Tuesday, May 16, 2006

John Muckler should be fired

Three days removed from being eliminated, a lot of fingers are being pointed, but the crux of the blame needs to be put on one mans shoulders: general manager John Muckler.

This is not to suggest the players or the coaching staff should be off the hook entirely, but there is no doubt in my mind that Muckler is the #1 man at fault, and therefore, he should no longer have a job.

Muckler held a press conference today in Ottawa, which I assume means he’s been given a vote of confidence from owner Eugene Melnyk. This, I believe, it a mistake.

It’s time for John Muckler to fall on the sword.

It is the mistakes that Muckler made that failed this team.

The Dominik Hasek saga has been written about to death, but it deserves one final wrap-up. In short, it was an absolute clusterfuck of a brainfart on Muckler’s part. No other spin can be applied.

I’ve seen some try and defend the move by saying “well, if it worked out, we’d be calling Muckler a genius”. That’s true, we would. But he didn’t. And the same way that he should be praised for the good moves he’s done (and aren’t there a whole lot of them?), he has to be taken to task for his failures. This is a big one.

And it failed for all the reasons everyone said it would. He was a 40+ goalie with a history of bad groins (dress it up as an abductor if you want, it’s all the same to me). On top of that, he has a history of not being willing to play if he’s not 100%, and he decides that, not the team’s medical staff. When he’s not playing, he likes to stick around the team, however, and cause all sorts of drama.

When Hasek went down with the injury, and wasn’t back in the couple weeks the original diagnosis indicated he would, a move should have been made. The writing was on the wall, and it was becoming clear Hasek was done. Muckler refused to believe this, and I contend that this was by choice. He was so determined to have his Hasek roll of the dice work out he put huge blinders on. He told anyone who would listen Dominik Hasek would be back in time for the playoffs.

Ray Emery played well down the stretch, and so the urgency wasn’t there, but it’s the GMs job to have backup plans, and beyond “Dom will be back. No, really, he will. I promise!”, they had none.

By March, it was becoming clear to even idiots like myself Hasek wasn’t coming back. I said as much, and though I’d love to say I have some Kreskin-esque superpowers, the truth was even Stevie Wonder could see how this was going to play out.

I believe at this point they got worried, and realized they might need a better back-up to Emery than Billy Thompson. So got Mike Morrison off waivers.

At the press conference today, Muckler said that there wasn’t anything available in goaltending at a reasonable price at the deadline. Well no shit. The NHL knew they had you by the balls and demanded something solid in return, even for a rent-a-player. This wasn’t the first time this would happen to Muckler, but more on that later.

100% of the blame for Hasek shouldn’t be put on Muckler, though the majority of it belongs there. I question the wisdom of playing Hasek so much in the first half of the season. I’m no doctor, but I have to think an “abductor” doesn’t just get hurt overnight. The wear and tear of playing a lot of hockey had to contribute.

When everyone acknowledged that Hasek was brought here to win a Cup and perform in the playoffs, why was he played into the ground in October, November, and December?

The people who try to argue this team lost because of bad goaltending are off base, but even Murray now admits players told him having Hasek around all the time, and constantly being asked questions about his status, was a distraction. You can’t pin the loss on it, but those little things don’t help.

If Hasek went down with a shoulder injury, I could buy the “well, he got hurt, what can you do” nonsense. But it was by the book, and the only one who seemed surprised by it all was the guy who’s job it is to be on top of it.

Unfortunately for Muckler, the errors didn’t end in nets. Tyler Arnason was a disaster, and to hear Muckler say that he plans to qualify Arnason makes me question his sanity even more. He refuses to recognize it was an error and that Arnason’s reputation as a disappointment was not just because of the environment in Chicago as we hoped initially.

Arnason may have all the talent in the world, but on a team full of guys whose heart has been questioned, he looks to have the least. Tyler Arnason is the definition of a soft, perimeter player. Get rid of him and spend that money elsewhere.

Why Tyler Arnason was even brought in is just another example of John Muckler’s idiocy.

We knew this team needed a second line center for some time. Hell, even during the golden months of October and November, that hole was glaring. Bryan Smolinski was not up to the job and Mike Fisher, even with a career year, can’t produce enough to fill it. He’s almost too good for a third line center but not good enough to be a second line one. That should be a good problem to have, giving Ottawa the best third line in hockey (for a couple months, with Fisher, Peter Schaefer and Chris Neil, they did).

