Grapes not sour on Sens

Coach's Corner commentator Don Cherry still says that the Ottawa Senators should trade Daniel...

Coach's Corner commentator Don Cherry still says that the Ottawa Senators should trade Daniel Alfredsson. (Ottawa Sun File/Errol McGihon)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:19 AM ET

MONTREAL -- Don Cherry is in the coach's corner.

Cherry, the star of Coach's Corner on Hockey Night in Canada, told the Sun he believes the way coach Bryan Murray has handled the Senators in the last month is the biggest reason why the team has turned its fortunes around.

"I'm impressed with how Bryan Murray has hung tough and didn't panic and just kept playing the guys," Cherry said in an interview before the Toronto-Montreal game Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

"It was pretty tough when you see all those losses and everybody jumping all over him (like it's) the end of hockey in Ottawa.

"He just kept riding it out and kept doing what he was doing. It's not how good a coach you are, it's how tough you are. He toughed it out."

Cherry said Murray kept his criticism to a minimum while many so-called experts were calling for big changes to the Senators.

"He hung tough and he didn't start ripping his team and benching guys. He hung with his goaltending right to the end," said Cherry. "He didn't try to get another goalie. He kept saying all along, 'We're going to pull out of it.' That's very important for the players to hear stuff like that. He wasn't saying, 'We're in last and we're never going to do this and we're never going to do that.' Bryan Murray was the guy I was most impressed with."

But Cherry still believes captain Daniel Alfredsson needs to be traded.

"It must have been awfully discouraging because everybody blamed him for the loss in the playoffs last year and for the guy (Jason) Pominville walking around him," said Cherry. "Well, nobody asked: 'How come the goalie let it in? Where is the other defenceman?' It was all his fault. Everything was his fault.

ALWAYS UNDER PRESSURE

"Every time I saw an interview, when they were losing, the guy having to answer the questions was (Alfredsson). And I still think it would be better for him if he (was dealt) somewhere where he was just a player and he didn't have all that pressure on him. He's had that pressure for 10 years and it's always his fault.

"I like him. He was the one guy, when I was in trouble with the (comments about) visors, he stuck up for me. I'm not knocking the guy. If you were having a beer with him ... if you were his deepest friend, I'd bet you he'd say the same thing."

As for goalie Martin Gerber, who has struggled since being signed to a three-year, $11.1-million US contract in the off-season, Cherry is convinced he's going to recover.

"Gerber is going to come out of it. He's had a tough time, he lost all that weight in the playoffs and then (Cam) Ward took over," said Cherry. "He was never used to pressure like this.

"Down in Carolina, they hardly know you are alive. All of a sudden, he came to Ottawa and he was supposed to be the next Terry Sawchuk. He had pressure right off the bat. He got off to a tough start, but he came back and won in Carolina when he got thrown in there.

"I still think he's going to be a top goaltender and he and (Ray) Emery are going to fight it out to the end."

Cherry laughs at "experts" questioning Murray about whether Gerber or Emery should start.

LAUGHABLE

"Well, the big debate is by people who don't know what they're talking about. All of a sudden these big debates, that make me laugh, are questioning a guy like Bryan Murray," said Cherry. "It really makes me laugh when I hear people telling him what to do.

"They've never been in that position so they don't know the position. They're not on the ice with them every day. They're not in the dressing room with them.

"They don't know how they're feeling, their reaction, personality, mood or the whole deal."

Cherry feels the adversity will help the Senators build character.

POINTS TO WINGS

"I'll give you Detroit for instance. They had it so easy last year, winning all those games. I kept saying, 'They're not playing tough, they're not grinding it out, they don't know what tough situations are, they don't know how to work out of it,' " said Cherry. "I really do believe that (the Senators) faced adversity and that they pulled it out. I know a lot of people say that's ridiculous, but Detroit is the proof in the pudding.

"The Senators got whacked around and kicked around and they're a tougher team now than they've ever been."


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