Sunday, June 17, 2007

Housekeeping in the front office?

According to the Ottawa Sun today, the Ottawa Senators may announce as early as Monday that General Manager John Muckler has been fired. The reason has not become clear, but I'm sure there are many theories.

Ottawa fans have had a love/hate relationship with Mucky-Mucks for a while; at the start of 2006-07, when the team was doing poorly, many were calling for his head stating that he was too old and didn't know the new NHL well enough.

When he didn't pick up Gary Roberts--who proved to be meaningless anyway--and instead acquired Oleg Saprykin--who turned out to be a pretty good addition--many people were once again saying he'd lost the golden touch that brought five Stanley Cups to Edmonton.

But after a season with the Senators making it farther than they ever had before, with Muckler-era acquisitions like Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley, Dean McAmmond, Joe Corvo, and Tom Preissing having significant contributions to the team's playoff run, why would Mucks be fired now? Especially given the fact that he's only got one year left on his contract, anyway.

A friend of mine suggested maybe Muckler was actually entertaining the thought of bringing Alexei Yashin back to the Senators. While that would certainly be grounds for dismissal, it's not as likely as some other possibilities.

Obviously, the long-term plan is to gift-wrap the General Manager position for Bryan Murray whenever he wants it. The success the Anaheim Ducks, largely choreographed by Murray when he worked for that organization is proof enough of his abilities. Bob McKenzie of TSN suggested Murray may assume both Coach and GM duties, but, if I'm not mistaken, Murray has publicly declared that he wouldn't want to or be able to do both. There goes that.

Other key NHL management news may be important to consider: the Boston Bruins recently fired Dave Lewis, meaning there's a vacancy at the Head Coach position. Ottawa Senators coach John Paddock has been remoured as a desirable replacement, as he's well-respected across the league and would no doubt like to be a Head Coach once again. Given Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli's knowledge of the Senators' organization, this seems all too likely.

Obviously, Melnyk and Co. would love to keep Paddock for as long as possible. I would assume the original plan was to move Murray up to GM once Muckler's contract had expired, and allow Paddock to jump in as head coach, but Boston knocking on Paddock's door threw a wrench in the spokes. So perhaps Melnyk's hand was forced. Muckler seems like the type who, when offered to resign or be fired, would insist on getting fired instead of quit somethign he's apparently having so much "fun" doing.
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