Work is only half done

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

The Senators satisfied?

Not a chance.

Eight wins and two rounds of hockey still stand between the Senators and their dream of carrying the Stanley Cup past Parliament Hill.

The Senators aren't content with just eliminating the Penguins and Devils to reach the Eastern Conference final.

Yes, there was reason to celebrate with the 150 or so fans who turned up at the Esso Avitat when the Senators arrived home from New Jersey in the wee hours yesterday morning, but GM John Muckler doesn't want anybody to get too excited.

There is still work to do as the Senators return to practice at Scotiabank Place today to prepare to face the Sabres, who eliminated the New York Rangers yesterday with a 5-4 victory in New York, in Round 3.

BUMPS ALONG THE WAY

"We have had a certain amount of success, yes, but this is not why we came to training camp in September -- to get this far," Muckler said in a conference call yesterday. "If you talk to all the players, they're not going to be happy until we see whether we can get this job done or not (by winning the Cup).

"That's what we set out for in training camp and now we've gotten to the halfway point and now we've really got to push ourselves to try to get the job done. It's not going to be easy. In fact, it's going to be very difficult. We're enjoying the success we've had and we're having, but we'd like to have more."

Getting here hasn't been easy for the Senators: There were bumps along the road -- including a stint in last place in November, which had fans and media calling for the heads of Muckler, coach Bryan Murray and captain Daniel Alfredsson.

But owner Eugene Melnyk stuck by his management team when everybody wanted change and Muckler didn't make a major shift with the direction of the club when it got off to a rotten start.

After being heavily criticized for not acquiring Gary Roberts from the Penguins at the NHL trade deadline, Muckler feels vindicated to a certain degree for sticking with this team.

"I've been in this business a long time so I know the ups and downs you go through," said Muckler. "When you're criticized like that, a lot of times it's people who care about the hockey club.

"As a general manager, you have to do what you feel is right and you're not going to be right all the time and when you're wrong, you'll get criticized. You get rewards from being right and that's watching your team grow. That's the business. It's a high-risk business and every trade that you make, you don't know how it's going to turn out.

MUCKLER HAS NO REGRETS

"You are going to make mistakes and you're not going to be 100% right, so you have to accept that criticism."

Muckler said he doesn't regret any of his free-agent signings or the acquisition of Oleg Saprykin from the Coyotes at the deadline. His best move was bringing in forward Mike Comrie in January.

"I told the team right after the deadline that I felt this team could win with the people we have in the dressing room," said Muckler.

"It would have been very easy to break up this club in October or November when we were playing badly. But I always felt this was a pretty good team and one of the reasons I felt good was because I thought there was enough here to move on and be successful. We haven't gotten there yet, but I think we're on the right road. We're halfway there and it would be nice if it would happen for everybody."

Still, Muckler was non-commital when he was asked about the future of Murray, who is without a contract for next year.

"As I said when I was asked about this before: At the end of the year, everything will take care of itself," said Muckler.


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