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.