Senators players take wait-and-see approach to latest talks

Once upon a time, Marc Methot would get excited with each new development in negotiations to reach a new collective bargaining agreement between NHL owners and players, thinking the end of the lockout could be near.

“Not anymore,” the Ottawa Senators defenceman said Monday, following an off-ice workout at the Bell Sensplex. “For the first two months, every time there was a glimpse of hope, I would get butterflies, thinking that I might be playing my first game in Ottawa soon.”

Disappointed at every twist and turn in talks so far, he now has his guard up against too much optimism. Accordingly, Methot is taking a wait-and-see attitude as the sides take up a new tact in New York Tuesday, removing both commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr from talks in favour of head-to-head meetings between owners and players.

In discussing the lockout, Methot acknowledges that “it’s hard to stay motivated” and that he’s “sick of it”. He went on the charity/cultural tour of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon two weeks ago, taking advantage of a chance to see a different part of the world.

He even played in a men’s league game at the RA Centre last Thursday – he had two goals and two assists in a 6-4 win – to try and find some form of competitive game action. Clearly, though, he’s itching to get back to playing NHL hockey as soon as possible.

Just the same, he’s low key when talking about the new direction of meetings. Winnipeg’s Mark Chipman, Toronto’s Larry Tanenbaum, Pittsburgh’s Ron Burkle, Tampa Bay’s Jeff Vinik, Calgary’s Murray Edwards and Boston’s Jeremy Jacobs – a hardliner and a lightning rod for criticism among players – will be representing the NHL. The NHLPA will bring a group of players to New York – believed to include Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews, Florida’s George Parros and Shane Doan of Phoenix – before deciding who, exactly, will be a part of direct negotiations.

“This is not really the way I thought things would go down, without our representative representing us,” said Methot. “But if this means we’re that much closer, I’m all for it. It’s changing the dynamic of the conversation.” He also concedes that “ego right now is the biggest thing keeping us apart.”

Fellow Senators defenceman Chris Phillips, the club’s union representative, also isn’t getting ahead of himself. He, too, has been down this road before.

“It’s past the point of putting emotions into this, but I’m glad we’re trying something different,” Phillips said. “Instead of just the same guys saying the same things all the time, maybe (new) guys have new arguments, new ways of saying things.”

 DISAPPOINTING DAY FOR SENATORS PROSPECTS: The lockout has also had a trickle down effect on Senators prospects. Without NHL hockey, several top Canadian 19-year-olds, who would likely be on NHL rosters this season, have become available for the world junior team. That means players such as winger Matt Puempel and defenceman Cody Ceci were left off the Canadian junior roster announced Monday.

 

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