“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.
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.
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?
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.