Canucks and Beyond

The Gossip in Ottawa Must be Good

06/26/2008 at 2:27pm EDT

The Ray Emery Affair has always given me the disconcerting feeling, “There’s something going on here that no one is telling us.”

His “character” is a favorite target (though I’ve yet to read a word about his crimes being any more interesting than being late for two (three?) practices, bad driving skills and a snotty attitude.) And while I realize there’s likely a lot more to it, no one is really saying what it is.

But that’s what everything surrounding the Ottawa Senators always seems to be—like a soap opera that I’m hearing the plot for second-hand and not actually able to watch. I always get the sense that the hockey media in that town is following their own code of silence, like some bizarre Stepford Wives syndrome.

A few words from James Gordon at Hockey Capital in the Ottawa Citizen got me thinking about the topic again today, in his remarks on the departure of Brian McGrattan:

imageOttawa Senators’ GM Bryan Murray suggested yesterday that he traded team tough guy Brian McGrattan because there was a perception in the community that he was a distraction in the dressing room, but also because he “wants a team of real character people.”

So which is it? I don’t know if I’d agree fans thought McGrattan was a problem, especially considering enforcers are generally loved by home supporters. He was good buddies with Ray Emery, who was proven to be a distraction. The two brawled in practice midway through last season, which was definitely a distraction. He goofed around in practice a lot and didn’t work particularly hard (it’s actually pretty funny how many pictures we have in our archives of him grappling with teammates and wearing wacky hats).

There’s an argument to be made that McGrattan wasn’t the best influence on his teammates, but to download some responsibility for moving him on the fans isn’t right.

Look, I don’t know much of anything about Brian McGrattan, but I start grinding my teeth every time I hear the word “character” being thrown around. Especially from Bryan Murray who continues to echo the idea like a broken record.

What is this character business really all about?

Gordon hints at it (i.e. “an argument to be made that McGrattan wasn’t the best influence…”) but doesn’t actually explain anything. Is it just the suggestion that he’s a “goof” in practices? Whatever defines his so-called poor character is a legitimate issue for analysis because this isn’t simply a matter of avoiding gossip—it’s a matter of knowing specific issues that a player might bring to his future team.

But I’ll certainly give Gordon credit for one thing I almost never see the Ottawa media do: he takes Murray to task for dumping his responsibility on the fans. If Murray is seriously making personnel decisions based on “community perceptions,” I’d have to wonder why he even has a job.

But I suppose I’m going to have to continue wondering about that, because the majority of the Ottawa media says nothing… questions nothing… challenges nothing. Their code of silence remains nearly intact for the moment.

Meanwhile, it’s fascinating to watch The Bryan Murray Show continue to deflect responsibility to everyone else in sight, as he manages to avoid properly accounting for how his Stanley Cup caliber team imploded in a matter of a few short months this past season.

“Character” just isn’t a good enough answer.

______________________
*photo found at the Ottawa Citizen

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