If the Ottawa Senators keep going in the Stanley Cup playoffs — and, honestly, there’s no reason now to suggest they won’t — general manager John Muckler should receive a whole bunch of credit.
That’d only be fair, you know.
Hey, I realize praising Muckler has not exactly been in vogue for years now. That’s the kind of thing that can happen to you when you’re in charge of a team that coughs and gags and chokes and fails to live up to expectations repeatedly. You become the chief culprit and an easy target, and you learn to live on the firing line.
And you don’t enhance your chances of surviving, either, when you begin this season with a gaping hole in your defence because you fail to re-sign a towering, formidable defenceman named Zdeno Chara and lose him as a free agent to the Boston Bruins — without getting anything whatsoever in return.
And then, around the trade deadline, you damage your reputation even more because of your inability to complete a deal with the Florida Panthers for veteran Gary Roberts, who dearly wanted to join your team.
While Chara and the Boston Bruins couldn’t even qualify for the post-season, however, Muckler’s defence corps has been mostly impressive in their opening playoff series against Roberts and the Penguins, and that was particularly true last night, when the Sens grabbed a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven set with a 2-1 victory in Pittsburgh.
This Sens-Pens thing is just about history. The teams return to Ottawa tomorrow night and, to steal a phrase from the legendary Porky Pig, that’s all folks.
The Sens’ work, of course, won’t be done until they’re in the Stanley Cup final, at least, but it seems to me that they're in rather decent position to get there.
Ottawa goaltender Ray Emery has been just as sparkling in this series as his defencemen.
The one player who’s making Muckler look especially good now, however, is forward Mike Comrie.
Last January, Comrie was one of the ugly Coyotes in Phoenix, not doing much of anything. Last night, though, he did a great deal, setting up the Sens’ winning goal midway through the third period with a picturesque pass, and with Roberts looking on helplessly.
All Muckler relinquished for Comrie was a suspended Russian prospect named Alexei Kaigorodov.
“Mike’s a great playmaker,” Muckler commented before last night’s game. “He’s been a great asset to our club.”
It’s true, And so, be nice. Give Muckler some credit.