Time for Senators to shake and bake

ERIN NICKS -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

Boston Red Sox fans can sympathize. Surely the Atlanta Braves' supporters can as well.

The problem is, both of them have championships to show for their misery, regardless of when it began.

Nine seasons. Nine seasons of playoff berths. Nine seasons that saw the Ottawa Senators top the 100-point mark five times. There was a President's Trophy, and a Jack Adams award-winning coach. Nine seasons that allowed the top defensive core in the league to form. Nine years that saw this team eventually emerge as the odds-on favourite to win it all -- a begrudging admission to make, specifically for the team's many critics.

But these nine years also bore witness to a team perpetually on the losing end of a mental battle. Goaltending issues. Confidence issues. History kept repeating itself, yet everything seemed logical on paper. Why couldn't it work out?

And more importantly, why couldn't this year be different, when so many believed it would be?

When the Senators repeatedly fell short in the post-season, inevitably the blame fell upon former coach Jacques Martin. The implementation of Bryan Murray into the head-coaching role after Martin's dismissal provided a clean slate. GM John Muckler then began adding "names" into the Ottawa lineup. Dany Heatley. Dominik Hasek. Perceptions began to change.

And oddly enough, the lockout itself played a role in changing ideas about the Senators. It provided a buffer from the messiness of the past, almost allowing the team to approach the fresh league with a "new-era" mentality. The Senators' history is never truly forgotten. Especially when reality rears its ugly head.

There's something exceedingly frustrating about being on the cusp of greatness for so long, and lacking the ability to break through. Blowing through the regular season, tackling the majority of battles with ease, handling the rough spots with professionalism -- it almost seems as if someone is handing the Sens a map with directions that lead straight to the world's most famous trophy. Poor navigation skills are one thing, but do we really need this many detours?

The Sacramento Kings know what it's like. So do the Indianapolis Colts. The latter, in particular, has a clear idea of how it feels to be labeled the favourite, only to come up short when it matters. Teams on the cusp realize their window of opportunity is short. If they linger, they risk breeding a psychological Petri dish filled with cynics, bandwagon jumpers and vicious monikers that stick like Crazy Glue. Nicknames like the "c" word. Chokers.

Cusp teams run out of excuses when they last as long as the Senators. You can only fire so many front-office faces and trade so many players. Most of all, you can only lay the trust and hope in your fans' hands for so long. Patience may be a virtue, but blind allegiance is not.

Nine seasons of building and hoping -- of joy, but many more disappointments. Other teams' fans have waited longer. They have pined and prayed for a breakthrough. Their patience is admirable.

Nine seasons is long enough for a Senators core to prove it is capable of bringing a championship to Ottawa. If these players are unable to do so, then perhaps they should shut that window. Jump off the cliff. Get off that cusp. It's seems blatantly clear that this nucleus of players can't get it done. It might be time to find those to become the eventual Senators who can.

IDOL TIME: American Idol host Ryan Seacrest was recently involved in an affectionate photo-op with the Stanley Cup. One assumes this would be a great rebound from his recent "relationship" with Teri Hatcher -- the Cup has some meat on its frame and proves to be a better conversation piece.

BAD LUCK OF THE IRISH: What was with the appearance of Ronan Tynan at Game 4 between the Sens and Sabres? The Irish tenor charged out to sing the American national anthem, and nearly took a header on the ice in the process. His appearance was so unexpected that I thought it was Jacques Martin, sneaking in for one more go.

CRAZY LIKE A FOX: Vivica A. Fox was spotted cozying up to Reggie Miller in a Las Vegas club this week, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. This provides adequate proof that the phenomenon known as "beer goggles" is not strictly a male-oriented affliction.

erinnicks@yahoo.ca


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