Monday, June 18, 2007

Well, no one really deserves to be fired on Father's Day!

The confusing status of the upper management of the Ottawa Senators continues to percolate into day three, as the Sens remain tight lipped Sunday on whether GM John Muckler was to remain with the team.

The story of Muckler's imminent demise first broke on Friday, with two officials confirming for the Ottawa Sun that the GM was soon to be dismissed, perhaps as early as Sunday. Well, someone at the Sens office must have grabbed a calendar and realized that firing a guy on Father's Day probably isn't going to generate you much goodwill, so nothing happened other than more rumours were incubated in the murky twenty four hour period.

As it stands now, early morning in Ottawa, the Muckler situation has not been cleared up and the status of coach Bryan Murray now comes into play, with reports that he might be offered a job in Boston if the Sens decide on a general house cleaning.

The latest mystery in Ottawa, certainly is out of character for the team considering it's professionalism over the last few years. Suddenly, with the weekend of confusion and innuendo, the Sens have been transfered back to the stumbling, bumbling days of the start up of this franchise, days when you certainly wondered if they had a plan, knew where they put it and could pull it together in time for the start of the season.

Instead, of the self assured face that the team has presented in the last few years, this week provided a reminder that chaos is always just around a corner.

Whatever decision they decide to make, they had best get a move on with it and make it quickly. The amateur draft is coming up on Friday, lets hope the only thing amateur about the Sens that day will be the players they pick and not the state of management as they sit at the table!

Muckler's status remains in limbo
With the fate of general manager John Muckler and head coach Bryan Murray unknown, the probability is that only one will remain in a position of power when Senators owner Eugene Melnyk makes his final determination, reports Allen Panzeri.
Allen Panzeri
The Ottawa Citizen
Monday, June 18, 2007

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk continued yesterday to contemplate an extreme upper-manager makeover that could end up with general manager John Muckler being swept aside in favour of coach Bryan Murray.

Despite an initial indication from president Roy Mlakar that Muckler's fate would be decided by the end of the weekend, there was no word from the NHL club last night.

That's likely an indication that the decisions have been more difficult to reach than initially believed.

Several media outlets speculated on the weekend that Muckler would be fired, but the Senators have denied that, with the only word from Melnyk so far being a statement to TSN's Bob McKenzie on Friday.

"We are continuing to have ongoing discussions with management on the future direction and therefore the roles of everyone at the senior level," Melnyk's statement said.

"We had a great year, and I am very proud of what my team has achieved. Saying that, I am always evaluating what we can do, both short term and long term, to continue the momentum and lead us to a Stanley Cup victory next year and for years to come."

There was no comment from either Murray or Muckler yesterday.

Mlakar issued a statement on Saturday that said the roles of senior managers were being reviewed.

Muckler, who won five Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers, has one year left on his contract as general manager. He then has a two-year contract to serve as a consultant to the Senators.
If Melnyk wants to install Murray as general manager, he'll either have to buy out the rest of Muckler's contract or find him another job in the organization.

Melnyk could, for example, shift Muckler, 73, to his consulting role immediately, making way for Murray, 64, who is without a contract and ranks as a valuable commodity in the NHL market.
If the Senators don't re-sign him to be either general manager or coach, it's thought Murray will be a prime candidate for the Boston Bruins' coaching vacancy.

That Muckler's head is being readied for the chopping block is likely an indication that he has run out of chances, of which he has had plenty.

He joined the Senators in June 2002, replacing Marshall Johnston, with whom the team is still involved in a dispute over pay.

The Senators have qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs in each season since Muckler was hired, but their postseason record has been spotty.

In 2002-2003, the Senators made it to the Eastern Conference final before losing in seven games to the New Jersey Devils.

In 2003-2004, they was eliminated by the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the first round.

Two days later, Muckler fired coach Jacques Martin. A month after that, Muckler traded centre Radek Bonk and goaltender Patrick Lalime.

In 2005-2006, their first year with Murray as head coach, the Senators got past the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round, but were eliminated in five games in the second round by the Buffalo Sabres.

Muckler took a gamble by signing goaltender Dominik Hasek as a free agent in 2005 and it almost paid off, However, Hasek got hurt during the Turin Olympics and never played again for the Senators.

While Muckler couldn't be blamed for Hasek's injury, he nonetheless had to take responsibility for gambling on Hasek.

Another mark against Muckler was that his trade-deadline deals never delivered enough to put the Senators over the top: 2003, Vaclav Varada, Rob Ray and Bryan Smolinski; 2004, Todd Simpson, Peter Bondra, and Greg de Vries; 2006, Mike Morrison and Tyler Arnason; and 2007, Oleg Saprykin and Lawrence Nycholat.

While the team made it to the final this year, Muckler had some notable failures, overpaying Joe Corvo ($10.6 million U.S. over four years) and Martin Gerber ($11.1 million U.S. over three years). Plus, he lost Zdeno Chara to free agency.

Muckler did well to acquire Mike Comrie for suspended Russian centre Alexei Kaigorodov, but Comrie will be lost to free agency because the Senators can't afford to pay him $3 million U.S. per season.

Dean McAmmond ($725,000 U.S.) ended up being the one unblemished addition from last summer, and he didn't have a large role since he was primarily used as a fourth-line player.
Of other moves Muckler made while with the Senators, only two have had significant impacts: the 2005 trade that brought Dany Heatley from Atlanta for Marian Hossa and de Vries and the 2002 deal that brought Peter Schaefer from Vancouver for Sami Salo.

The 2006 trade that brought Tom Preissing, Michal Barinka, and Josh Hennessy for Martin Havlat might still work out, but Preissing could be lost to free agency on July 1, Barinka remains at home in the Czech Republic and Hennessy is not yet ready for the NHL.

One rumour last night had former Senators captain Randy Cunneyworth, presently the head coach of the Rochester Americans, returning to Ottawa as head coach. But Cunneyworth said there was no truth to the rumour.

No comments: