Sens grin and bear it

SCOTT MORRISON -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:59 AM ET

Can't live with him, can't live without him. It's the lament of many a spousal unit and of the Ottawa Senators as it relates to enigmatic goaltender Ray Emery, who can't seem to solve the intricacies of alarm clocks and practice schedules and, at least on a consistent basis, opposing shooters.

The simple truth is, regardless of the size of the pain Emery has become to the Senators with his tardiness and sloppy attitude, they still need him around. At least for now. In a pure business sense, until there is a level of confidence in Martin Gerber that is unwavering, they need Emery as insurance and as a possible alternative, especially if he can find his game because they know his game is good.

If that happens, well, then hire him a valet and a travel secretary. Keep in mind, although the Senators have won their past two games, they are only 5-5 in the past 10. And, after opening the season 15-2, they are a troubling 17-17 since Nov. 15, although a few of those were overtime and shootout losses, meaning not total losses by NHL standards. Within that .500 stretch, too, the Senators went winless for seven, then won six in a row. They won another four in a row, but also lost five of six, all of which means even if they are at the start of another good run they can't be certain it will last.

You also might have noticed that while Gerber was a big part of that torrid start, he wasn't invited to Atlanta for the all-star festivities.

Point is, the alarm bells have been ringing loud enough that Emery might even hear them, though he'd likely just hit the snooze button.

So that explains the need to keep him. For now. Beyond that, who the heck else would take him and his contract right now? Beside the fact there are no guarantees he would show up on time, general manager Bryan Murray knows that answer.

As for Emery's indiscretions, twice being sent home and lectured by the coach hasn't helped. Public offerings of disappointment and disgust from his teammates hasn't helped. Most likely a $14,000 or so fine won't put him on his best behaviour either, but for now the Senators can only hope it cures all.

Meantime, before anything happens again, the folks in the dressing room have to make it clear to Emery that what he is doing may not be heinous, but it is clearly showing a lack of respect for the team and his teammates and that is as unacceptable as it selfish.

They also have to make it clear that if there is a next time, the coach won't have to send him home because the doors to the dressing room will be locked from the inside.

The only other thing that might catch his attention is Gerber getting red hot, unless all he really wants is out.

OTHER STUFF

There has been considerable grousing in the media about the quality of the recent NHL all-star game. This is not new. Neither is the fact that all-star games are almost always never as good or remotely like "real" games.

Thing is, the all-star game is an event for sponsors, it is an honour for players, but it is not a game specifically designed to showcase the quality of the sport. That is what regular-season games and, especially, playoff and championship games are supposed to do. Think the NFL considers the Pro Bowl its showcase event?

We'd like to believe casual fans, or even first-time fans, are savvy enough to know that all-star games in any sport are not the standard by which to determine their interest, therefore playing one isn't going to stunt the growth of the sport.

They will always be flawed as compared with real games. Why have them? Well, they have become the centrepiece of a gathering for corporate partners, which is significant to the leagues, apparently. Beyond that, a million or so Canadians still watched and the rink was full.

The easy solution: If you don't like them, take the weekend off.


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