'It hurt a lot'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

As the Anaheim Ducks celebrated last spring at the Honda Center, all the Senators could do was watch, slumped on their bench.

"You remember that feeling," centre Jason Spezza said. "It hurt a lot."

This should have been a nice, quiet summer in Ottawa, but owner Eugene Melnyk started the wheels of change a week after the final when he fired GM John Muckler and decided to elevate coach Bryan Murray into the role. Melnyk didn't want the organization to become complacent and wasn't happy with some of the decisions Muckler made.

At first, Melnyk wanted Murray to do both jobs. But Murray decided he didn't have enough time to be both GM and coach. While the Senators interviewed Rochester Amerks coach Randy Cunneyworth, Kitchener Rangers coach Peter DeBoer and London Knights coach Dale Hunter, assistant John Paddock was the No. 1 choice for the coaching job all along because Murray wanted to limit the amount of change.

There were few moves as Murray's hands were tied financially with more than $40 million committed to contracts. Defenceman Tom Preissing (Los Angeles) and centre Mike Comrie (New York Islanders) left as unrestricted free agents, while Peter Schaefer was dealt to Boston for winger Shean Donovan.

Instead, the Senators are hoping to learn from their performance last spring and use the same determination to get back. Murray was unable to move the salaries of goaltender Martin Gerber ($3.7 million ) and defenceman Joe Corvo ($2.5 million), but don't be surprised if both are elsewhere before the end of the season.

The Senators are going to try to get Gerber enough games to see if there's a team looking for goaltending help that might show interest. In training camp, he was working hard to push top goalie Ray Emery, who missed most of the exhibition season recovering from wrist surgery, for the No. 1 job.

Up front, there weren't many openings on the club. The Senators are searching for a top-six forward to play with Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley.

The Senators talked to Peter Forsberg's agent Don Baizley, but the free-agent centre won't make a decision on his future until November.

On the blueline, the Senators appear solid again. Defencemen Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov are coming off career years, but Paddock said Andrej Meszaros and Wade Redden have to improve if the club is going to have the same kind of success it enjoyed last season.


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