Monday, June 28, 2004

Muckler's stamp firmly on Sens now

John Muckler made two bold moves in less than 48 hours which will change the Senators fates quite a bit should there be hockey in 2004-05. One day after moving Radek Bonk to the Montreal Canadiens by way of LA. Muckler has struck again, sending Patrick Lalime to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a conditional fourth round draft pick in the 2005 draft. The movement of Lalime is expected to herald the arrival of the Dominator to Senators colours, as his agent and Muckler prepare to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

Having dumped some salary the day before when Bonk was moved. Muckler is shaking things up in the capital. The move of Bonk was not an unexpected event, he has never really lived up to expectations and his presence in the line up was a frustration to the rising talent and the fan base alike. With his departure Mike Fisher and Jason Spezza will find more ice time under new coach Bryan Murray, who has long been known as one not to put up with underperforming talent.

For Bonk the day was mixed with disappointment and excitement, disappointment at leaving a team that he had been an integral part of for many years but excitement at heading to a team on the rise. It’s expected that Bonk will end up a third line centre for Claude Julien, the pressure of playing in Ottawa transferred to the fishbowl that is hockey in Montreal

Over in St. Louis, the Blues have decided not to bring Chris Osgood back and will have to make a qualifying offer to Lalime of about 2.8 million dollars. Blues management feels that it’s a worthwhile investment. The thinking in St. Louis is that Lalime will be hungry for success after his disappointing season in Ottawa, culminating with the two soft goals that eliminated the Sens from the playoffs. An event that weighed heavily on the mind of Muckler, who despite feeling that Lalime is going to be a successful goaltender was of the belief that his road in Ottawa would be too pressure filled to tap his potential.

Up will step the Dominator, who in his prime was one of the most gifted goaltenders in the game. His years in Buffalo and Detroit the backbone of successful seasons, though his days in Buffalo were stymied by eliminations before the ultimate goal of a Stanley Cup were realized. He did win one with Detroit and it is that form that Muckler hopes will return in the form of a Happy Hasek in the Ottawa nets. It’s a gamble for Muckler, who has begun the process of eliminating the pieces of the Jacques Martin coached team of the last four years. Lalime who two years ago was hailed as the next big thing, struggled through the past season, haunted by the return on the Maple Leaf match up in the playoffs.

One wonders which Hasek will arrive, if as expected he signs on with the Sens shortly, will it be the Dominating force of the Buffalo years and that masterful Detroit Cup win, or will it be the moody, disruptive Hasek of the last few years? Chemistry is an interesting ingredient to any team, the Sens had almost the right mix in three successive seasons, unable to make that final jump. Muckler is banking on Hasek being a positive force in the quest for Stanley. It’s a roll of the dice, but sometimes you just have to take that chance.

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