Treatment of Emery costly for coach

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:33 PM ET

One month to the day after standing behind the bench as the coach of the Eastern Conference all-stars, his proud daughters beside him, John Paddock is on the street.

With the Senators' offence now as inept as the team defence, which had been in a downward spiral for some time, Paddock found himself yesterday at the intersection of unmet expectations and back-to-back shutouts, which is not a good place to be.

He wasn't thrown under the bus by his players, he was hit by it.

Senators GM Bryan Murray will go back behind the bench starting tonight and hope he can reverse a trend. Forget about hanging onto first in the Eastern Conference or the Northeast Division; given the Senators' current performance, a place in the playoffs is not a foregone conclusion.

Murray's "To-Do" list is lengthy, but having his team find a clue, not to mention their own end now and then, is near the top of the list. He couldn't get a new goalie at the trade deadline, so now he will have to find a way to get Ray Emery or Martin Gerber regularly in the way of some pucks.

Murray will have to use his considerable charm and wit to get this group to start competing on a regular basis and commit to playing team defence, something he was capable of doing last year in the second half of the season and into the glorious spring run that ended in the franchise's first Stanley Cup final.

The Senators have slipped to 23rd in the NHL in goals- against average this season and that is never a good reflection on the coaching staff. Team defence is often a function of great goaltending and a buy-in by the skaters, neither of which has been spotted in these parts since November.

But as much as there is a challenge to improve things on the ice, there is also the issue of airing out a dressing room that has become polluted with a few too many personal agendas.

That's nothing new, really. There are always going to be players unhappy with their ice-time or the players with whom they are on the ice. But, for whatever reason, the malcontents rubbed some of their teammates the wrong way this season. It helped contribute to the air of negativity that was accumulating around the team over the last 3O months.

As Paddock rode The Big Three out of the gate to a 15-2 start, there were players who, rather than revelling in playing on a record-setting team, were more concerned about their own situation.

"There are guys running to the coach's office complaining about their ice time or their linemates," said one player. "I'm not happy, but I'm not going to do that."

There were other players who bit their tongues and just shook their heads over the handling of the Emery situation. They felt Paddock, and Murray, too, let Emery get away with too much in terms of his chronic tardiness, his neglectful approach to rehabilitating his surgically-repaired wrist and his refusal to do anything but the bare minimum when it came to practice and game-day skates.

"In any other organization, I think he would have been gone in a week after being late for practice again," said another player.

Murray apparently tried to move Emery at the trade deadline -- rumour has it was to the Chicago Blackhawks in a bigger deal that would have included goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin -- but there were no takers for Emery and his baggage. Murray couldn't bring in another goalie without being able to ship one out. He couldn't fix the goaltending problem as a GM. Now he'll have to try and do it as coach.

Murray is faced with the same problems which sunk Paddock, but has the advantage of being able to come in and, to a certain extent, declare a fresh start. Murray obviously had some input into a number of decisions ultimately made by Paddock, so Murray's fingerprints are on the rudder of this listing ship, too.

He does have two advantages: Last year's success still lingers in the air and minds and ears are often more willing to tune in to a fresh voice.

Now we'll find out if Paddock was the problem or just the first victim of it.


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