Getting better will make Mucks happy

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

BOSTON -- Senators GM John Muckler made a bunch of phone calls to his NHL counterparts the other day to see if anything was shaking, but didn't come away with any earth-shattering trade offers.

"All anybody wanted to talk about was the rules," said Muckler with a smile. "It seems like everybody is pretty happy with them. They should be. The hockey has been great. One guy didn't like what was happening, but that was about it."

No, Muckler isn't actively looking to deal, but you're better off trading from a position of strength. And since the Senators are 11-2 going into tonight's game against the Bruins, it doesn't hurt to snoop about.

But teams are finding it tough to deal with so many of them sitting near the NHL's $39-million (all terms US) salary cap.

CAN IMPROVE

In Muckler's case, he's the kind of guy who likes to keep a pulse on what's happening around the league and, despite the club's record in the Northeast Division, he believes there's room for improvement.

"Have I been pleased with where we are? Yes, I've been pleased. Having said that, I think we can be better because I believe that you can always be better in this business," Muckler said yesterday.

"We've been playing well in a lot of areas, but we can do things better. You can always improve your transition game, penalty killing and preparation. We all know as well as we have played, this is early and we have a long way to go.

"It's up to the players to improve. You know that these guys are not going to be satisfied just because we're in a good position right now. The goal is to keep improving so that we can get to the ultimate goal (the Stanley Cup). There's a lot of work left to be done and we have to challenge ourselves."

Muckler made a lot of changes to this club in the off- season and there's no question the Senators have a different look:

- Coach Bryan Murray has brought a fresh approach after the Senators spent eight years under the tutelage of Jacques Martin. The players have responded well to Murray's system and like what he's teaching.

- Goaltender Dominik Hasek came in with plenty of question marks after playing only 14 games in three years, but he has proved to be solid. Hasek picked up his third shutout of the season last Saturday.

- Centre Jason Spezza has looked quite comfortable in his role as a No. 1 centre while playing with Dany Heatley and captain Daniel Alfredsson.

- The deal to send star forward Marian Hossa to the Atlanta Thrashers for Heatley has paid dividends. Heatley is happy in his new surroundings and is enjoying plenty of success with Spezza.

"I've been in this business long enough to know that you don't gloat (about any trade)," said Muckler. "There's a long way to go for that deal. (Heatley) has been excellent. He has come in and done a great job.

"I think he will only get better. He is a skilled hockey player who isn't afraid to do what it takes to do the job. He's got a great presence on the ice."


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