Tag Archives: Ottawa Senators

Time to fire Bryan Murray

“Brian Murray is one of the best general managers in the NHL.”

This is a refrain I hear too often, but there is absolutely nothing that can back up this claim. In fact, almost the opposite argument can be made. Bryan Murray is an overrated general manager who gets too much credit for a team that has routinely struggled since he took over.

Will C photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Bryan Murray should be fired as Sens GM.

And with the Sens having problems once again this season (six points out of a playoff spot), the pressure is on for Murray to do something. But Murray is the reason the Sens are where they are today.

I believe, and I’ve written about this before, that all this is karma for the Sens firing John Muckler days after the Stanley Cup finals ended. You know, the finals that featured the Ottawa Senators.

The story goes that the Sens brass didn’t want to lose Murray, and were willing to fire Muckler instead of taking a chance that Murray wouldn’t stay with the organization. It was a big gamble. But it has backfired big time.

Since then, Murray has done more wrong things than right, and it shows with the on-ice product.

Here are seven reasons (one for each season he’s been general manager) why Murray should be let go:

1) Playoff record.

The playoffs say it all. In five seasons with Muckler as general manager, the Sens won seven playoff series. They made the playoffs every season, and only once failed to make it out of the first round. Their playoff record was 39-28. Their series record was 7-5.

Let’s look at Murray’s record. In seven seasons with Murray as general manager, the team has won one playoff series. They’ve missed the playoffs two years. Their playoff record is 12-17. Their series record is 1-4.

2) Regular season record.

230-197-55.

That’s not a good record. The Sens have lost more than half of their regular season games since Bryan Murray became general manager.

3) Coaching carousel.

Sure, Murray hired Paul MacLean, who has done some good stuff with the team. But Murray had four chances to get it right. One of them was bound to be successful.

Murray started off by hiring Jock Paddock, who lasted 64 games. He then put himself behind the bench, and went 7-9-2 in the regular season, and was swept in the playoffs. Murray followed this up by hiring Craig Hartsburg, who lasted 48 games before being fired.

The next coaching guy was Cory Clouston, who actually managed to last more than a season, going a little more than two years before getting canned.

And now there’s MacLean. But that’s a lot of bad coaches over the years, all hired by Murray.

4) Daniel Alfredsson.

It’s been covered by many people about how Alfie left the team. I think the Sens should have showed some loyalty and given Alfredsson what he wanted. But fine, no loyalty, and that might not have been Murray’s decision anyways.

But Murray could have taken the high road while all this was happening. Instead, he chose to blame everything on Alfie. And when #11 told his side of the story, Murray said Alfie had it all wrong.

The face of the franchise for so many years, and this is how you reward him?

5) Free agent signings.

Can you name the last free agent signing Murray made that had an impact on this team? Alexei Kovalev? Bobby Butler? Jarkko Ruuttu? Corey Locke? Zenon Konopka? Guillaume Latendresse? Randy Robitaille? Brendan Bell? Brad Isbister?

Sergei Gonchar is about the only free agent signing Murray ever made that had something positive, and it took three years before it happened. Gonchar was brutal with the Sens the first two years of his contract (he had 27 and 37 points in each season, and was a combined minus-19). And he was grossly overpaid.

6) Trading prospects/picks

Muckler gets blamed a lot for trading prospects and picks and going for it, which is actually a myth. In his five years as Sens GM, he drafted young guys like Spezza, Emery, Schubert, Eaves, Elliott, Regin, Meszaros, Greening, Condra, and Foligno. And what young prospects did he trade away?

Instead of listing them all, I’ll just mention the names you might recognize (under the age of 25 at the time of the trade): Jani Hurme, Tim Gleason, Brooks Laich, Brandon Bochenski, And that’s it.

He never traded away a top prospect, as he let them mature and actually play with the Sens. And only twice did he trade away a second-round pick (not including trades that happened at the draft). And he never traded away a first rounder.

Anyways, Murray started off his GM career with Ottawa much the same way. He traded for Cory Stillman, Martin Lapointe, Mike Commodore, Andy Sutton and Matt Cullen. None of those guys stayed with the team after the season was done.

