Paddock says GM will be next to go

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

BUFFALO -- It sounds like sour grapes, but John Paddock has offered his two cents on the state of the Senators.

The former Senators coach, who was fired last Feb. 26 and is now coach of the AHL's Philadelphia Phantoms, told the Camden Courier-Post the team's talent assembled isn't good enough and GM Bryan Murray will likely be held accountable if the team doesn't improve.

"I think now (Murray's) next in line (to be fired)," Paddock told the suburban Philly newspaper. "We were 14 games over .500 when I was fired. They're seven under now. Somebody needs to take responsibility for that. Whether the coaches he hired and fired are good or not, they're his players and they're either not playing good or can't play, one or the other."

Asked what he thought was the case, Paddock said: "The players are not very good, that's the problem."

Craig Hartsburg's firing has come with some positive results.

The Senators are competing harder and the practice habits have been more up-tempo since Cory Clouston took over from Hartsburg.

DIGGING FOR GOLD

Jason Spezza has an Olympic dream. A year from today, the 2010 Olympic Games will open in Vancouver and the Senators centre is hopeful that with a strong finish this season along with a decent start next, he'll get consideration from executive director Steve Yzerman when the selections are made. It might be early to be thinking about it, but the subject of who will be on the team will be at the forefront today when Yzerman hosts a conference call to discuss the program with the national media to mark the one-year countdown to the Games. Yzerman must submit a list of 40-45 names to the IIHF this spring for drug testing purposes. It's believed most of the players will be invited to Hockey Canada's evaluation camp in Calgary this summer with the roster to be announced early next season. While making it as a centre might be tough for Spezza with all the star power Canada has up the middle, he noted yesterday he didn't get an invitation to the pre-Olympic camp in 2006 but was invited to be a spare in Turin. "If I can finish the year off good and have a strong start next year, I'd have a shot at making the club," Spezza said yesterday. If the Senators miss the playoffs, Spezza would be wise to attend the world championship this spring in Switzerland to help his standing with the folks at Hockey Canada, who already hold him in high regard. "It's so far away. It's getting talked about because it's a year away right now, but for us, we don't talk about it," said Spezza. "At the start of next season, is going to be the big time that you've got to prove yourself. They're going to pick the guys that are playing well. Last time, they picked the guys who were playing well and hot at the time."

OFF THE GLASS

Don't blame Senators RW Shean Donovan if he declines an invite to the team's skills competition. Donovan returned to the lineup against the Sabres after missing eight games with a knee injury he suffered after crashing into the boards in the competition on Jan. 18 at Scotiabank Place. Donovan, who scored Ottawa's second goal last night, was a good sport about it yesterday. "It's been a long time, but I'm pretty excited to get playing," said Donovan. "It's kind of a crazy way to get hurt, but the boys are playing well and it's fun to be part of." Donovan, who grew up in Carleton Place, said he was just trying to put on a show. "It's good for the kids to see the guys. You don't expect to fall and get hurt," said Donovan ... They've finally started tearing down the old Buffalo Auditorium across from HSBC Arena ... Referee Kerry Fraser took off his helmet in the first period and, no surprise, his hair was perfect.

AROUND THE BOARDS

The Sabres will host the 2011 world junior championship, but the team doesn't plan to be on the road for the whole tournament. The Sabres are going to play at the HSBC Arena on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day depending on the tournament schedule. It's believed club officials might ask the NHL to consider the possibility of scheduling an evening game Christmas Day as well. That scenario has been discussed in the past, but would take an agreement between the league and the NHLPA because Dec. 24 and 25 are mandated as days off in the CBA ... With LW Thomas Vanek out for an extended period, the Sabres recalled C Nathan Gerbe from their AHL affiliate in Portland yesterday. The 5-foot-6 Gerbe was thrown out of Portland's victory over the Albany River Rats in Buffalo on Tuesday when he got into a fight near the visitors' bench.

THE MORNING SKATE

Senators RW Jarrko Ruutu wasn't sure what kind of reception to expect after making his first trip to Buffalo since biting the thumb of Buffalo tough guy Andrew Peters last month. "It's always fun when there's a little emotion going on between the players and the fans. It makes it more special," said Ruutu. "I'm a target every game. It's not a surprise with the way I play. That's something that comes with it." With Peters a healthy scratch last night, a bit of the drama was taken away.


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