Fun At Another’s Expense

Here’s a steaming pile of shit written by Christian Butzek for the ever so enlightening Bleacher Report. It wasn’t too hard to tear it to pieces in a Fire Joe Morgan format. As always, my comments will be in bold. Enjoy.

The Ottawa Senators have thus far exceeded expectations by remaining in the hunt for a playoff spot. Brian Murray, however, has been a chronic under-achiever as the club’s general manager, with a legacy of poor managerial decisions. That Murray still holds down the GM title has more to do with his personal appeal than his accomplishments.

The Senators are exceeding expectations? I’d hate to hypothesize what you’d be writing if the combination of Shannon, Cheechoo, Spezza and Kovalev had produced at a level proportionate to their combined $15.6M cap hit.

In the future, I think that there should be a caveat to any written criticism of a professional sports executive. If you’re going to take the time to produce an argument as to why Ottawa’s General Manager isn’t up to Christian Butzek standards, make sure you spell Bryan Murray’s name right.

Murray is instantly likeable. He’s accessible to the media and candid in his remarks, provides media-friendly sound-bites, and his dry sense of humour in press conferences can draw a chuckle from fans watching at home.

Um, okay. So the team is overachieving and the only reason why Murray here is because he’s a personable individual. (Just ask Jim Fox.) If you’re going to go against the grain and make this statement, why did you wait until the Senators four game losing streak ended to publish this tripe? Put your money where your mouth is. Asshole.

There’s no doubt of Murray’s ability to manage human relationships within the club. In three seasons as head coach, he never had a public falling-out, despite a cadre of trouble-makers in the squad in Ray Emery, Brian McGratton, and Dany Heatley. Murray was able to keep a tight leash on the former two and stroke the latter’s ego.

So Bryan Murray’s still employed because he’s a regular Dr. Phil. Bullshit. It’s actually been well documented that Emery got away with a lot of stuff while the team was winning. Murray never had a falling out with Heatley because Heatley’s a front-running douchebag who didn’t complain when the team was winning. And Murray has a speech impediment

But the people skills that enabled Murray to be a respected coach have not translated to success in the GM’s chair. The Senators went from a Stanley Cup finals appearance to squeaking into the playoffs as the eight seed in Murray’s first year as GM, and were swept by the Penguins in the first-round. Last season, they finished near the bottom, failing to make the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons.

Once a perennial Stanley Cup favourite, the Senators metamorphosed into an also-ran, then into a doormat in just less than two years. How have the Senators rocketed down the standings?

The Senators rocketed down the standings because his predecessor rode the coattails of the previous Marshall Johnston regime. Between traded and bungled picks, Chara vs Redden, Ottawa blowing their gift-wrapped 9th pick in 2005, and Muckler’s inability to address a Stanley Cup contender’s need — FUCKING GOALTENDING — Murray inherited a team devoid of prospects and whose best players were on the cusp of free agency.

Even though it’s not really problematic to sign one’s elite talent to long-term deals, it’s counter intuitive to sign replaceable veterans to inflated, long-term deals making them completely untradeable in the process. Without young, NHL-ready talent, Ottawa’s veterans could print their own tickets and bleeding heart fans applauded the moves because they’d hate to see one of their own homegrown guys go.

Bryan Murray stumbled out of the gate immediately after assuming the GM’s cap. He announced a month-long selection and interview process to find the next the coach, interviewing highly qualified candidates Peter Deboer and Bob Hartley, before settling on his assistant and friend, John Paddock. Even the Murray-friendly Ottawa media described the process as a sham.

Yeah, it’s a sham to promote the assistant coach who shares the same coaching philosophies as the former Head Coach of the team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals the season before. That wouldn’t make any sense.  Do you know what else doesn’t make sense? Your timeline. It’s wrong. Hartley and DeBoer were interviewed prior to Murray settling on Craig Hartsburg. It’s okay that you forgot about this. I’ve tried to repress those memories too.

Murray fired Paddock before the end of the season and replaced his former partner with himself without much success.

The off-season of 2008 was a repeat of the previous summer. After a lengthy search for a new head coach, Murray went with a proven hand, hiring former NHL coach, Craig Hartsburg. Murray didn’t wait long before axing the hapless Hartsburg who he dismissed at the half-way mark. Thus, bringing the total number of coaches to five in two seasons, including Bryan Murray twice.

Ah, so you do remember Hartsburg. Good for you. Granted, Ottawa’s been through a slew of coaches but you’ve already conceded that Ottawa’s overachieving as a hockey club. So, if the team’s overachieving, is it safe to assume that you think that the coaching staff is doing a good job? And if they are, does it really matter that the team went through this many coaches before finally arriving at one who seems capable of doing the job properly?

An organization once renowned for its stability under John Muckler has been under constant change.

The only thing that was stable under the Muckler era was his alcohol consumption. If anyone is interested in a 6th Sens article that drops trou on the Muckler era, click here.

Things go from bad to worse when examining his player personnel decisions. Murray’s contract extensions and free agent signings have amounted to precious little, moves analogous to a weak wrister from outside the blue-line.

The Senators GM handed monster contracts to Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher, Ray Emery, and Dany Heatley after their run to the Cup finals. And that’s when Murray’s midas touch left him and went south.

Jason Spezza’s point totals took a noticeable dip after signing a new long-term deal. Mike Fisher too saw a steep decline in his production. Fans and media pundits questioned whether these players where deserving of such lucrative deals, given the knock that Spezza has always been a suspect skater and Fisher injury-prone.