In case you’re curious, since Murray has been GM, he’s traded away (again, 25 and younger) Patrick Eaves, Andrej Meszaros, Antoine Vermette, David Rundblad, Jakob Silfverberg, three first round picks and four second round picks.

Yet, Muckler gets blamed for giving up on the future. It’s revisionist history at its best.

7) Not signing Gary Roberts.

Sens fans don’t like to admit now, but during the 2007 playoffs when the team was getting creamed by the Ducks, there was a lot of blame directed at Muckler for not trading for Gary Roberts.

In fact, it has been rumoured as one of the main reasons Muckler was let go (here’s a link to a Hockey News story that says the same thing, but here’s a blog post from the time it happened that mentions it). Owner Eugene Melynk even hinted at it during a press conference at the time.

But Murray hasn’t been able to bring in a Gary Roberts-type player either.

So how can one man’s downfall not be his successor’s downfall?

Conclusion

I don’t understand how Sens fans could be happy with Murray at this point. He’s overhauled the roster completely since he took over. They lose in the regular season. They lose in the playoffs.

They’ve traded away prospects, first and second rounders. They mistreated their legendary captain. They’ve had five coaches in seven years. They haven’t made one good free agent signing.

Somehow, Murray is still a great GM? Anywhere else, he’d be gone.

It’s time for him to go.

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What should the Ottawa Senators do now?

Now that Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza are both done for the season, there’s a lot of people who think the Ottawa Senators should tank. Or make panic trades to fix the holes left by injuries. It seems to be one side or the other.

All is not lost with Erik Karlsson injured.

They’re asking for Craig Anderson to be traded. Rookies to play. Call-ups from the farm team. Or big trades.

To all those Sens fans, I have this to say to you: Relax.

This happens to a team every year. Last year, it was Montreal (Andrei Markov, Brian Gionta, Jaroslav Spacek, etc.). This year, it’s Ottawa.

The key thing for the Sens to do now is wait a couple of weeks. See how the current roster adjusts without their superstar players. Then make a decision.

Sometimes, teams rally when the stars are injured. I’m sure Sens fans remember the year Mats Sundin missed the playoffs series against the Sens, and all of a sudden, Alyn Mccauley became the second coming of Doug Gilmour. At least for a little while.

So give this group a little bit of time to see what they have. Then the team can decide what to do. But they need two weeks at a minimum to figure out what they have. And that’s the absolute minimum. They probably need closer to a month at the very least.

But here are some things to keep in mind.

If you think the team should tank and trade Craig Anderson, you won’t get a fair return for him. Forget his numbers. Forget his winning percentage. Think about it this way: How many teams right now would need a top goalie? Four? There’s the Flames, the Islanders, the Capitals and the BlueJackets, and that’s about it (other teams, such as the Blues and Sabres, have #1 goalies, so they’re not in the market for one). Calgary still has Kiprusoff, so that’s a team that probably won’t trade. The Islanders are doing all right with Nabokov in nets. Washington is starting to turn it around.

So that really only leaves the BlueJackets. You know what type of market value that will bring? None.

Throw in the fact teams don’t generally like trading for goalies during a season, and it brings down the value some more. And finally, think of what #1 goalies do bring on the market. After an amazing regular season and playoffs, Jaroslav Halak was traded for Lars Eller and Ian Schultz. A third line centre and a prospect who will never make it to the NHL.

Don’t kid yourselves into thinking you’re going to get a great return for Anderson. You won’t. There’s not enough of a market for him.

Besides, if you think the Sens should tank and trade Anderson, what’s the next step? Robin Lehner has been playing great in the AHL. If he continues that play in the NHL, then that’s not tanking. You’re just switching out goalies.

Now, if you believe the Sens should make a deal to stay competitive, then what are the options? Ryan O’Reilly looks to be on his way out of Colorado. But the Avalanche are asking for a top prospect and a top roster player. Can the Sens really afford to give that? Probably not.

And there’s not much else on the market. So help from trades probably isn’t happening. The Habs tried the stopgap measure of trades last year, and look what it got them. Tomas Kaberle and Rene Bourque.

