Difficult day for Senators

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- The sixth coach in Senators modern-day history was deep-sixed yesterday afternoon because the number of losses and embarrassing performances had piled up to the smothering level.

Taking over, as expected, is No. 5.

GM Bryan Murray will guide the sputtering Senators into action tonight against the Flyers. Murray relieved John Paddock of his duties following practice yesterday afternoon at the Philadelphia Spectrum. His plan is to finish the season as coach and spin the Senators back in the right direction.

The 53-year-old Paddock will take a few weeks off to ponder an offer to remain with the organization, likely in a scouting capacity. Also dumped was assistant coach Ron Low, who could resurface with the Senators as a scout.

"(The move) is certainly because of performance lately," said Murray, who had a 100-46-18 record behind the Senators plank and took them to the Stanley Cup final last spring before assuming the GM's role and promoting Paddock, his assistant for two years and a part of the organization for the past six. "The results we've been having, or not having, were an indicator that some adjustment, or some emotion had to be brought back to the team."

After a 15-2 start, the Senators have won just 21-of-47 since. Most recently, they've been brutal, dropping 6-of-8 and 14 of their last 21.

But it wasn't until this week that Murray became convinced a change was needed. A 5-0 home loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs was the final straw, as far as he was concerned. Owner Eugene Melnyk handed him the axe after Tuesday's 4-0 loss in Boston.

"After the game (Tuesday) night, he obviously gave me permission to do it," said Murray, 65. "It's hard to put your finger on (what went wrong) totally. I think there are some players who maybe took advantage of him not being a real hard person at times.

"We are, I thought, a very good defensive team, and we certainly haven't played that way lately," added Murray. "You can point the finger at a goaltender, or whatever it may be, but defence is a combination of a lot of things, and it takes everybody involved to be part of it."

Murray said his first priorities are to get some effort, emotion and discipline into the play.

"I think we've been a very passive group in the last number of games, and I think it's because of not winning," said Murray. "I think players start to grip their sticks a little too much."

Paddock left the team hotel before the media had a chance to talk to him.

Murray said the decision was very difficult, as Paddock is a long-time friend. He said Paddock was very emotional, disappointed and respectful upon receiving the news.

"I don't think that you lose your job, an important job and a great opportunity for him, without being emotional about it," said Murray. "And he was that. He's a good man and we had a good conversation.

"It's a difficult (decision), but the right one, at the moment, I believe, with the way we've been playing, really since late December. We were not close to competing at the level we were at the start of the year."

The players were disappointed and probably a little embarrassed with themselves for costing Paddock his job.

"It's a difficult day," said captain Daniel Alfredsson, who went to see Paddock after he had been fired. "It feels like we let John down. He's been part of our success here for the last three years ... he took a lot of heat lately. It feels bad that we couldn't come out and get him some more wins down the stretch. Obviously, when we're not performing to our level, the coach is the most likely to get kicked out. It's tough to change the whole team."

While Paddock was positioning Ray Emery to be the team's No. 1 goalie, Murray would not divulge his immediate plans.

"I'd like to keep that until I have a chance to talk to the goaltenders, but Ray will play (tonight)," said Murray, defending the way Paddock dealt with Emery for his tardiness.

Remaining on Murray's coaching staff will be his long- time assistant, Greg Carvel, as well as goalie coach Eli Wilson, conditioning coach Randy Lee and video coach Tim Pattyson.

Murray said he let Low go because "I guess I feel comfortable with Greg Carvel. I want guys to have important roles. I thought at times there were a few too many around, or on the ice."

Asked if he thought the Senators were still good enough to win the Stanley Cup, Murray said: "I think we have a real good hockey team, a very comparable hockey team to last year. Like every team, you've got to get a little bit lucky, and you've got to play very, very hard, but yeah I think we have a real contending team here."


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