Sens' broken dream

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

For a change, the Senators' year won't end at the hands of the Maple Leafs.

Of course, the Senators would probably have preferred that to the way Gary Bettman eliminated them and the other 29 NHL teams when he cancelled the season yesterday.

So now, the "what might have been" questions begin.

There will be no glimpse of new goalie Dominik Hasek, no look at new coach Bryan Murray behind the bench and, obviously, no chase for the Stanley Cup.

The Senators made plenty of changes last summer, trading centre Radek Bonk to Montreal and goalie Patrick Lalime to St. Louis and firing coach Jacques Martin -- following a first-round playoff exit to the aforementioned Leafs.

"I really felt like this team had a good chance to win the Stanley Cup," Senators GM John Muckler said during a sombre news conference at the Corel Centre. "We were really looking forward to this year. We felt we had a team that was a contender.

"We were pleased and excited with the changes that we made. We got all of our players signed in the summer and that's why this is tough. We were very excited about where we were headed this year."

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said he's optimistic he'll be able to keep the team together next year.

"I feel dejected. That's the best way to describe it," Melnyk said of the season's cancellation. "We've put the best management and the best coaching staff in place. We just wanted all the pieces to come together to put a competitive team on the ice. I'm bullish that we've got one of the top five teams in the league. Hasek was there. It was all there. There's no reason not to be optimistic about next year."

The future looks bright when hockey does return.

Draft picks Patrick Eaves (Boston College), Andrej Meszaros (Vancouver, WHL) and Alexei Kaigorodov (Russia) are ready to push for spots on the roster.

And Hasek has already told Muckler he intends to play next year. It's expected Hasek will sign with a team in the East Coast League once he gets visa problems in the U.S. cleared up.

"I know Dominik wants to play next year," said Muckler.


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