One last thing to remember: If the Sens do tank, whether intentionally or not, the biggest decision revolves around Daniel Alfredsson. He came back this year, citing how much fun it was to play last year. That was because the team was winning. Two years ago, I doubt he was having much fun.

So if the team does take a downturn (I saw one prediction that the Sens would win only seven more games with the roster they have, which is equivalent to the expansion-era Senators), what does the team do with Alfie? Do they trade him for a chance to win the Cup? Or do he retire as a Sen?

For example, could Alfie be dealt to the Sens, to play on the second powerplay unit, kill penalties and take the occasional shift on Sidney Crosby’s wing instead of Tyler Kennedy? Does that make too much sense?

Again, this is only if the team struggles. Why have Alfie go through a bad season, and retire without a chance to win a Cup for the last time? He’s be like Ray Bourque. No one would look down on him or the team for doing so.

These are the questions the Sens management need to ask themselves. But they need a few weeks first. Let them see who steps up, what rookies deserve to see the ice more and who can benefit from more powerplay time.

In the meantime, Sens fans, just relax.

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The real losers of the NHL lockout

I’ve read a lot of lockout stories the last few weeks, especially ones about those most affected by the lockout.

CC-BY photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Scotiabank Place was always a great place for fundraisers.

The stories either focus on players overseas, those who can’t get a job playing overseas, or the guy who works in the arenas/restaurants/bars who will see fewer hours and less tips because of the lockout. Some even say the fans are the main losers of the lockout.

But there’s an even more important group that will be missing out because of the lockout that no one is focussing on.

Charities and the people they serve.

Yes, some charities will see a decrease in money raised this year if there is no NHL season.

As I live in Ottawa, I’m more familiar with the Senators, so I’ll use them as an example, but this could be applied to almost any team across the continent.

50-50 draws

When you go to a game, what’s do you constantly see as you go to your seat? Volunteers selling 50/50 tickets. Money raised goes to the Ottawa Sens Foundation. In turn, they send that money out to various groups in the community, whether it be Roger’s House, CHEO, the Project S.T.E.P. campaign and others. According the Sens website, “the 50/50 draw is a fund-raising program for the Ottawa Senators Foundation, which is a registered Canadian charity that provides funding and gifts-in-kind to other charities with a focus on disadvantaged youth.”

Last year, in three home playoff games, they raised $60,000. In 41 regular season games, they raised more than $600,000. Throw in the preseason games, and one unclaimed prize (so the money goes back to the Foundation), and the 50-50 draw raised more than $700,000 last season.

If there is no hockey this year, that’s a big chunk of change that won’t be going back into the community. That’s money lost for those charities and non-for-profits.

Players in the community

While some players have chosen to stay in Ottawa (Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Phillips), the majority of them are off playing hockey elsewhere. The young guys (Jared Cowen, Jakob Silfverberg, Mika Zibanejad) are playing for Binghamton in the AHL. Older guys (Jason Spezza, Sergei Gonchar, Erik Karlsson) are playing in various leagues overseas.

That takes away from all the charity work these guys do in the community. Spezza, for example, is involved with Ronald McDonald House charities. He also has a program called Spelling with Spezza. Spezza goes to classrooms to talk about the importance of spelling. Winners get a signed poster and a pair of tickets to a Sens game.

Players like Colin Greening, Kyle Turris and Peter Regin are also playing overseas. In short, with these players not in the community, it takes away from all the charity work these guys do in Ottawa. Groups that would count on Sens players in the past will have to come up with new ways to get the public to donate money.

Team fundraisers

Last year, the Ottawa Senators participated in many team-led charity work.

There were games with a focus to raise awareness of youth mental health through Do It For Daren.

There’s the team’s casino blackjack night, where players run the games at a casino fundraiser (last year called the Ferguslea Sens Soirée) for “youth mental health and addictions, pediatric healthcare programs and outdoor community rink construction projects.” So far, that event has raised more than $3 million. Last year, it brought in $250,000.

Then there’s the annual telethon run on Sportsnet for Roger’s House, which takes place during a Sens game. Last year, it raised  $116,425.

