BOSTON -- Less than a day after his team was officially eliminated from the playoff chase for the first time since 1995-96, Bryan Murray took aim at the club's top players yesterday.
The Senators GM told reporters he knows he needs to make changes next season and said the likes of Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Mike Fisher must perform more consistently.
While Murray didn't name names, it wasn't hard to figure out who he was talking about.
"For the last two years, we've fired two coaches," said Murray. "Whether they were the right people at the right time, it doesn't matter at this point, but players have to play at a (certain) level (because) we develop expectations that are realistic for each one of them."
"They have to do it night after night. To win, if your best players, who take a fair number of your dollars, don't perform on a nightly basis, you're left wanting.
"I'd say on this team, even to this stage to a degree, a number of guys underachieve. I've seen what these players have done.
"I expect them to repeat that level of performance more often than not. There are down cycles in everybody's year, but more often than not they have to perform to a certain level. If they don't, then your team can't win. It doesn't matter what a second- or third-level player does, if they don't have the top guys going every night, then it's a difficult scenario."
MELNYK HERE NEXT WEEK
Murray said Eugene Melnyk will be in town next week to take part in a team photo and wrap up the season. Naturally, the owner's not happy.
"I talked to him (Monday)," said Murray. "I think we're all realistic and Eugene was, as the rest of us were. He's like the rest of us: Disappointed and frustrated by it, and, in turn realistic, he understands the level of this team and what we believe this team can be."
Murray believes the way the team played after coach Craig Hartsburg was fired and replaced by Cory Clouston is proof the Senators are going in the right direction.
"We know we have a couple of spots we have to upgrade," said Murray. "We certainly felt that we were a contending hockey team and that we'd be a playoff contender all the way through. To have the start that we had, really put us in a big, big hole.
"It's a hole that eventually you can't get out of. Without a doubt, in the latter part of this year, the players have played hard.
"The way we changed our approach and our style with the philosophy that (Clouston) has brought in. There's not just a glimmer of hope, there's a real lot of hope. We have a good core. Maybe we just need a couple of moves that will help them."
Where does Murray want to add?
"Our defence is better than it was early on, but we'll look at that and decide what we have to do there, if anything," said Murray. "We need another offensive-type player, probably a Top 6 forward. If we do that, we think we can establish two good lines."