Waiting isn't easy game for GM of 8-35-5 Senators

ON THE NHL

January 18, 1994|By SANDRA McKEE

Randy Sexton can still laugh, and that is not a small thing. Sexton is the general manager of the Ottawa Senators, the absolute -- no debate about it -- worst team in the NHL.

"It doesn't matter what kind of contract I have," said Sexton, laughing. "If the owner is happy you stay and if he isn't you go. And our owner is very supportive."

The second-year Senators are 8-35-5 going into this week's All-Star break.

They are last in the league in goals allowed, giving up a whopping 230 -- 50 more than second-worst Winnipeg.

But the Senators have 21 points, which is twice as many as they had this time last season.

That is still 23 points behind Florida and 17 behind Anaheim, this season's two new expansion teams.

The best news is the Senators appear to have two diamonds, rookie Alexei Yashin and Alexandre Daigle, who could become very polished over the next few years.

Yashin leads all rookies in scoring and Daigle is fourth on the list.

"They've got a lot of points, but they've also suffered from being on a team like ours that can't surround them with the same depth and support," said Sexton. "But I'm so happy to have them both. They're marvelous. They weren't brought here to win Rookie of the Year awards. They were brought here to help us win a Stanley Cup."

Ottawa has a five-year building plan the organization says will produce a champion in six to 10 years.

"Our plan is the same plan the New York Islanders had when they started," Sexton said. "We are building with youth and we have the courage to stand behind our convictions."

Some nights the Senators have had as many as four teen-agers in their lineup. Some nights the team plays well enough to beat Stanley Cup champion Montreal, 6-3. Some nights, like last Saturday against Calgary, it gets blown out, 10-0.

Bill Torrey, the general manager who built the Islanders into a team that won four Stanley Cups from 1980 through 1983, left little doubt in Sexton's mind about what he would be up against.

"He told me if I wanted to run a hockey team, that was fine, and if I wanted to run and build a hockey team the way the Islanders did, that was fine, too," said Sexton. "But he also told me to prepare to be absolutely sick to my stomach 84 nights a year. He said if I could do that, for three or four years, I'd start to see the results."

Torrey now is president of the Panthers and is using some solid veterans, such as goalie John Vanbiesbrouck, to challenge for a playoff spot in their vfirst year.

"I hate losing," said Sexton. "I hate it. But we're lucky because our fans are knowledgeable and most nights they can see flashes of the future that keeps them coming out."

He says to build a team this way, "you have to be patiently impatient." This season he has seen the finance package for a new arena come together, and the team expects to see ground broken and construction started the last week of this month.

"I'd like to find an experienced defenseman," Sexton said. "I'd like to see us do better after the All-Star break when we're rested and healthy. I'd like to see Yashin, Daigle and Dave Archibald go out and score every night on the power play.

"But I know if I don't see the results now, it will pay off next week, next month or next year if we hold tight to our plan."

Mid-term exam

The NHL has released its midseason rankings of draft-eligible for the 1994 entry draft, June 28-29 in Hartford, Conn.

Eighteen-year-old Radek Bonk of the International Hockey League's Las Vegas Thunder topped the North American list.

Eric Lindros' "little" brother, Brett, 6 feet 4, 215 pounds, was ranked 11th.

On the European list, Oleg Tverdovsky of Krylja Sovetov-Moscow, a 6-foot defenseman, was No. 1.

But Jack Button, the Washington Capitals director of player personnel, says the list is irrelevant.

"The midseason rankings mean nothing," said Button. "It's what a player does over the last 30-40 games and in the playoffs that determine where he'll be ranked for the draft. In fact, it's just about now that you start to have any idea and you'll see players make big moves in both directions on that list."

Blackhawks woes

The Chicago Blackhawks have as much or more talent than anyone in the NHL, with Jeremy Roenick, Joe Murphy and Chris Chelios in the lineup nightly and goalie Ed Belfour (19-12-3 with a GAA under 3.00) in the net.

But the Blackhawks are 1-5-1 in their past seven games, 3-6-1 in their past 10. Not exactly the way this team hoped to play after a 17-4 run early on.

After getting clobbered, 5-1, by the New York Rangers on Sunday night, most of them packed their bags and headed out of town even faster than the visiting Rangers.

Roenick (21 goals, 34 assists) has gone on record saying the team can't win if he and Murphy (19 goals, 21 assists) don't score.

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