GM really Mucks things up for Sens

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

The opportunity to make official the oh-so-bloody obvious was there for the taking, yet still he passed.

Only 24 hours earlier, Bryan Murray had said it was time for Dominik Hasek and the Senators to cut ties, just as each man, woman and child from here to Helsinki knows. But John Muckler refused to slam the door on his broken-down goalie's return, when leaving it open even a crack was an insult to every fan in this hexed city.

"Will he be back? I want to sit and talk to him, and that will come at a later date," Muckler said yesterday. "I'll have to have a conversation first, before a decision is made."

So there you have it, friends. If Hasek wants to play in Ottawa next season and can convince Muckler to give him another shot, then brace yourself for the very real possibility of a four-peat. But of course, the next one would only be the second time he bailed on the Senators, and just the third on Muckler.

Anyone else feel nauseous?

"I agree with John," president/CEO Roy Mlakar said while supporting his buddy. "We're not going to make any knee-jerk decisions here. There's no timetable on the decision-making process. (Coaches and management) is going to analyze the entire year and John will make the ultimate decision."

Let's hope John remains on this side of senile long enough.

(Sorry, but Forrest Gregg would have faced months of radio vilification had he made Muckler's mistakes yesterday. Included was a referral to one player's "$7,000 salary" when he clearly meant $7 million and another's status as an "unrestricted free agent" when the guy's actually about to fall into the "restricted" category.)

Meanwhile, Murray will be laughed out of his favorite pub in Shawville if Hasek-gate drags on. Forget any talk of the coach being replaced. Maybe he should run.

Muckler still doesn't get it, y'know. Yesterday, he continued to defend Hasek, whom he referred to as "probably one of, if not the best goalkeeper ever to play the game."

He spoke of Hasek's determination to come back from his previous season-ending injury, and how he was the best "deal" available for the position in Ottawa. Going with the great Hasek at a bargain price enabled Ottawa to get "better defencemen, better forwards", he said.

It was just "unfortunate" that "Dominik" got hurt.

"We're being criticized because he was injured," said Muckler. "Anybody can get injured."

True, but everyone expected the 41-year old Hasek was going to get injured, and that's still not why you're being criticized today, John. You're being criticized because you didn't do a damn thing when he did go down.

Other than foolishly believe he was coming back, that is.

DEFENDS ARNASON DEAL

Of course, after accepting an August trade that saw one of the game's best two-way players (Marian Hossa) go to Atlanta for one of the game's best (regular-season) goal scorers (Dany Heatley), Muckler made not a single move of consequence.

"We felt our hockey club was strong enough to win," he said, touching on collapsed trade chats he had with Florida for Olli Jokinen and San Jose for former 67's captain Alyn McCauley. "We had to take into consideration the future."

Muckler defended the acquisition of Tyler Arnason, who the Senators pried out of Chicago for a second-round pick and Brandon Bochenski. He said the lost selection in a sub-par draft year wouldn't be as good as Arnason, who tallied a total of four assists playing mostly alongside Daniel Alfredsson for 19 games before being shunned to the press box.

"We're going to have to teach him how to get himself in better condition," said Muckler. "I think we have a good hockey player for the future for us."

ROLOSON GUIDES OILERS

At the same time, Muckler said the Senators weren't interested in giving up a first-round pick for Dwayne Roloson, who is one win from backstopping the Oilers to the final four.

Heck, Ottawa couldn't part with a piece of the "future" for a goalie who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent -- even though rookie Ray Emery was left alone with the most pressure-filled job in sports. After all, Hasek might have been ready for Game 6 against Buffalo, right?

Meanwhile, reporters ran into a blast from the past as they left Scotiabank Place for the last time until the next press conference. Ex-Senator Jason York is just back from winning a Swiss League championship with Lugano, which became the first European team to rebound from a 3-0 playoff series deficit when it defeated rival Ambri-Piotta.

After dropping the first two games, the Lugano coach was fired, each player needed a police escort from the home rink and goalie Ronnie Rueger was pelted with debris as he drove to his house on a scooter.

The next night, as Lugano prepared to depart for Game 3, the team bus was rocked by fans York thought were coming to show their support.

As for Rueger, "he came back to shove it up everybody's ass," said York.

Muckler should have seized the moment and publicly told Hasek to "shove it" yesterday.

He and the Senators are lucky they're not in Lugano.


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