Sens stopped playing for 'a good man'

DON BRENNAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- There can be no joy that John Paddock lost his job yesterday.

He is a good, bluntly honest man and a very capable coach. But for whatever reason, the Senators stopped playing for him.

And because of that, Paddock had to go. It's as simple as ....oh wait. Daniel Alfredsson has an objection to the above statement.

Daniel?

"No, there's no question we didn't," the captain said yesterday, perhaps misunderstanding the query, when asked if the players stopped playing for Paddock. "I heard a few people ask that and that's B.S.., if you ask me. It kind of bothers me. He had the ears of everybody in the locker room. We just didn't perform and get him wins."

Exactly. They quit realizing their capabilities. They didn't do it on purpose, which is what Alfredsson must have assumed was being suggested. Far as I can tell, the majority, if not all of them, genuinely like Paddock. They weren't trying to get him fired. But c'mon, is there an Eastern Conference team playing worse than the Senators these days?

What about a semi-pro hockey team?

This week was a new low in a three-month period full of them. The Senators were crap against the Leafs on Monday and Bruins on Tuesday.

The rate they were going, slipping right out of the playoff picture entirely was not an impossibility. And this from a team that started 15-2 and had some people whispering about their chances of matching the Habs' eight-loss season in 1977-78.

It wasn't going to happen, but the notion they could made for some good bar chat, at least.

What the hell happened to this once mighty club, anyway? Is it that they're tiring, as was suggested in their dressing room a couple of weeks ago? They did go right until June last year, then after but a short recess turned their game up full volume right from the pre-season. There's something to be said for pacing oneself.

Meanwhile, their money players have stopped cashing the cheques.

In the last eight games, Alfredsson (one goal, one assist), Jason Spezza (one goal, one assist) and Dany Heatley (two goals, one assist) have combined for eight points. In one game before this stretch, they had 15 points.

If The Big Three is exhausted, it's understandable and probably Paddock's fault. Their ice time is up significantly. Last season, Spezza averaged 19:17 per game. So far, he's at 21 minutes a night. Using the same measuring stick, the 35-year-old Alfredsson has been bumped from 21:34 to 22:51, while Heatley has gone from 21 minutes a night to 21:56.

But then Paddock, who was back as an NHL coach for the first time since 1994-95, was desperate to succeed. So could you really blame him?

Paddock's undoing was the way he handled the goalies, ticking off Martin Gerber by letting Ray Emery get away with poor work habits and still hold the inside track in the race for the No. 1 job. But just like he didn't trust anyone not named Heatley, Alfredsson or Spezza to score consistently, he obviously didn't fully trust Gerber to keep the puck out of the net.

Again, tough to blame him.

Meanwhile, there were other Senators who were downright upset Paddock was canned yesterday. That group was led by Christoph Schubert, who has been coached by Paddock since he came over from Germany in 2002 and developed into a player that Paddock relied heavily on when the two were in Binghamton.

"He's a great coach, I have nothing bad to say about him," Schubert said in the lobby of Philadelphia's Four Seasons hotel late yesterday afternoon. "He's the reason I'm here right now and he made me the player I am today.

"I had a tough time coming over to North America, and he took his time, talked to me a lot. It's a tough day for me."

Paddock was also Spezza's first pro coach.

"It's no secret me and John have a great relationship," said Spezza. "As players we feel directly responsible for (the firing). It's a disappointing day."

"We're all disappointed," added Mike Fisher. "There's no question as players we feel, I feel, somewhat responsible. We're not performing. He's a good man, he's a good coach ... for whatever reason, we couldn't perform, and he takes the blame."

Can Bryan Murray make the difference. Can he turn the Senators back into chicken salad?

"I hope so," said Fisher. "I think he did a great job for us last year. He brings some experience. He's going to be hard on us, and at the same time hopefully we can have fun, and get on a roll here together. Through everything, in times like this, you've got to learn as much as you can about teams, and what you need to do to win. Hopefully we can do that and it will help us down the stretch."

Little good that will do Paddock, a good man who lost his last chance to be an NHL coach because his players stopped playing for him. Whether they think so or not.


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