Transcript and Thoughts On Bryan Murray’s Media Scrum

Q: Your thoughts on Cory Clouston’s performance?

A: We’re all in the last year and that’s what I requested last summer. A one-year deal and that’s what I want to do that on an ongoing basis for myself so… that I know this speculation comes up every year…. the coach likewise because I suggested a one-year contract for myself that I thought that leaving Cory and his staff in the same position was the right thing to do depending on what happens during the year. Am I happy? I feel for the fans. I feel for the organization right now that we should be a better team. I think our performance in some of the games lately has not been nearly adequate. I didn’t see the Toronto game but I heard that the effort was not a very good effort. I’ve met with the coaches this morning and I’ve met with the players this morning and I indicated that we’re not happy. That we’re very unhappy. What I believe we’re all obligated to do in this business is to work hard. That we’re all obligated to put our best foot forward as many days possible as we possibly can. I don’t think that we’ve done that at the level that we should have and we’re not happy about it. Going forward, I hope that’s not the case any longer.

Q: Are you looking to make deals. Basically, is anyone and everybody available?

A: I don’t say that. I know that I see comments in that area too. When you don’t win, you have to have an idea of what you want to do going forward. And we have. If we win some games here and stay in contention obviously, we have a plan for that. If we don’t win some games going forward and we’re getting closer to the deadline, then obviously there are a lot of players who might be asked about and then I have to consider it.

T6S: Contention? Sweet Jesus…

Q: Inaudible.

A: I don’t think anyone wants to walk away when the team is not performing up to scratch. I’ve had a pretty good run in this league and I’m really proud and pleased of that. And I want my team to play at a high level and I want this team to be competitive. I think anybody who really covered this team before I took over as a manager understood what we had to do to make this an organization that going forward would be one that contended one on an annual basis. We were short in depth and our drafts had not been up to scratch. And I have to say this, that watching five or six of our young players that our staff, not me, but our amateur and pro staff have done a really good job of selecting over the last couple of years players who have potential to play well in the National Hockey League. I certainly don’t like the downturn that we have taken recently. For me to say yes or no at this moment, that’s not… obviously I’m a fiery guy. I’m a guy who wants to be around and I want this team to be on the upswing when I step a way.

T6S: Yeah. Informed fans should understand that Muckler was a plug who decimated an organization that was filled with young and talented assets. And yeah, kudos to Murray for maximizing the value that his staff seems to have with their respective draft picks. If they hadn’t, Ottawa would be no different than a team like the Minnesota Wild. 

That being said, in no way, shape or form should that excuse Murray from being criticized for what he has done in terms of asset management at the NHL level. The free agent signings, the trades, it all goes beyond accumulating prospect or AHL depth.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the prospect porn and realize that it will take time for these guys to get to the NHL level but to play devil’s advocate, there is no guarantee that any of these players (sans Karlsson) will establish themselves and be difference makers at the NHL level.

Murray’s direction for the team was to remain competitive while rebuilding the depth in the organization. To date, Murray’s only accomplished half of that goal. (Note: My apologies. Two playoff victories in three seasons shouldn’t be considered competitive.) He simply can’t sweep his mistakes under the carpet by distracting us with the organization’s prospects (“Oooh!!! Shiny new toys!!!) and hope we won’t notice. To hang your hat on the work done at the minor league level and junior ranks is insulting to fans.

Q: I’m don’t know if this is a fair question but do you expect Cory Clouston to finish the season?

A: I’m not going to answer a question like that because I don’t know. We go to Chicago and come home and play Tampa and then we go on the road the following week. I can’t answer that honestly. I’ve talked to the staff about that. We’re all in a position where we have to do a better job.

T6S: Murray doesn’t exactly sound like a guy who is on stable ground himself.

Q: Is the team in need of a shakeup?

A: Well, I can tell you is that at the start of this year, I thought that some our younger guys would step up. The indication was, that we were a little shorthanded in the playoffs but Peter Regin and Nick Foligno, guys of that nature, kind of filled a real void for us. We didn’t beat Pittsburgh but I thought that individually, they played real well for us in this series. But I really expected that some of the young players and some of the veteran guys… you know when you’re hoping to have a good team, you bring in a veteran NHL defenceman, which I did, to upgrade certain areas of the team. Not the overall team but the power play and the offensive part of the game and none of that has really happened. And the result is that we haven’t won enough games.