Jason Spezza’s point totals for the last four years:

2005-2006 — 90

2006-2007 — 87

2007-2008 — 92 (Holy shit, they went up during the season in which he signed his deal.)

2008-2009 — 73

Conclusion: Jason Spezza’s stat totals must be static. Off years shouldn’t be attributed to Craig Hartsburg’s system and a poor puck moving blueline. No, they should be attributed to something more conclusive – Like blaming the Senators for rewarding Spezza for his two 90 point seasons. The only reason why people are shitting on Spezza’s contract is not because he’s a suspect skater, it’s because of how his hunched over skating style has helped foster some lingering back issues that could be incredibly detrimental over the term of his contract.

I’d touch upon Mike Fisher’s consistent 45 point production but the man is cock teasing us with his play this year? Will he finally crack the 60 point threshold that management envisioned when he signed his deal? Stay tuned. It may be the most compelling Senators story down the stretch.

After threatening to deal the petulant Ray Emery all season, Murray was forced to buy out Emery one season after he signed him to a three-year 10 million dollar deal contract.

I’m sure Bryan Murray’s losing a lot of sleep over his deft inclusion of a Ray Emery buyout clause in Ray’s first non-entry level deal. It’s only costing the Senators a $500k cap hit. This isn’t a Martin Gerber contract. Get over it.

Again, the Dany Heatley signing seemed to ignore the player’s past history. Heatley asked to be dealt two years into his new 7-year deal. Murray eventually moved the disgruntled forward to the Sharks, but not before Heatley collected his 4 million dollar bonus on Canada Day.

Yeah, how does Bryan Murray ignore Dany’s previous history? The Senators had just gone to the Stanley Cup and Heatley seemed happy being on the most productive line in hockey. If you’re going to trash the Senators organization for ignoring Heatley’s vehicular homicide charge and subsequent trade demand, trash the stable John Muckler regime.

Free agent signings Luke Richardson, Jason Smith, Jarko Ruutu, and Alex Auld all failed to make an impact.

And that Michalek guy, he sucks too. They may not be headliners, but shrewd moves like dumping Peter Schaefer’s contract, trading Lawrence Nycholat for Ryan Shannon, and moving up in the draft to select Erik Karlsson are moves that can’t be taken for granted.

On the trade front, Murray’s moves mirror a juggling act gone bad.

On the substance front, Butzek’s article mirrors a lip-glossy shallowness that can only be found elsewhere on programs like MTV’s Jersey Shore.

Page 2

Holy shit!  There’s more of this tripe?

Murray dealt away Pat Eaves and Joe Corvo in a last-gasp effort to remain competitive in 2008. As Murray plugged one hole another sprung open. He added a gritty player but was then left without a puck-moving defenseman to quarterback the power-play, like Corvo whom he had just dealt. The players the Senators received in return, Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore, soon left the organization, leaving Murray with nothing to show for his moves.

What’s wrong with taking on two expiring contracts for Patrick Eaves (who has done sweet fuck all EVER) and Joe Corvo (a guy who didn’t want to be here)? Murray tried to shake up the team for the playoffs without really touching the core of the club. It didn’t work and it hasn’t really cost the team. I fail to see how this was a bad move.

The Senators lost young defenseman Andrej Mezsaros when he and his agent became entangled in a contract dispute with the Senators organization. Murray opted to trade the young defenseman for an aging veteran in Filip Kuba. The jury is still out on who won the deal.

When Meszaros was dealt to Tampa Bay, he signed a 6-year $24M deal with the Lightning. In retrospect, the Meszaros deal breaks down to Meszaros and McAmmond for Campoli, Kuba, Picard, and Mike Comrie. Not bad for an overrated, mulleted bag of ass.

Murray again sacrificed the future in trading away a first-round draft choice to the Islanders to acquire Chris Campoli who is, at best, a fifth-defenseman.

You just shat on the Senators for giving up on a young defenceman in Meszaros but immediately turn around and shit on the Senators for acquiring a similar kind of player in Campoli? I don’t get it. I can understand the resentment that a first was dealt moved because I felt that the pick could have been used to move up in the draft and get another top 15 selection.

And all the while Murray has shuffled the coaching ranks and made changes to the team’s core, he still hasn’t found the second line power-forward he’s been after since the spring of 2007, nor has he obtained a name goalie the franchise has always lacked.

Yeah, because that trade of Vermette for Leclaire and Lehner doesn’t stand to set up the Senators goaltending situation for the next ten years.

Worst of all, there’s the allegation of unprofessionalism in his handling of the Heatley trade request. Heatley’s agent claims they asked for a trade behind closed doors only for Murray to leak it to the media, a definite no-no in sports circles, and which created the summer’s worst spectacle—the Dany Heatley trade drama.

I thought one of your arguments was that Ottawa should have done their due diligence on the fact that Heatley’s a douchebag? So why are you so eager to believe every word that comes from his representation? Oh, because it fits your argument. Mmmmkay.

The Ottawa Senators have been spinning their wheels under the leadership of Bryan Murray. To kick-start a turn-around, they may have to give Murray the boot.

It’s taken a couple of years for some Muckler mistakes to manifest, there’s no sense panicking because the Senators organization isn’t a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Just take a couple of deep breaths and relax suckhole. To turn this franchise around, this team has to rebuild its foundation from the rotten, barren mess that John Muckler left in the wake of his firing. The only way to do this is through the draft and by improving the farm system, two facets of the administrating a hockey team that Murray has done very well. Fans need to recognize that it takestime to retool, it’s not a process that can simply happen overnight.