Tick-tock for action plan

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

NEWARK, N.J. -- The belief around the NHL is "something" is going to give with the Senators.

Owner Eugene Melnyk was preaching patience when he made the bold prediction just before Christmas that the media would be talking about the club's "miracle turnaround" in March, but with the clock ticking on the season it doesn't appear that's going to happen.

The blame has been placed on just about everybody for the club's collapse: GM Bryan Murray has taken heat, coach Craig Hartsburg is under fire and centre Jason Spezza has become a lightning rod for criticism and the subject of trade rumours.

Melnyk created a lot of the speculation there will be a coaching change by giving junior Team Canada's Pat Quinn a hug on the bench after an 8-1 victory over the Czech Republic last Friday.

The talk yesterday had Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson coming in to take over the whole show with Quinn. The reality is: Who knows? Melnyk is a wild card.

"I don't really talk to (Melnyk) very often. I've talked to him three or four times since I've been here. I can't tell you that," said Hartsburg, when asked if the team was testing Melnyk's patience.

"There's not a day goes by we're not trying to fix it. As a coaching staff, we know what we need to be. I'm certainly not going to hang my head thinking that we haven't tried to fix it."

The players know something is going to happen here if there isn't a turnaround quickly. The mid-season point is Jan. 13 vs. Carolina. The club was 12 points out of a playoff spot going into yesterday's game and Murray has been vocal about the fact he's tried to make a deal.

Hartsburg said the most difficulty he's had is trying to change the mindset concerning the style of game the Senators have to play to be successful. Yes, they used to be an offensive powerhouse, but those days are gone.

All Hartsburg wants the players to do is give a consistent effort for 60 minutes, be physical, win battles for loose pucks and go to the dirty areas to capitalize. The Senators haven't done it enough.

"They all play well in spurts. We just don't consistently shift-in, shift-out have everybody play well," said Hartsburg.

"We do it for a while, but we seem to find a way to fall off it. Sometimes it's lack of effort and sometimes lack of competing and some of it is lack of execution and it costs us.

"This is a team that has to play a certain way to have success. We've tried to sell that and tell people that because that's the bottom line," he said. "If people think this team can go out and outscore people at will, they're really mistaken. We have to play a real good team game to have success."

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said there are a lot of areas that need to be addressed to get consistency back in the team's game.

"We've talked about (what's wrong) and I don't think you can point to any specific issue," said Alfredsson.

"We're just not getting the job done. We've had stretches where we've played really well and we've thought we're going to go in the right direction, then we've kind lost our way a little bit.

"The last few games we've been playing well and just not finishing. We play well enough to win, but we're not finding a way to win."

Spezza, who has been the subject of plenty of criticism, told Hockey Night in Canada Saturday he doesn't want to go anywhere.

"I can't say I've never thought of it (playing somewhere else), but it's just usually in down times that it may be nice to be somewhere where nobody knows you," said Spezza.

"But, at the end of the day, when you sit back and think about it, I love where I play. I signed to play in Ottawa for a reason. I enjoy the hockey market.

"When you're down it's tough and it definitely plays on your mind. But, if we can bring a championship to the city, it will be a great feeling," he said. "As much as we haven't done well this year, I don't feel like we're too far away with the guys we've got in this room."

Once the world juniors end tonight, there could be a lot of action off the ice in Ottawa. Of course, that's up to Melnyk.


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