An Avalanche of bitterness

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

The worst trade deadline acquisition in franchise history came back to taunt the Senators yesterday.

Hours before lacing up the skates as the top scorer on either team entering last night's game at Scotiabank Place, Tyler Arnason had a whole bunch of I-told-you-so in his attitude and more than a touch of bitterness in his voice.

He disputed the Senators' claim that he was out of shape when he arrived here from Chicago last March, a position Bryan Murray maintained yesterday when he said Arnason "told me he'd be otherwise this year, and it appears like he is."

Arnason's rebuttal to statements he brought a conditioning problem with him from the Blackhawks?: "They can say what they want. I don't really care."

The best point collector for the Colorado Avalanche through this season's first six games with a half dozen of them, Arnason has already surpassed the total he had in 19 games as a Senator, when he earned just four assists and then a permanent pressbox seat for the playoffs.

For some reason, GM John Muckler offered him a contract in the off-season that represented a pay cut and, while it wasn't minimum wage, Arnason scoffed yesterday and said that "it wasn't very good," either.

"I didn't really like the way I was treated here in Ottawa," Arnason said. "I felt I had to come back (to the NHL this season) and prove I'm a player. They said I wasn't.

"They had my rights and I guess they wanted me to come back," he added. "Looking back, I guess I didn't want to come back."

Arnason stopped short of saying he had a problem with Murray, but then took what appeared to be a veiled shot when he suggested his absence from the post-season tournament was a result of a reluctance on the part of the Senators bench boss to tinker with a winning lineup.

"Maybe he was happy with his team ... they had a great year," said Arnason. "Things didn't go well (in the playoffs) and he decided to keep going with the squad he had."

By then, Arnason concedes his conditioning might have slipped.

"I was in shape when I first got here," he said. "But living in a hotel got to me. Maybe I put on a few pounds. But I've been in good shape my whole career."

Either way, Arnason will always be remembered in Ottawa.

He'll be remembered as a guy Muckler thought could be a centre for Martin Havlat who -- after failing to produce with some very good offensive players and after another Senators playoff bellyflop -- was downgraded to "a player for the future."

Mostly though, on a team that needed a boost to get through a fantastic window of opportunity, Arnason will be remembered as a healthy scratch. And adding only him, while refusing to bring in a goalie just in case Dominik Hasek didn't bounce back from that pesky adductor muscle problem, will always be remembered as decisions that cost the Senators a great shot at the Cup.

STARTS AND STOPS: The Avs' Karlis Skrastins was playing in his 440th consecutive game last night, which is the second-longest such streak ever for an NHL defenceman. The record of 486 was set from 1961-68 and is held by a guy whose name is still uttered many times a day by coffee drinkers across Canada: Tim Horton ... The line of Denis Hamel, Dean McAmmond and Chris Neil was flying early, with a pretty passing play ending when a Neil wrist shot was stopped by Jose Theodore. After seven games, the line has been Ottawa's most consistent. Who would have guessed that?

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM...: For the definition of the phrase "over committing", look to Martin Gerber. Twice in the sixth minute last night he wound up well out of his crease after stopping what appeared to be harmless shots. Both times he was lucky an Avalanche player wasn't around to slide the rebound into an open net. Of the Gerber traits we've noticed so far, this is the most disturbing ... Are guys working in Scotiabank Place parking lot really police officers, or do they just think they are?

BETWEEN PERIODS: Seeing Joe Corvo make his Senators debut in jersey No. 7 reminds us to tell you that the radio booths were overtaken by Senators alumni last night. While former captain Laurie Boschman was Dave Schreiber's sidekick on the home team's broadcast, ex-Ottawa defenceman Curtis "Cowboy" Leschyshyn is now a full-time colour analyst for Colorado games. If sweaters were retired simply to honour players for being true professionals and gentlemen, Corvo would never have had the opportunity to don the number previously worn by Leschyshyn.


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