1. What’s your assessment of the season? Are the Senators a team that is going in the right direction?
A: Bryan Murray thought so. Facing Pittsburgh, the defending Stanley Cup Champions, in the first round didn’t help. The team dealt with some injuries and lineup changes. Peter Regin and Erik Karlsson emerged and he was pretty satisfied with the how the team survived its rash of injuries. He thought that they were a contender in the east and truly believed that this team was going to win game six against the Penguins. It looks like there’s a real future here.
2. A year ago, the Dany Heatley situation unfolded. This offseason it doesn’t look like you’ll have to deal with similar circumstances, although there is the issue Anton Volchenkov’s impending free agency. Are you looking to retain Volchenkov?
A: Bryan Murray says that he wants to keep all of his good players but because of the cap system it really depends on the term and the money involved. What Volchenkov is asking for is long term stability and a big payday and rightfully so. Murray doesn’t blame him for that. He does go on to say that the two sides have talked but unless Volchenkov’s camp is willing to move off of their demands a bit, it’s going to be quite difficult to keep Volchenkov in the fold. Especially when you consider that the team has some young stud RFAs to retain like Chris Campoli and Jesse Winchester.
3. Because of Jason Spezza’s salary, his impending NTC and raised expectations, Spezza’s become a bit of a lightning rod of criticism. (Ed. note: lightning rod of criticism is the new it term in Ottawa. It’s the new puck moving defenceman.) What’s your assessment of Spezza’s season?
A: Jason’s a point getter and he had a tough start to the year. Murray reiterates his belief that Spezza put too much pressure on himself to make the Canadian Olympic team and his play suffered because of it. Making matters worse, he injured his back and he really didn’t get himself right until after the Olympic break when he was rested. Murray says that Spezza has adapted and made himself a better player through his skating, his play down low and he’s no longer afraid to get dirty in the corners. Like Spezza has had to adapt his game, fans and the media need to do the same and accept Spezza for what he is.
4. Will Bryan Murray buy out Cheechoo?
A: It’s something that he’s talked about and he sat down with Jonathan yesterday to discuss the summer and future plans. It’s interesting to note that Bryan doesn’t sound definitive at all and it almost sounds like he’s toying with the idea of keeping him in Binghamton to ensure that more money is available to spend at the NHL level. (Ie. instead of having a buyout count against the cap.)
5. How do you assess Kovalev’s season and what happened to him ?
A: Two things: One, Murray knew that when he signed Kovalev, he’d help them win in the shootouts. Two, he would help the younger players who played with him over the course of the year and Murray mentions Fisher and Regin as beneficiaries. Three, he thought that Kovalev would help this team once it was in the playoffs. (Ed. note: I know that Bryan Murray said two things and then used three examples. I’m as confused as you are.) Murray reveals the greatest line of the offseason thus far that Kovalev is a veteran who competes in his own way. Murray likes Kovalev’s savvy nature and thinks he is a good addition and brings experience and mentions that the media makes him out to be worse than he actually is.
6. Peter Regin and Erik Karlsson are two players who blossomed this year. Are there any prospects in the system who could step up and be another Karlsson next season?
A: Karlsson made a big step forward this year and Murray thinks he’ll make another big step forward in the next year or two. Patrick Wiercioch is mentioned as a player who could make the jump next season but he may take a little time to adjust. Murray gives a 6 month timeframe as to when he could expect Wiercioch to play and contribute at the NHL-level. Robin Lehner is the next name mentioned and Murray describes him as a big goalie. Jared Cowen’s name is dropped but nothing more is said about him. Mike Hoffman’s name is dropped. (Ed. note: Presumably because he’s an overager in the QJMHL, so he’ll have to turn pro next season.) Bobby Butler is the last name mentioned and Murray feels like he’s a guy who can score some goals at the NHL-level. Murray concludes this discussion on prospects by stating that he believes that there are 7-8 guys in the current system who can turn out to be good players.
7. Who’s the number one goalie?
A: Murray laughs and says that’s a tough question. He goes on to state that he believes Elliott has developed to a good level but that Pascal has the talent to be special. The belief is that if Leclaire can curb his injuries, he’ll have a fantastic season next year.
8. Sutcliffe concludes the interview by asking some mundane question about the inordinate amount of playoff goals that had to be reviewed in the Ottawa series.
A: Who cares.