Tag Archives: Ottawa

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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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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A-Channel morning

A friend of mine Facebooked a couple of weeks ago about the AChannel morning show.

Pretty much, she said it sucked. I agree with her, but it’s strange that something with so much promise, and that works so well elsewhere, falls apart here.

The Breakfast Television program in Toronto is great. Same with the one from Halifax (at least it was when I watched it a few years ago).

But in Ottawa? It’s pretty bad.

But for producers of the show, it’s not the end of the world. It should be pretty easy to fix up.

Following shows what is wrong with the show:

1) There’s no chemistry. Maybe the four hosts are best of friends away from work. Maybe they hang out together every weekend. But on air, it feels like the hosts have to struggle to get along with one another. Any type of “freeflow” conversation feels forced. It’s almost like they have nothing in common, and they just sit and listen patiently until it’s their turn to talk.

The only chemistry there is seems to be between the weather guy and the news anchorwoman. They seem to enjoy talking to one another, teasing one another. But they only interact for about a minute each half-hour.

The easiest way to fix it would be to move people around. If two people have chemistry, why not have them talk to each other for longer? Move the anchorwoman to hosting, and one of the hosts to news anchor. Easy enough fix.

2) Because of the lack chemistry, it seems as if that flows into other segments. For example, interviews with guests about different topics.

Now, maybe the guests are dull. Maybe the guests aren’t very television-friendly. Maybe they’re told to talk in a low, passive voice. But almost every single guest comes across as shy, nervous and soft-spoken. It makes it very difficult to watch. There’s no excitement, no urgency about what they are talking about.

Maybe it’s a small-town feel that people believe Ottawa has, and that everyone will know they are on television, so the guests become more nervous. Even in the regular segments, with people who are always on the show, the guests come across as nervous. Surely those who are experts should be more confident in themselves, and be more confident in what they are talking about.

This could be more difficult to fix. Maybe people need to do a test run ahead of time. Maybe the producers should stop having guests who suck back on the show. Or maybe the hosts need to do a better job of making the guests feel at ease. But something needs to be done to fix the problem.

3) Probably the worst of the five is this one: it feels like one giant ad.

First off, there’s the fact that the hosts are each in about 17 different commercials each. So when the show goes to commercial, you can’t really quite tell.

The second fact is when the hosts do interviews, it seems to be more about pimping a product that anything else. One of the hosts seems to go to a different business each day, which does nothing but talk about all the nice things one can do there. The other hosts interview in-studio guests, which is sure to mention the business’ name over and over. Then there are the segments with fashion shows from certain boutiques, makeovers from certain spas or hairdressers, and video reviews from online movie retailers.

It’s just too much.

4) The features just aren’t very exciting. This is a combination of the last two points. But when the guests are dull, and they’re doing nothing but featuring a business, it leads to segments that just drag on.

5) You know what helps with the sports stories after the news? Highlights of the sports events. I know it’s tough to compete with all the 24-hour sports coverage (TSN, The Score, Sportsnet, RDS, etc.). But if you’re going to talk about sports, why not show a highlight that deals directly with what the host is talking about? Most of the time, all we see is a scoreboard and a quick rundown.

There are a few ways to deal with this. Maybe get rid of the sports completely. Or maybe give a little more time to them. But the easiest solution? Don’t try to show all the games! If the Ottawa Senators played last night, show those highlights with a quote or two from the players. People in Ottawa won’t care if they don’t get the score of the Anaheim-Nashville game. If they do, they wouldn’t be tuning into the show.

Or, and maybe this is just too wacky an idea, but instead of trying to compete with the sports stations, why not show local sports? Maybe show highlights of the high school football game from the previous night. Or the highlights of the men’s fastpitch championship. If you’re a show that is supposed to focus on all things local, then spread that into sports.

Anyways, these are just a few examples of what is wrong with the show, and a few things that should be done differently. Will things change? Probably not. But that just means the show will continue to suffer. And maybe that means more Facebook statuses of friends of mine saying that the show stinks.

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Last year at the Ex?

This is a photo I took at the Ex many moons ago.

There’s a few things that amuses me about people in Ottawa.

Such as the whole debate between pedestrians, bicyclists and car drivers. (Give it a rest people, and everyone start smartening up. None of you own the road.)

Or the debate over whether people should be allowed to bring chairs to Bluesfest. (Yes)

Or the never-ending hope that this year be the Senators year. (News flash: It’s not).

But there’s one debate that stands out more to me than any other, and that’s the debate about The Ex and it moving from Lansdowne Park.

Here’s a heads up for people: It’s not moving!

