'They are in a slump'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:20 AM ET

Senators GM John Muckler isn't ready to reach for the panic button.

But with the Senators still winless at home and the New Jersey Devils arriving at Scotiabank Place tonight, Muckler issued a challenge yesterday for somebody in the dressing room to step up and lead the team out of this early season mess.

"I think it's complacency and people looking at past records. and thinking everything will take care of itself," said Muckler, who also preached a note of calm yesterday. "Nobody wants to take charge and all the sudden, you are in a slump. It's difficult for you, then you start to press, then you get frustrated, then you start making mistakes and then you start doing things you shouldn't be doing.

'WORK OUT OF IT'

"They realize now they are in a slump. Now they have to work their way out of it."

But Muckler was careful not to lay the burden of leadership solely on the backs of captain Daniel Alfredsson and assistants Wade Redden and Chris Phillips.

"You (media) have the opinion that to be a leader, you have to have a letter on your jersey," said Muckler. "That's not necessarily true. The leadership has to come by committee. It has to be the hard core of your hockey club. They are the leadership group, the veterans who have been here a long time, regardless of whether you have an 'A' or a 'C' on your sweater. You have to be ambitious to get the job done."

Alfredsson said it's on everybody to play better.

"Anytime the team is not winning, you want to do more to help the team win," said Alfredsson. "Sometimes you need somebody to step up and do the extraordinary."

That's why Muckler wants the answers to come from within and isn't working on any deals. He wants coach Bryan Murray, the staff and players to find out why a season that started with promise has slipped off the rails.

"The talent and the skill level is here. It's obvious because of the history of the players we have," said Muckler. "If you were to have an auction here tomorrow, there would be a few other teams lined up to try to obtain the talent we do have. We didn't want to admit to ourselves that we were about to go into a slump. We didn't want to admit to ourselves that we were having difficulty. We kept telling ourselves, 'Don't worry about it everything is going to be okay. We'll make it happen.'

"There's only one way to make it happen and that's by hard work. That's what we've lost. We've lost our work habits."

SHARE THE BLAME

Muckler said Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Alfredsson aren't the only ones to blame.

"The other people have to take some of the blame, too," said Muckler. "We're not getting any scoring from anywhere. You can say the big line should be scoring more to support the so-called secondary. The secondary has to help the big line, too.

"This is a whole team involvement. That's why we're not playing well. It's not just the top line. Yeah, the top line is not playing the way they are capable of playing. Yes, they are making mistakes, too. But they shouldn't be up front as far as the criticism is concerned. Everybody should be part of that."


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