Muckler waited until the deadline to make a move, and by then, the pickings were so slim that Tyler friggin Arnason was the best option available. How sad is that? A guy who couldn’t even crack the playoff line-up.

And they gave up a pretty good player to get him. Though his pre-season hype was far too extravagant, I think Brandon Bochenski will end up being a pretty good NHL goal scorer sooner rather than later. Only now, with another team.

Muckler’s history as Sens GM is riddled with boneheaded deadline moves. In 2003, they traded for Smolinski, hoping to add a veteran who can score. In 35 playoff games with the team, he has 17 points. The prospect they sent to L.A. to get him, Tim Gleason, was a top six defenceman for the Kings this season. In ’04, the move to bring in Peter Bondra backfired horribly. The team, poised to face the rough and tumble Leafs for the fourth time in five years, needed toughness, not more scoring. Bondra, a 400 goal scorer, couldn’t even do that, as he went goalless in seven playoff games. The other addition for that run, Greg de Vries, was such a bust, he was a throw in in the Dany Heatley-Marian Hossa trade.

Muckler was able to avoid the hatchet two years ago by getting rid of Jacques Martin and making understandable scapegoats out of Radek Bonk and Patrick Lalime. Fans had been clamoring for the departure of those two, whether rightfully or not, for so long we let Muckler slide.

I won’t any longer.

Why Muckler was even hired perplexes me.

When Marshall Johnston left the Sens GM job to retire, logic might dictate the Sens would hire a young mind to take over. Instead, they hired a guy well into his 60s who had failed in Buffalo and New York already.

Many defended the move by pointing to his five Cups as part of the Oilers dynasty. To me, using those to rationalize Muckler’s job would be as silly as saying someone who scored 50 goals in 1987 and thus deserves a rich contract from a team in 2006.

Muckler is using his Oilers connections to this day. His old pal Wayne Gretzky has jumped to Muck’s defence, saying he believes he should not be held responsible for the failures of this team. Gretzky points to how long it took the Oilers to win a Cup as consolation for us hurting Sens fans.

Sorry Wayne, but I don’t buy it. I might have in 1999 after being swept by the Sabres despite a 100+ point season, or when he suffered the exact same fate at the hands of the Leafs two years later following another fantastic regular season. But no longer.

While I might subscribe to the theory that a team has to lose before they can learn how to win, surely at some point, enough losses have accumulated that the knowledge of how to get it done should be there.

It isn’t, and it starts at the top.

A GM’s job success is evaluated the same way you or I are assessed by our bosses: results. And John Muckler has zero. If anything, this team has taken steps back since he’s taken over.

The only thing Muckler has brought to the table, because a senility, is the attitude that we have to talk about winning before we can. Great. Talk about it all you want. ‘Till you’re blue in the face. Ultimately, talk is cheap, and results matter.

The only thing all that talk has done is create ridiculously high expectations within the fan base. The organization has benefited from these expectations, as we’ve set attendance records and made them a whole lotta cake in the process.

When the team falters do people say we expect too much and should accept our lumps. I will not. And nor should you.

Not when we’re here because of one man’s hubris and inability to get the job done.

Only when we get rid of this bum will the Ottawa Senators get to the next level. As long as he’s around, reminding us all he won Cups 20 years ago while refusing to accept blame for his errors, the Sens are fucked.


At 7:14 PM, Blogger steve said...

Hear, hear. It is quite appropriate to point out that our GM also chokes during the GM "playoffs" (trade deadline) while succeeding off season when it doesn't count as much. This season was particularly frustrating especially when considering which teams landed the players that we were supposedly after :

Doug Weight - Carolina
Marc Rechhi - Carolina
Dwayne Roloson - Edmonton

Funny those two teams are still in the playoffs. I'm not saying that we'd still be if we had one or two of those 3 players - but we can only second guess now.

At 8:37 PM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

I wouldn't give up on Arnason quite yet. He has the talent and if it can be nurtured in the right way he could be a useful second line center. But, he wasn't the type of player the Senators needed at the time and you can blame Muckler for that. The Senators could have used a veteren defenseman or a rugged winger (who can play a regular shift unlike McGratton) and Muckler can be blamed for that too. He talked about how he things this team is tougher and more gritty than when he first took over the job but I don't see it. What if they traded for a Mark Recchi and how much better might they have been if they had Roloson in goal? I am not sure either of them would have cost substantially more than Arnason cost them except that both would be rentals where Arnason wasn't. But at some point if you think you have a team that can win you have to take a chance.

