Thursday, June 26, 2008

Building "character" in the dressing room

A lot is being said in the fallout of the Ray Emery buyout, and the subsequent trade of Brian McGrattan hasn't put any water on the fires of discussion about the Senators' team dynamics. The Ottawa Citizen is calling it an "image overhaul", but I don't think that's accurate. You don't solve an image by sending people away; you solve a reality be getting rid of the problem. So I would be inclined to agree with Alanah McGinley of Kukla's Korner in her analysis of "The Bryan Murray Show" as little more than a deflection tactic, using buzzwords like "accountability" and "character" to avoid discussing real problems.

While reading the Citizen's coverage of the trend today, some quotes from Murray had me wondering what it was we were dealing with before Emery and McGrattan were dumped:
"I want a team of real character people," Murray said, watching the club's younger players and recent draftees go through the second day of an arduous development camp at the Bell Sensplex. "I definitely want good people in the room to clear up that perception. Fans are influenced by what they read and hear, and we want to keep good people.

"Obviously, we're looking to make the team better and get in better shape in that area."

What is it we are dealing with, Bryan? This was obviously never simply a perception. Murray's comments have acknowledged that there have been problems in the dressing room, and that the two most recent transactions were measures meant to defuse the bomb that blew up the 2007-08 season before it could do any damage to the 2008-09 season (man, I am on a roll with the metaphors right now!).

If you ask long-time Senators fans for a common denominator that exists between the three biggest departures from the roster to date this season (McGrattan, Emery, and Wade Redden), they won't quote their abilities to fight. I've got no proof, and have no right to make accusations, but the fact remains that all three have been linked with off-ice shenanigans, at least in rumours. I'm not trying to lend credibility to the rumours, I'm simply acknowledging that they exist.

Those long-time Sens fans may also remember an "image overhaul" intended to clean up the attitude in the dressing room from years ago. This one involved André Roy, and the affects his decisions or outlook may have had on who was at the time a very promising developing Wade Redden. Despite being a fan-favourite, Roy was traded for Juha Ylonen in order to clean up the dressing room, so we were told.

It deserves to be discussed that McGrattan and Emery were two of the best friends of much-maligned (at least this summer) Jason Spezza. Although Spezza's apparent disinclination to seriously address the immaturity in his game--a hesitancy to back-check consistenly, a refusal to stop making no-look backhand passes--has not been linked to the deals, he needs to grow his game. And his old friends, evidenced by their on- and off-ice attitudes, were not promoting that maturity. Firing John Paddock and bringing in Martin Lapointe to stop the cancer proved insufficient, so Murray must have believed that the tumour was a lack of work ethic--given form in Emery and McGrattan, and perhaps others--and had to be cut out.

Time will tell whether or not these moves will work as intended. Another very interesting point raised in the above-linked story on Kukla's Corner is the media in Ottawa, and why these stories--which are apparently known by everyone--are never reported. Is it a refusal to use anonymous sources? Give me a break--it's obvious that in his rumour-reporting, Bruce Garrioch has no problem with quoting the anonymous. Is it wanting to stick to the on-ice news? Last year was evidence that off-ice problems make on-ice news. Is it an unwillingness to bite the hand that feeds you? Well, if you're afraid to report the truth out of fear for the repercussions, journalism might not be you true calling.
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