Thursday, November 16, 2006

The intoxicating spell of speculation

If you were watching the sports channels this week or listening to the talk radio channels the impression you have of Eugene Melnyk is that of a guy sitting deep in the bowels of Scotiabank Place, sharpening an axe, a knife and a scythe.

All day yesterday we were breathlessly told of inside information that had it that Melnyk had dispatched his trusted hatchet man to Buffalo, ready to bring down the sword upon the head of John Muckler and maybe Bryan Murray for good measure.

All in all, a fine bit of drama worthy of a Hitchcock movie or a Stephen King novel, all that was missing was for a black hooded executive to wander down to the Sens dressing room crook his finger and select a lucky candidate for execution. And all of it wild speculation that was knocked down by Roy Mlakar, who might possibly have an idea as to what Mr. Melnyk's mindset might be.

Granted the Sens are off to a rather horrid start, and we’re sure that on his Caribbean beach, Mr. Melnyk is probably a tad concerned for the state of his hockey team’s fortunes these days, but without someone of value to replace the two most mentioned possible casualties, we’re not sure that there is much to the story.

Certainly Mr. Muckler will have a lot to answer for if things don’t improve in pretty fast order, the mishandling of the Zdeno Chara situation and the apparently giant leap of faith regarding the skills of Martin Gerber will have Muckler on the list of those for the high jump for a while yet.

However, if Melnyk really does wish to throw his GM and coach to the wolves, we wonder who exactly is there out there to replace them. Philadelphia hasn’t been able to find anyone that wanted that job when it became available with the resignation of Bob Clarke.

Ken Hitchcock may be the answer but is he any better a coach than Murray at the moment, he couldn’t get the Flyers to respond to his ministrations, so who thinks the Sens would suddenly catch the fever.

Columbus recently fired their coach Gerard Callant, with Doug McLean now waiting to see what the owners decide next, he must be wondering about his fate. He said that that the Columbus ownership expected to have a name for consideration shortly, so if they’ve become hands on operators now, one wonders what they may need McLean for.

The other high profile candidate out there at the moment is Pat Quinn, but somehow we don’t see him setting up shop with the Sens, though it would add even more interest to those Leaf /Sens match ups.

Same with the perennial candidate Mike Keenan, while it may be tempting to have someone go to Ottawa ready to kick butt and take names, the current line up there doesn’t seem the kind of group that would do well under Keenan, Do the people of Ottawa want to go through what the fans of the Canucks did a number of years ago, we don’t think they want that…

In short it’s a very short list of candidates, with no one really jumping out at you that could turn a team around. The last big name that held that cache was Brian Burke when he was let go by the Canucks, and the success of the Ducks shows how a timely change of direction can turn things around. But there’s no Brian Burke sitting back there at the moment waiting for a call.

Instead it’s going to be a case of having to be patient, as painful that seems to be for Ottawa fans. The best remedy to a bad situation is winning, the Sens got back on track last night in Buffalo. And with the light of day today, the cautiously quiet Mr. Melnyk was advising everyone to calm down.

Muckler will have to make a few moves in the personnel department in order to shake things up a bit, but gutting the team and the management in the middle of the season seems like a pointless exercise that would probably cause more problems than it would solve.

But, the concept sure does keep the talking heads of radio and TV busy, something we’re sure will continue on as long as the Sens have some struggles on the ice. It comes with being the biggest goldfish in the little bowl.

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