I don’t know that we need a major shakeup. We have a plan going forward – one way or the other. I’ve been trying to make a move or two but in this day and age, if it’s not dollar for dollar exactly… In Buffalo, I sat with a number of general managers and I’ve had a lot of phone calls. We’re just, in a couple of cases, make something fit and if it doesn’t, then we have a team that needs to play better. And I believe that this is a good enough team to play better.

T6S: Murray’s braintrust erred in their assessment of how good this team was in their current state and brought in a veteran NHL defenceman to complement a core that wasn’t worth complementing. And it’s unfortunate that he overpaid. Badly. (Note: Which he did.) Because now the organization is saddled with another bad veteran contract.

And hopefully I speak for everyone when I say that I’d like to see the Senators spend less time on their plan for contention.

Q: Are you frustrated with your inability to make a move Bryan?

A: It’s difficult. I think every manager I’ve talked to felt the same way. “Damn, we’d like to do this but we can’t because of money.” I have talked to managers who can’t even pick a guy up off of waivers, if I suggested to do that, because they don’t have permission from their owner to do it. It’s a tough situation with the CBA the way that it is to make trades. A couple of teams were able to do it because they had space but now they’re tight against it too. The two or three teams that have made a move now.

T6S: Obviously he’s referring to Brian Lee here.

Q: Did you look at Michael Leighton at all?

A: No.

T6S: Stop gap solution. No more so than waiting for Pascal to get healthy.

Q: What’s the plan for Chris Phillips?

A: I have a plan. I had a meeting with Chris yesterday. You see, you guys are asking me about doing this or that… I can’t put this in the paper because if it doesn’t happen or something doesn’t happen. We are ready. We have a couple of year plan here. We are ready to do what we have to do and it’s based on performance all the time. If we run to the deadline and we have no chance whatsoever, then there will have to be some moves made.

T6S: Why wait until the deadline when the sellers market is at its smallest? If you start marketing assets now, there’s greater demand. Mind you, the financial constraints to make moves now is more difficult but can be manipulated by taking on expiring contracts.

Q: Would calling up Robin Lehner be on your radar here?

A: That’s a good question and that’s a question that I asked the coaches this morning. I wished that Robin would have made another stop against the Russians and be in the final game tonight against Canada. It would have been a heck of a test for him. I thought he played well in the tournament. I thought there were a couple of situations where I’m afraid, I see why we sent Jared Cowen back. He has improved so much. His mobility for a 6’5″ guy and the use of his stick and his defensibility. He wouldn’t have maybe gotten that here because he wouldn’t have got the opportunity and the ice-time here. This experience is terrific for him and it’s like Robin: do you do it now or do you wait a little bit longer? I think what I would like to do is let him play in Binghamton over the weekend and see what I do and make a decision based off of that.

T6S: More shiny new toys! Considering that Lehner doesn’t even have all that many games of professional experience under his belt, is it even worthwhile to expose him to this team’s porous blueline and lack of offensive support?

Q: Pertained to Luke Richardson’s attendance at practice.

A: I asked him to come back and come back and help. I know that he’s a very well respected coach, man and person. To get him back and around the team in tough times. He’s had a tough time but to get him back around the team, I believe that it would provide a little bit of a spark for us. I think that the players have a tremendous respect for him and I think that him being on the staff and at being at the meeting this morning alone with me… I think is going to be beneficial.

Q: What’s Melnyk’s reaction to this latest downturn?

A: I talk to Eugene fairly regularly. I think I’ve stated the attitude that none of us are happy. He’s realistic. We have talked about where we’re going; what we’re doing. He obviously wants to win every night like all of us do but he’s very much in the discussion mode about what we can and cannot do here and how we’re going. Losing to Toronto in particular for him and being from Toronto and for us, we don’t like it. And I know the reaction was not good based on that but other than that, he’s been… on going discussions are okay. But he’s not patting me on the back really hard but he’s not so out of it that we have to do drastic things here. You guys can make those decisions. We just have to do what’s best for us going forward.

T6S: Why am I not surprised that The Euge has some sort of insecurity complex when it comes to beating the Leafs?

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