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The Flyers are Coming Tonight
posted Feb 11, 2006 at 04:42PM

Withdrawl symptoms are already starting. Thanks to Hockey Night in Toronto, we won't get to watch the Senators play for a good long while.

It seems everywhere I read most people are laying the blame for the slump on everything and everyone except Murray; and quite frankly that is where I feel the problems lie.

It looks like the lines will be changed yet again although nothing has been committed. According Brennan (Ottawa Sun) reports,

"The most noticeable change to the lines included center Chris Kelly's slide to the left wing, on a line with Spezza and Alfredsson. Mike Fisher was reunited with wingers Peter Schaefer and Chris Neil while Bryan Smolinski centered Heatley and Patrick Eaves and Antoine Vermette worked between Brian McGrattan and Christoph Schubert."

Again Murray hasn't committed to these lines, which means that if other lines are used they won't even have had much of a chance to practice with each other.

As I said, the last line combinations at least made some sense, and the Senators did play well. All that was really needed was the players to now start finishing the deal and score. If Heatley did not hit that goal post the whole character of that Atlanta game could have changed.

The line-up above splits Heatley and Spezza which to me is a real faux pas especially Heatley. Heatley has been combined with Smolinski before, with both Vermette (5 on 5) and Eaves (power-play) and the results were nothing short of brutal.

It also looks like he can't wait to bring McGrattan back, even while we have Bochenski, Hamel and Martins who are much better players available at Binghampton.

Previously I had suggested the following as a line-up without Havlatt:


The top six are the two lines Murray went to, when he shortened the bench late in the third period against Atlanta. The kid line has never even been tried but I am sure they would make a potent third line. Making use of Hamel and Martins would give us a real fourth line.

Another combination that would be interesting is as follows


Varada has been playing very well lately. No he doesn't score goals, that is not his thing. But he has been getting his "nose into things" and that is what Heatley and Spezza are missing. Alfredson-Smolinski and Smolinski-Neil are pairing that have worked well in the past. Here we combine the three.

The third line has Fisher being dropped in as one for one replacement for Havlatt on what was, in better days, our second line.

Hamel replaces McGrattan, and with Kelly and Eaves gives us a fourth line that actually has goal scoring potential.

Usually, slumps are as much psychological as anything else. In that regards the Olympic break is a god send as it allows people to feel that they can start fresh. I think in our case the problems run deeper and won't potentially be resolved until Havlatt gets back.

I say "potentially". My feelings towards Murray started their downward slide during Havlatt's five game suspension. He did not defend Havlatt. Indeed he uttered some real BS about Havlatt "having to play to get his position back" and did nothing to counter the rumours that Ottawa was actually considering trading Havlatt, only one of the best players in the league.

I am sure when Havlatt did up his sums on whether to go for rehabilitation vice surgery, that these actions were a deciding factor to take care of himself first.

There are coaches you play for and coaches you don't. Murray displays all of the characteristics of the latter. My real fear is that when the season ends, there will be a stream of players leaving for greener pastures, and not just financial ones.

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