I remember, back in the days as a newspaper reporter, covering the Ex and the never-ending discussion of it moving to a field in the south end, near Albion Road.

In fact, at one point, it looked like such a sure thing, that the Ex logo for that summer was “Last Year at Lansdowne.” That was around 2002. It’s now eight years later, and the Ex is still there.

But every year, there are plenty of stories in the media about how this is the last year at Lansdowne for The Ex. Today, it’s the Ottawa Sun and the EMC. At no point does a reporter ask, “Hey, weren’t you supposed to be gone about a decade ago?”

In fact, according to Wikipedia: “Starting in 1974, the Exhibition Association worked to move the Exhibition to a new location, but the Exhibition never moved and in 1994, the City directed the Association to stop searching for a new location.”

Wait, what? You tried for two decades to move, and couldn’t do it?

Yes, I know. The property is going to be redeveloped, blah blah blah. But until the Ex is actually gone from Lansdowne, I won’t believe it.

I’m sure they’re trying hard, but they’re just not getting anywhere. And because they’re not getting anywhere, odds are it’s not going anywhere.

But honestly, knowing its history, who thinks they can actually be gone by next September? History, and time, isn’t on their side.

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CBC wants cameras in the courtroom

So the CBC is petitioning an Ottawa judge to allow cameras in the courtrooms.

Ottawa mayor Larry OBrien

Ottawa mayor Larry O'Brien

Well, maybe just one specific courtroom, at least for now.

Ottawa mayor Larry O’Brien is starting his court case next week. For those not from the Ottawa area, it is alleged he asked a candidate during the 2006 election to step down and would pay for his campaign bills to that point, as well as help the guy get a cabinet position.

But the CBC wants to air the whole trial live on the Internet.

While this may not seem strange to Americans who are used to seeing court cases aired live on television all the time, it’s a rarity for Canadians. The justice system here doesn’t allow for electronic media in a courtroom. No cameras, cell phones, tape recorders, etc.

So if this approved, it could go a long way to knocking down some of those walls the media run up against in dealing with the courts.

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OC Transpo strike song

As some of you are no doubt aware, the bus drivers with OC Transpo in Ottawa have been on strike for about 50 days now.

Comedian Rick Currie did his best Johnny Cash imitation, and it turned out pretty good.

Enjoy.

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Light rail

So the city of Ottawa has screwed up once again.

Frankly, I’m not surprised. They reverse decisions so many times it’s hard to figure exactly what is going on down there.

The latest flip-flop has them not building light rail to the south of the city, instead going east to west.

This is a brutal decision for several reasons.

First off, is the main reason the councillors are giving. The numbers for a north/south line just aren’t there, they say. The city of Ottawa’s numbers say there are 18,000 people who take transit from Orleans to downtown, but only 300 from Riverside South.

But those numbers don’t tell the whole story. There is only one bus that goes from Riverside South to anywhere, and it leaves every half hour, and goes only to the Greenboro station.

I did a quick map route using OC Transpo’s web site. If you were to leave Riverside South, and wanted to get to city hall at 8 a.m., you would have to leave around 6:43, and arrive 38 minutes early for your appointment. Great service, isn’t it?

The other problem with these statistics is that it doesn’t take into account how many people are using the transit that comes from other communities. In Kanata, for example, how many people take their car from Stittsville, Fitzroy Harbour, or Carp, leave it at a park and ride in Kanata, and then take the bus downtown?

Now how many from Greely, Manotick or Osgoode do the same with Riverside South? None, because there isn’t a park and ride, and again, the bus service isn’t great.

The other problem with east/west getting light rail first is the fact they already have a transit system in place. It’s what is giving them the great numbers the councillors are using. And they plan on adding more, such as a new transit station on Eagleson Road in Kanata, and wants to keep going to Scotiabank Place. If they’re going to be getting light rail first, why continue to expand the bus transitway?

As well, east west has more road infrastructure in place. Besides the bus transitway, there’s Highway 417, Carling Avenue and Richmond Road that will bring you downtown. In the south, there’s Bank Street and Bronson Avenue, neither of which go into the Riverside South or Nepean communities.

Here’s what’s going to happen. Councillors are going to agree to build the east-west light rail first. It probably won’t be completed for 10 to 15 years. By then, Riverside South will be about the size of Orleans, and Barrhaven will be the size of Kanata. There won’t be any road infrastructure, commuters will be complaining, and city councillors at that point will argue that light rail needs to be built in the south as quickly as possible. Of course, after debating it on and off for five years and reversing and re-reversing their decisions, they’ll finally agree to build the Transitway — to Carleton Place.

People in the south, get ready for years of gridlock.

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