John Muckler didn't make a deal for a veteran player at the deadline to take the Senators over the playoff hump because the club's GM believes he now has plenty of them.
Yesterday, he threw down a challenge to the Senators' young veterans: It's time to get the job done.
They've got enough experience, Muckler thinks.
They've got enough skill. They've got the work ethic (well, most of the time).
Muckler wants this team to take the bitter playoff disappointments many of its players have experienced in the last few years and tap into that emotion.
"There's a bunch of guys in (the Senators dressing room) that have gone through a lot of trials and tribulations," Muckler told the Sun yesterday.
"That final four (against New Jersey in 2003) where we lost out, we still have a lot of those guys around. There are guys (who were) here for the disappointments against Toronto. Everything takes time.
REMEMBERS OILERS DAYS
"It's nice to have guys who have won before. There's always this talk about 'you should have added a veteran hockey player.' I was in Edmonton in 1982-83 and we didn't have anybody who had won (a Stanley Cup). In '84, we won and we won with guys who had been prepared to win over the years, who had experienced the pitfalls and the good times. They put it together in '84. That's what this team here needs to do."
Muckler points to veteran goaltender Dominik Hasek -- currently injured -- as being a resource for his team if it needs a reminder what it takes to win a Cup.
Hasek won one with the Red Wings in 2002.
When it came to the trade deadline, Muckler opted for more youth.
He brought in 26-year-old Tyler Arnason at the trade deadline when a veteran like Mark Recchi was out there. He didn't think a veteran was necessary.
"It's the youth and experience together that's going to make them winners ... everybody has to win the Cup for the first time, those who win it. We have to get over that hurdle.
"We've got enough veteran experience now to hold things together. They know how you have to work to win. They can pass that on. That's what peer pressure and leadership is all about."
Muckler said he didn't think about trading potential unrestricted free agent defencemen Zdeno Chara or Wade Redden, knowing they are keys to the drive.
"We showed that at the deadline. You saw other teams auction off their unrestricted free agents. That thought never entered our minds," said Muckler, who said the Senators will make a big effort to keep the pair.
"We want anybody who's on our roster. If they want to stay, we want them to stay, big time. We'll do everything in our power. Everybody's worked hard and we have a good hockey club. Why wouldn't you want to keep this club together? It's our first priority."
He said whether the two re-sign with the Senators will be up to Redden and Chara.
In the meantime, Muckler wants a more consistent effort down the stretch from his team.
He realizes there are times during a long NHL season a team isn't going to be at its best.
"At times we don't have the work ethic we would like to have. We play 82 games and that's going to crack now and then. But you can't win with skill level alone. There has to be a combination of skill level and work ethic," he said.
And there is one more important lesson, maybe the most important and one Muckler said he hopes this team is finally beginning to grasp.
"You have to be able to take the other team's will to win away from them," he said. "That's a tough thing to do, but we should have learned it by now."
EQUAL TIME: Chara disagreed yesterday after I wrote Washington's outstanding rookie Alexander Ovechkin knocked him "on his butt," during Sunday's game with the Capitals. He has a point. I was using it in the figurative sense. Chara didn't land on his butt after Ovechkin hit him behind the Ottawa net, but he was knocked to the ice, putting his hand down to keep himself up. Fair comment on Chara's part ... Chara did do a great job against Ovechkin, who was held pointless, but whose hit on Chara did lead to the Caps' second goal. "He plays hard. That's the thing I like about him," said Chara. "But he gets frustrated when he doesn't get chances. He's always cursing." In English or Russian? "Mostly Russian," said Chara. "I think that's how you know if you're doing a good job (against him)."