we would have seen the Stanley cup by now.

So what the organization sows is what it reaps.
Whether they gel and do great, they are still not the Sens who put Hockey in Ottawa on the Map.

I don't have the same passion for this new team or the organization. I wish htem Well.

Hmm hasn't Wade Redden been playing well in New York, doing what he did so well, assisting his team mates, first goal, last goal etc.
He deserves a great apology from Ottawa that is for sure.

If there were unspoken problems they should have been worked out, he should not have been thrown out.

If there are or were addictions with members of the team, coaches etc should not be in denial about it, punish the ring leaders not the victims. Get them the correct resources to help them make healthier choices.

Being honest and direct usually brings results. Hididng things and denying things only makes the organization look foolish as there are those whom see and know what goes on outside of the arena.

Support and Protect your players, especially in times when they are vulnerable because of loss etc.

Hope by reading this people are able to step outside the box and see from all angles.
Just giving people soemthing to think about.

Little eyes are watching you
There are little eyes upon you
and they're watching night and day.
There are little ears that quickly
take in every word you say.

There are little hands all eager
to do anything you do;
And a little boy who's dreaming
of the day he'll be like you.

You're the little fellow's idol,
you're the wisest of the wise.
In his little mind about you
no suspicions ever rise.

He believes in you devoutly,
holds all you say and do;
He will say and do, in your way
when he's grown up just like you.

There's a wide eyed little fellow
who believes you're always right;
and his eyes are always opened,
and he watches day and night.

You are setting an example
every day in all you do;
For the little boy who's waiting
to grow up to be like you.

So to all who read this, or play sports etc, all those who walk our roads in life.
Remember there are "Little Eyes, Watching You".

TheHux said...

I agree with Jeremy. Emery was the best goalie we have ever had (which maybe isn't saying much), but I was all for keeping Emery and getting rid of Gerber. Backup-quality goalies like Gerber are a dime a dozen. I would rather have had the team take the financial hit on Gerber who has proven that he can't, instead of on Emery who proved he can.

And besides, Emery was just so much more interesting.

Anonymous said...

Murray needs to go. This team needs a top notch coach. Murray hired Paddock, and now Hartsburgh, and the team gets worse and worse. Hartsburgh needs to be taken to task for badmouthing Gerber to the press. That is NOT going to help, it is tacky low level, and classless. Stick up for your players in public, and coach them for pity sakes. These players are good guys, and they are great hockey players-all of them, each in their own way. THEY NEED COACHING. This is a TEAM, not an indivicual sport. COACH!!!!

Anonymous said...

You can blame TSN for overblowing the emery situation. Around the clock coverage isnt always such a great thing...