Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Last Rites of the Sens season

General Manager John Muckler held the autopsy on Tuesday, as he examined the carnage of Saturday’s disappointing loss to and elimination by the Buffalo Sabres. For Muckler it was a cautious approach to what should come next, refusing to “blow up” the team, he suggested that running an NHL team is not quite the same as running your beer league fantasy team.

Muckler instead tentatively put forward the theory that the Senators are still a very good hockey team and that a broad brush expulsion isn’t in the cards, rather adding some components and keeping some key elements was his first concern.

The status of Captain Daniel Alfredsson seems to be secure, it’s expected that he will remain in a Sens uniform; his coach expressed full confidence in his abilities to lead the room and to remain as the on ice leader as well.

Alfredsson has been roasted by the rabid Sens fan base the last few days, the lightning rod for all that frustration of an early exit. Some of the criticism has been rather harsh and probably not warranted however Alfredsson probably more than anyone else on the roster knows the passion of the Sens fans and accepts the burden of being the face to the team’s early exit.

The easy way out would perhaps be to ask for a trade, but Alfredsson has never backed down from a challenge in the past, so one doubts if he’d bail out now with work still to be done.

One of the key elements in Muckler’s mind may be Domenic Hasek, despite the absence of the Dominator down the stretch and into the playoffs; Muckler still feels he made the right move by bringing in Hasek last year.

It’s a point he may wish to go over with his head coach, Bryan Murray in his press conference on Monday, more or less suggested that the days of the Dom in Ottawa should most likely be done. It would be interesting to hear these two guys planning strategy for next year if they aren’t even on the same page as far as the goaltender goes.

You might wonder if the two will still be on the same page when September rolls around, or even in the same organization, if they’re that far apart on some of the key issues of the franchise.

Muckler may also wish to consult with the guy that is cutting the big cheques (one of which goes to a Czech) Eugene Melnyk had fully expected to see a Stanley Cup parade in Ottawa at the end of June, that obviously is something that they can drop from the planning stages for this year.

Instead, they can begin to put together the financial packages to keep a few of the key ingredients on this team, both Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara are up for free agency and the riches that it could bring. Tough decisions will have to be made to fit everyone into a financial plan that makes sense for the team and its owner.

President Roy Mlakar and Muckler will be meeting with Melnyk shortly to discuss the season just ended and what beckons for next year. They’ll be asking him to bring out his pen and sign some cheques to keep the team on a path towards one day playing in the final round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Something tells me that those meetings would probably have gone a lot smoother with a Stanley Cup sitting on the boardroom table.

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