What's the deal with Sens?

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:54 AM ET

Do you want to be John Muckler right now? The Senators are in a significant yet precarious march towards the playoffs. Fans are clamoring for a trade, especially after the Doug Weight fiasco.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Dominik Hasek suffered a leg injury during his first game with his Czech Republic Olympic team.

It's enough to cause a myocardial infarction in the sprightliest of septuagenarian GMs.

Or at least induce a case of BlackBerry thumb.

The belief thus far is Hasek's injury will not cause problems for the Senators' playoff run. But this scare has brought to life the question that Ottawa fans have been asking themselves for months:

What are our ultimate priorities?

If Hasek is unavailable, Emery is not the answer. We were aware of that, long before Ray's troublesome play began. No one should expect a No. 2 rookie goaltender to take the reins heading into the playoffs. No one can fault Ray for this. It simply boils down to experience.

Solid goaltending is the cornerstone of any team, regardless of whether they're in the midst of regular season play, or battling to win Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

The Senators have been extremely lucky in respect to Hasek's health. A few minor tweaks, but certainly nothing extreme. An unbelievable development, given The Dominator's advanced age. As long as the Senators' backstopping star remained healthy, Muckler was free to focus on other requirements.

Requirements that included a top-flight centre to take the heat off Jason Spezza.

Despite his recent statements to the contrary, you have to wonder how much faith Muckler would have in Emery if Hasek became injured for an extended period. Insurance may be necessary. And if so, where does that leave the Senators in respect to depth up front?

Do the Senators pick up another goaltender, an elite centre or both? What does John Muckler do?

The NHL market is your oyster, if you're willing to sacrifice. We all saw Muckler wasn't willing to play ball for Doug Weight. But there are plenty of teams that would dance with Ottawa, especially with a number of juicy prospects waiting in the wings as trade bait.

There is also the future to consider. An optimum situation sees the team retaining talent, while maintaining an appropriate cap. Will Dominik Hasek return in 2006-07? What kind of depth is Ottawa looking to retain down the middle, beyond Jason Spezza and Mike Fisher? How did the re-signing of Tomas Kaberle to the Maple Leafs at $4.25 million per year (all terms US) affect the asking price of Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara?

There are too many questions, few answers and a multitude of names to consider: Olli Jokinen. Vesa Toskala. Patrick Marleau. Dwayne Roloson. Fledgling trades involve the complicated issues of monetary constraints and team chemistry, combined with potential repercussions for the present and future.

Muckler is working the high wire without a net. I wouldn't want to be him right now.

WINTER WONDERING:What's been your preference for Olympic coverage so far? NBC is offering highly stylized programming, but at the expense of a tape delay. CBC's coverage is live, but their flat and critical commentary of non-Canadian athletes is bothersome. I've been having success with the Rogers On Demand service that allows you to fast-forward past the mundane bits. The opening ceremonies became slightly palatable when I was able to zip through them in under 90 minutes. Speaking of which, did you catch the "alpine scene" that paid tribute to the mountainous nations bordering Italy? What was up with the cows on wheels? Did Torino forget they were dealing with a world audience, or have psychedelic drugs come back into vogue in Western Europe?

SIGN OF THE TIMES: A child was barred from entering the ACC for a Leafs game, because the small "No. 1 Fan" sign he brought qualified as a weapon. He should have procured a zero to signify the number of Cups the Leafs have bagged since 1967. Those round edges wouldn't have hurt anyone.

SEEING STARS: Seemingly desperate for new material, ESPN.com has created an NBA "galaxy." Notables include Steve Nash as the Sun, Shaq as Jupiter and Ron Artest as Pluto. Wilt Chamberlain was dubbed the Big Dipper ... and this seems appropriate based on his lascivious habits off the court.

COLE'S NOTES: Based on the play-by-play I've heard so far, I'm going to place the over/under on Bob Cole learning the different jersey numbers of the men's hockey team at Day 14.

ERINNICKS@YAHOO.CA


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