Fans Wade in on who they prefer

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:48 AM ET

Canadian or Blue. Salt and vinegar or barbecue. The game or the juke box ...

Of all the decisions being mulled over by local barstool prophets these days, none generates the deep thought and debate like that which also faces the Senators.

Wade Redden or Zdeno Chara.

Presuming they can no longer afford both, soon-to-be unrestricted free agents, the Senators must choose between the smooth, ladies' heartthrob from Lloydminster, Sask. or the hard, man-mountain from Trencin, Slovakia.

So good are the two players and so difficult is the selection that no less a nationalist than Don Cherry says he'd opt for the European.

A good number of Ottawa Sun readers, however, have a very different opinion.

Of the almost 300 replies to our annual, You Be The Boss poll, an overwhelming 89% said the Senators should keep Redden.

Somewhat surprisingly, only 51% voted to retain Chara.

Really people. It's not enough that he's the only 6-foot-9, 260-pounder to ever play in the NHL? That he has one of the game's hardest shots and punches? That he's a perennially Norris Trophy candidate as the NHL's top blueliner?

Talk about a tough crowd, eh Zee?

Maybe it's the expectation Chara will demand a king-sized portion of the budget. Or maybe it's a loyalty to Redden, who has worn Ottawa colours since he was a teenager, a decade ago.

All we know for sure is Senators fans look beyond the numbers.

Take the case of Dominik Hasek. (Somebody? Please?)

The future Hall of Famer had a 28-10-4 record and a 2.09 goals-against average, all for the bargain basement salary of $1.52 million (all terms US).

Now it appears Hasek wants to return for the 2006-07 season, likely wearing a similar price tag.

And the YBTB poll says ... (give us a drum roll would ya, Anton Volchenkov?) ... just 12% want the Dominator back.

Think the goalie's injury history has anything to do with it?

John Muckler, who still hasn't indicated whether he's going to try and re-sign Hasek (and still believes in Tyler Arnason, by the way), might consider all this advice if he didn't wish the poll results would dry up and blow away.

At least, that's what we guess is running through the mind of an avid newspaper reader like Muckler this morning. For just 43% of the poll's participants think he did a good job as Senators GM this season.

That's a pretty significant contrast to the verdict on coach Bryan Murray, who doesn't have overwhelming fans support, but did receive the thumbs up from 73% of the respondents.

The most positive feedback was directed toward Mike Fisher, the six-season vet who posted career stats (22 goals, 22 assists) despite missing 14 games with the injuries a guy gets playing his crash-and-bang, all-out style.

A whopping 99% want Fisher back, while 50% say he should get a raise on the $1.5 million he made in 2005-06.

Also feeling lots of love should be Antoine Vermette, who had 96% of the people vote for his return, as well as Patrick Eaves (95%), Dany Heatley (92%), Chris Kelly (92%), Brian Pothier (92%), Chris Neil (90%) and Peter Schaefer (90%).

Nobody's stepping up to hold a bottle drive for players who have collected just one year's salary in the past two years, either.

While half of the folks think Fisher deserves more cash, no other Senator should be so lucky.

EMERY DESERVES RAISE

Goalie Ray Emery, who 85% want back, deserves a hike on his league minimum $450,000 salary, according to 42% of the respondents.

As a restricted free agent, he'll get one, too. Same with Vermette, who 36% say deserves more than the $564,300 he made this season, and Kelly, who 35% believe warrants a raise on his $450,000 wage.

On the flipside, absolutely nobody thought Arnason should get a bump in his $1.2 million.

And only 1% think Bryan Smolinski and Vaclav Varada deserve a raise on their $2.24-million and $1.21-million salaries, respectively, and just 2% figure Volchenkov earned a raise on his $1.1-million salary.

No word on whether anyone from the Smolinski, Varada or Volchenkov families participated in the survey.

Meanwhile, perhaps the most stinging indictment from another early playoff exit falls on captain Daniel Alfredsson.

Only 65% of those participating in the poll said the team's all-time-almost-everything leader should be kept.

So there you have it, Eugene Melnyk. A little help being The Boss from Senators fans, via the Sun.

You're welcome.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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