At 12:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with your assesment of Hasek.
Let's say Hasek had an 80% chance of being healthy for the playoffs and an 80% chance of being one of the leagues top 5 goalies.
That means we had a 64% chance of having one of the leagues best goalies all for the price of $1.5 million.
Pretty good gamble.

At 12:26 AM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

80% seems like an incredibly high number to me.

At 3:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ottawa sucks so fire all you want they will never win a cup they play good in the season but when the playoffs come the chock like in the past 4 out of 5 years allways loseing to the leafs in the playoffs and look this year loseing to the sabers in 5 i say that ottawa needs some help with people that are good when the playoffs come around not someone my name is joe and im a oilers fan

At 7:36 AM, Blogger Mike said...

As for the lack of a Doug Weight deal, he said on the TEAM1200 yesterday that the Blues were asking for Vermette, Schubert, Bochenski, AND a first round pick. I'm glad he didn't take the bait on that one.

At 10:10 AM, Anonymous Dennis Prouse said...

Arnason is terrible. The assessment here is bang on -- he is the ultimate perimeter player, and at his age that will never change. I watched him closely during a couple of those late season games, and I just couldn't believe what I saw -- the guy simply refuses to compete. He had a golden opportunity to claim the second line centre job on a first place team with a shot at the Cup. If that didn't motivate the guy, nothing ever will.

Everyone makes mistakes, but to refuse to admit your mistakes is the ultimate management sin. Acknowledge that Arnason was a failed experiment, and move on.

At 10:14 AM, Blogger girlysportsrant said...

Hiring Brian Murray alone is enough to lose a job over. For a team that desperately needs playoff success, they go and hire one of the worse playoff coaches in history. It's fine to rack up points and goals in the regular season but it's something totally different to play 1 team in the playoffs where every detail is magnified. Does Murray know who Pommenville is yet?

You watch Jacques Martin in Florida. He will take that team very far in the next couple of years.

At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree 100% that Muckler really should have gotta a new goalie, probably should have grabbed Dwayne Roloson because look at where he is right now, on the verge of heading to the Western finals.

I was thinking maybe even Bryan Murray could be the new GM aswell as the coach.

At 2:18 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

As for the lack of a Doug Weight deal, he said on the TEAM1200 yesterday that the Blues were asking for Vermette, Schubert, Bochenski, AND a first round pick. I'm glad he didn't take the bait on that one.

Three months ago it was Vermette and Volchenkov. Now it's that? A year from now, when people ask why he didn't make that trade, he'll say they wanted Heatley & Spezza.

I don't buy it.

At 7:51 PM, Anonymous kaz said...

Some good points are made here, Chris. Ironically, I think Smoke did have a decent postseason this year, but that's the only guy in your hit list I'm willing to step up to the plate and defend - and he's better at being a role player with a touch of upside as opposed to contributing regularly on offence, which is what he was originally brought in to provide.

The distraction of Hasek and the lack of a good back-up plan for when he went down, the Arnason debacle, the lack of a true second-line centre... isn't it amazing how this team blinded us for most of the year to its shortcomings? Is anyone getting tired of watching a team with so many wingers and no dominant centre? I would enjoy watching a Sens team where centre was a strength, not a weakness.

At 10:43 PM, Blogger Sarah Jayne said...

I don't think it's an issue that John Muckler is a BAD general manager; however, he made some bad choices this season (a season with enormous amounts of potential), and he has to own up to those choices - and pay the consequences.

He just didn't get the job done - the job that he was required to do! And he's had many chances! So it's time to say Goodbye GM John.

I don't think Pat Quinn is a bad coach, I actually think he's an amazing coach - but it was the same thing with him. If you're not getting the job done for a particular team, it's time to move on. Plain and simple.

At 9:27 PM, Anonymous Hondo said...

I agree 100% the changes that are going to occur HAVE to start at the top. Muckler has used every excuse in the book and his time is up in Ottawa.

At 2:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, sens fans are only good at one thing: over-analyzing. To win in this league you need a whole lot of luck. Seriously though, im tired of whiney sens fans. I am a real sens fan. I went to games at the civic centre in the early 90's where the sens would lose to teams like flordia and boston, and im still a fan. At the end of every season I dont whine and point fingers. Be happy you have a contending team every year and keep the faith because one year in the near future they will get all the parts in place and win it all. (or at least before the leafs ever do)

At 6:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Muckler should be FIRED ASAP


At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here we are one year later, and Ottawa is in the finals with Muckler still at the helm.

Still feel the same way?


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