After both general manager Bryan Murray and head coach Cory Clouston were given a vote of confidence by Ottawa Senators' owner Eugene Melnyk over the weekend, the question that now presents itself is the following: 'What do they do now?'
Well according to Clouston, it's business as usual.
"My job doesn't change," Clouston told reporters following Senators practice Monday. "I'm going to do everything I possibly can to win tomorrow night's game and to prepare our players."
Clouston said that he had no plans to alter his style and neither should the players.
"Our jobs shouldn't change," Clouston added. "It shouldn't take that comment or statement from our owner to make us play better."
It was a sentiment that was echoed by Murray when he had his opportunity to address the assembled media.
"We are going to try and win some hockey games down the stretch," Murray told reporters on Monday. "I've had some discussions with Eugene based on that. I think that it's the same as always, we are just trying to win. I know that there's some people that think otherwise, in terms of being competitive down the stretch, I think for all of our guys it's going to be very important."
Change seemed inevitable following back-to-back blowout losses last week to the Philadelphia Flyers and the Montreal Canadiens. However it appears as though both the coach and general manager will remain employed by the Senators until at least the end of the season.
"They are stuck with us, like it or not, for the balance," Murray told reporters. "They can listen and perform for the coach, or they can sit on the sidelines."
While Murray refused to name names, what he did make clear is the fact that he believes every player on the roster will be under a microscope for the remainder of the year as they compete for jobs next season.
"We are what we are," said Murray. "We think that we have a lot of good, young kids coming that are waiting for some jobs here so guys better show what they can do down the stretch."
While neither the coach or general manager would admit that they feel better with ownership's approval, associate captain Mike Fisher said that it should help ease the tension in the dressing room.
"It's a good thing, because it would have been our fault if something had happened," said Fisher. "I think we can all just try to relax and play and worry about doing the best job we can moving forward."
Although the Globe and Mail reported that Melnyk is on the lookout for a new general manager who he intends to hire at season's end, with Murray being moved upstairs in an advisory role, Murray says he is unaware of those plans.
"As a normal general manager, I hope to retain my job," said Murray. "I'm not sure why everybody is in such a hurry to get me out of here, but if that's the way that it is, that's the way that it is."
He also denied that he had any agreement with Melnyk beyond his current contract.
"I talk to Eugene somewhat regularly," said Murray. "We've talked about where we are and how disappointed we are in the year and how we'll try to do some things positive going forward. If (Globe and Mail columnist) Roy (MacGregor) knows something more than that, then you'd better ask him."
Clouston's future does not appear so secure as his current contract will be up once the season is over.
So if both the coach and the GM appear to be lame ducks, what is the strategy for the remainder of the season?
"You have to have a core of players who you keep, there is no question about that," Murray said. "We have nine players that will be very close to NHL-ready next year. Somehow or other, I've got to open the door for these people."
The identities of the potential players moving on is lengthy as veterans such as Chris Phillips, Mike Fisher, Chris Kelly and Jarkko Ruutu could all be on the move at or before the NHL Trade Deadline on February 28th.
The light at the end of the tunnel appears to be a high draft choice coming to the nation's capital this summer in reward for their lacklustre play thus far this season. With the Senators currently 27th overall in the standings, the organization could have a chance to secure a top-level talent such as Drummondville playmaker Sean Couturier, Red Deer Rebels' pivot Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or one of two Swedish uber-prospects in defenceman Adam Larsson or power forward Gabriel Landeskog.
In addition, Senators management should get the opportunity to see exactly what they have on hand in term of prospects. Skaters such as Bobby Butler, Zack Smith and Corey Locke will likely be given every opportunity to impress management at the NHL level.
Murray said that netminding prospect Robin Lehner will likely see a few starts down the stretch, however he would not sacrifice the young Swede's confidence just to see how NHL-ready he truly is.
"We want to protect him, we don't want to subject him to a point where he comes in here, loses a couple of games and feels terrible about it and maybe goes back down and does not play as well as he should."
Murray also stated that he expects the team's top defensive prospects, Jared Cowen and David Runbladt to be ready to step in next season.
Murray stated that he remains optimistic that the Sens will be able to turn things around sooner rather than later.
"I don't think that we are very far away from being a good hockey team but I think that obviously you have to make some changes when you perform like we have," said Murray. "I think it's one year. I think we can be back to being a really competitive team really quickly."