No, I’m not 100% positive, but if there’s no season, I’m guessing many of these events don’t go ahead. Or if they do, it won’t be with as many players, since they’re currently spread throughout the world.

Food Bank

The Sens do a lot of work with the Ottawa Food Bank. On Dec. 16 of last year, hockey fans attending the Penguins-Senators game were encouraged to bring canned food for donation to the food bank. The game this year to raise food was scheduled to be Dec. 15 against the Stanley Cup champions Los Angeles Kings.

Then there was Game seven against the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs. Taking place in New York, the Sens decided to have fans watch the game at Scotiabank. The admission was a donation to the food bank.

On Oct. 1, 2011, the Sens hosted a Puck Drop event, where fans could see the Sens’ new heritage jersey, watch an open practice, and participate in events like inflatable games, face painting and what not. Again, admission was free, but the Sens were asking for donations to the Food Bank and the Kanata Food Cupboard.

Just last week, it was announced that the amount of people, especially kids, using the food banks were at an all-time high throughout Canada. Now, they’ll have to find new ways to collect the items they would normally get through hockey programs.

Miscellaneous

Apart from the players participation, there would obviously be a decrease in the amount of prizes donated to local groups to use for prizes. Ever go to a fundraiser and have a chance to win tickets for a Sens hockey game? Or game-worn memorabilia? Or signed hockey merchandise?

Plus, there are player visits to schools, charities and public events.

The Sens have a fundraising program where a group can sell tickets for Sens games and make money for their fundraiser.

In short, the Sens do a lot in this community, and I doubt I touched on a lot of it.

Like I mentioned, I’m not picking on the Sens. I just happen to live in Ottawa, so I know more about their activities. I’m sure most of the other teams have similar initiatives.

But it’s a shame that with a lockout, a lot of these non-for-profit groups are going to see a decrease in fundraising. Millions of dollars to charity groups will be lost this year if an NHL season doesn’t go ahead.

The people who benefit from these groups are the ones most affected by the lockout. Maybe if the NHL and NHPLA see that, they’ll realize that their squabble between millionaires and billionaires are hurting a lot of people who have trouble putting food on the table.

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Top Sens #1: Daniel Alfredsson

Was there ever any doubt?

Jonathan Milley photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Daniel Alfredsson is the best Senator of all-time.

Of course Daniel Alfredsson is the all-time best Ottawa Senator. It’s not even close.

Alfredsson holds almost every single record for the Sens. Instead of listing his accomplishments, it might be quicker to list records he doesn’t hold. He’s not the Sens all-time penalty minutes leader, and he doesn’t hold the record for most wins by a goaltender.

In all seriousness, Alfie has almost done it all. Here’s a rundown of his franchise records:

  • Most goals, career (409)
  • Most assists, career (657)
  • Most points, career (1066)
  • Most games played, career (1,110)
  • Most powerplay goals, career (128)
  • Most shorthanded goals, career (24)
  • Highest plus/minus, one season (+42)
  • Most points in one game (7)
  • Most shorthanded goals, one season (7)
  • Most career playoff goals (45)
  • Most career playoff assists (43)
  • Most career playoff points (88)
  • Most career playoff games (107)
  • Most goals, one playoffs (14)
  • Most points, one playoff (22, tied with two others)

Besides these records, he also won the Calder trophy, has played in seven all-star games and is the current longest serving captain in the NHL.

It’s going to take a lot for someone to usurp Alfredsson as the #1 choice.

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Top Sens #2: Alexei Yashin

Because of all the off-ice issues, a lot of people forget how good Alexei Yashin was when he played for the Ottawa Senators.

Alexei Yashin was the runner-up for the Hart trophy when he was a Sen.

Yes, Yashin demanded his contract be re-negotiated three times in a five-year period with the Sens. Yes, Yashin once took a whole year off in order to get a new contract. Yes, he fought the Sens in court (and lost) because he believed that full year off meant he should be a free agent. And yes, he donated $1 million to the NAC, just to have it refused because one of the provisions was that his parents would get $425,000 in consulting fees.

But on the ice, he was the best Senator of the 1990s. Not even Daniel Alfredsson came close to what Yashin could do during that time.

