Muckler stands behind Murray

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:45 AM ET

Senators GM John Muckler wants to make one thing perfectly clear: He doesn't have an issue with coach Bryan Murray.

Muckler was incensed yesterday at suggestions he was questioning Murray's coaching style in an interview with Sportsnet between periods of the club's 4-2 loss to the Canadiens on Tuesday night.

Asked about the club's poor record in close games by Sportsnet's Ian Mendes, Muckler said in part of his answer: "I think that is a coaching thing."

But Muckler said if the media or fans have the opinion he is questioning the way Murray -- who is in the final year of his contract -- is leading the Senators, they couldn't be more off-base.

"The coach is the guy who has to direct it. That's what he's on the ice for," said an upset Muckler, who added he didn't want anybody to think there is a wedge between he and Murray. "I'm not throwing him under the bus. I am not saying it's his fault. Don't put it that way."

'CONSTANT CORRECTION'

So, what was he saying?

"It's coaching ... that's how you correct it. That's how teams do that. You play 82 games and it's a constant correction of your team every game," said Muckler. "It's a constant correction to try to make your team more consistent. It's not done overnight. It's done over a period of games and a lot of coaching."

Asked if some of the Senators were looking at their past records and they didn't feel like they had to work hard to have success, Muckler said to talk to the players.

"If I were you, honestly, maybe, you are asking the wrong guy. Ask the players that question. That's what you should do. Ask the players that question," said Muckle while watching practice. "Because when I am sitting here as a fan I only see what I see. I see inconsistency. I see breakdowns, for instance, being scored on shorthanded. Right now, we're not playing well enough to be able to afford a mistake like that. That's what usually happens to clubs that are not playing very well. But get inside their heads ... Ask them."

The players know they have no one to blame, but themselves.

"We don't need fans and media to tell us. We are professionals and we can see what's going on," said Ottawa defenceman Chris Phillips. "To a man, we have to look in the mirror and each guy has to be more accountable."

But there were plenty of questions being asked about Murray and the way the club is being coached. Many reporters were wondering if his message is still getting through.

"The message is clear. As players, we're not all on the same the page," said Senators centre Mike Fisher. "We have to make a commitment to ourselves as a team to be better. We are 11 games in and we haven't played well at all. We got a lot of time to get things together. It's got to start now. We know there's issues. We've got to sort them out and be better and do different things on the ice. We know we've got a great hockey team, we've just got to get it turned around."

TOUGH PRACTICE

Murray put the players through a long practice that included a 25-minute skate with no pucks and then an off-ice workout. He said the message from the coaching staff has not fallen on deaf ears.

"I think they are all trying. There are times when you try like a bugger and it doesn't happen for you," said Murray.

He also come to his own defence on reports he said the club is "an average team." Murray maintained "I said we are playing like an average team. I don't think this is an average team."

NOTES: Ottawa G Martin Gerber will start against his former team -- the defending Stanley Cup-champion Carolina Hurricanes -- on Saturday ... Fisher (swollen foot) didn't practise yesterday after blocking a shot against the Habs. D Wade Redden (groin) is expected to return to the ice today. Both are expected to play against the Hurricanes.


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