He was the first ever draft pick for the Ottawa Senators.

As a rookie, he scored 79 points and was nominated for the Calder.

In 1998-99, he had 94 points, and finished second in voting for the Hart trophy.

In Yashin’s seven seasons with the team, he led in goals six times, and points six times. He scored 40 goals twice, and hit 70 points five times.

And he was the captain of the team for a few years.

He was also pretty durable. He played in every game his last four years with the Sens. He only missed two games his first two years. And the one year he missed a lot of games, it was due to holding out.

All-time, he’s second on the team in goals, fourth in assists and third in points. Of anyone who has played at least 100 games, Yashin is second in goals-per-game and third in points-per-game.

In the playoffs, he was pretty good his first couple of seasons. He had six points in seven games his first playoff season, and eight points in 11 games his second playoff season. Both times, he was second on the team in points. After that, the wheels fell off, as he had only one point in his next two playoff rounds (both first-round exits).

And Sens fans won’t admit it now, but even after all his contract disputes, they still loved him. I remember saying that Ottawa should trade Yashin right after he sat out for a year. Sens fans looked at me like I was crazy. After all, he was part of the team, and Sens fans were supportive. They believed he would want to prove he was worth what he thought he was worth, and that he was talented enough to lead the Sens deep into the playoffs.

Sure, he gets laughed at now. And history doesn’t look at him too kindly. But he was quite simply the best player on the Sens at any point during the 1990s. And if he had stayed, he probably would have been number one on this list.

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Top Sens #3: Jason Spezza

I cringe when I think of the fact that the New York Islanders could have had Jason Spezza and what that could have done to his growth as a hockey player.

kaatiya photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Jason Spezza ranks among the top Sens in almost every offensive category.

Holding the #2 pick in the 2001 entry draft, the Islanders chose to deal that pick instead. Not sure why. Maybe they there wouldn’t be any good players left by then. (Although to be fair, the Islanders probably would have traded him after two seasons.)

Regardless, that deal turned out to be one the greatest steals in Ottawa Senators history.

Spezza, after some early trouble with then-head coach Jacques Martin (who said he was a boy playing with men), Spezza started to blossom under different coaches. In the first year after the lockout with Bryan Murray as coach, Spezza notched 90 points in 68 games.

After that, Spezza has part of one of the most dominant lines in the NHL, and his numbers reflected that.

He has scored 90 points twice.

Although he’s been criticized for not shooting enough, he has scored at least 20 goals the last five years, and six times total. He’s had three seasons where he has scored at least 32 goals.

His 22 points in the 2007 playoffs is tied for most all-time in Senators history in one playoff round.

He is a point-per-game player in the regular season and the playoffs.

Overall, he is third all-time in goals, second in assists, second in points and second in powerplay goals.

In the playoffs, he is tied for second in goals, third in assists, second in points and tied for second in powerplay goals.

He has played in two all-star games.

And to think, the Islanders could have had all that production for the past 10 years, plus Zdeno Chara too.

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Top Sens #4: Wade Redden

Wade Redden had it made in Ottawa for many years.

kaatiya photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Wade Redden is the greatest defenceman to wear a Sens jersey.

He was loved by the fans. He was easily the team’s top defenceman. He was always talked about for Olympic rosters, showing he was one of Canada’s top defencemen.

In his last year or two, he fell out of favour with some of the Sens fans. Apparently, he nixed deals that would have seen him traded. He wasn’t able to play up to the same standard he once did.

But looking back on his career now, his time with the Sens was simply amazing.

He scored a goal on his first ever NHL shift. He holds the record for most career goals, assists, points, plus minus in regular season among Sens defencemen.

He is third all-time in playoff points, and second in assists.

He played in two all-star games.

But there are really two stats that jump out when discussing Wade Redden.

The first: He had more powerplay goals with the Sens (51) than even strength goals (49). Kinda helps show why the Sens had such a good powerplay for so many years.

The second: The team made the playoffs every single season Wade Redden played in Ottawa. Since he left, the Sens have missed the playoffs two out of three years.

Wade Redden is the best defencemen the team has ever had, and one of the best players they’ve ever seen.

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