Fallout From the Weekend: What a Day

A few days ago, Cory Clouston’s job security was allegedly hanging by a thread. Now, it no longer matters; even though the Senators have only won one game in the January or that they have been outscored 47-17 during that stretch.

Thanks to Eugene Melnyk’s exclusive interview with the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch, we now know that his conspicuous silence is attributed to him working on a plan – one that is now in motion. Although it’s nice to hear that The Euge is working on a plan that doesn’t involve deciding which variety of citrus fruit he will use to garnish his alcoholic beverages.

What we do know is that a decision has been made to keep Clouston and Bryan Murray in their capacities until their contracts expire at the end of this season. Having Clouston and Murray remain with the organization not only makes sense from a financial perspective but it also allows the Senators to pick from a larger (better) pool of candidates in the offseason. Aside from Pierre McGuire (who apparently poo-poo’d the rumours that he has talked to the organization about the GM gig), the availability of candidates is limited exclusively to failed retreads like Doug MacLean, Mike Milbury and Darryl Sutter since other NHL organizations will be hesitant to let members of their front offices to leave at such a critical juncture of the season.

So while the Ottawa Sun exclusive only revealed that Clouston and Murray would stick around for the rest of the season, the Globe and Mail’s, Roy MacGregor discussed some alleged details of The Euge’s plan, like:

General manager Bryan Murray will finish out the year in his position but will move on to a senior advisory role similar to that held by coaching legend Scotty Bowman with the Chicago Blackhawks. Murray, who stayed on this season at Melnyk’s request, is open to this change as friends say the results of this season have left him “sickened.”

Although it is worth noting that Colorado has had some success retooling once former GM Pierre Lacroix vacated his position in a similar fashion, the notion of Murray remaining in an advisory capacity will strike some discord with those who would like to see the organization rid itself of the Murrays and get away from the management team that has helped contribute to the situation that the team is currently in.

If the franchise really did solicit some key members of its fan base and corporate support and subsequently concluded that disgruntled fans are eager for a shift in direction. (My survey must have got lost in the mail.) It’s a position that indicates that many paying customers are already sick of the status quo. So hearing that Murray this advisory position is fabricated information and that Murray is interested in retaining his job is a bit of a twist…

“I wish Roy (MacGregor) was here. I really do. And Wayne (Scanlan). The people who seem to almost take a personal attack in the way that they’ve written their articles. I have no problem answering those questions. I know as a normal general manager, that I hope to retain my job by having a conversation. I’m not sure why everybody is in such a hurry to get me out of here but If that’s the way it is, that’s the way it is. However, we do have an awfully good group coming. I told the players this morning, when they (the media) attack me or Cory, they’re really attacking the players because they in a couple of cases, were very, very good players elsewhere and came here and haven’t performed to the level that we thought they would perform to. A couple were injuries: Michalek had the knee; Alex had the knee; we talked about Leclaire so we know that there has to be some thought about what we’re doing in the future. I’ve answered the question as far as the changes or the opportunity to make changes in the team but beyond that, I don’t know where that all came from. I talk to Eugene somewhat regularly. We’ve talked about where we are, how disappointed we are in the year and we’ll try and do somethings that are positive going forward but if Roy knows something more than that, you’ll have to ask him.”

When asked how long he anticipates this can be turned around, Murray responded by saying, “I hope tomorrow night. I really do. I don’t think we’re very far from being a good hockey team. Obviously you have to make some changes when you perform the way that we did. But I think it’s one year. I think we can be back and be a really competitive team really quickly. Young kids take a little bit of time to grow but there are some guys who can step in and be pretty good players in the NHL right away.

Cowen very definitely in our opinion will play and be a good player next year. He’s not going to be a point getter, he’s going to be the defensive defenceman. Young, make the odd mistake early but by December should be a good regular player in the NHL. Rundblad will come in and play right away. Again, he’s bigger than Erik. He’s somewhat skilled like Erik. He sees the ice. If you watched the World Juniors at all, he played with Karlsson on the same team under Anders Forsberg. He’s the priority player there. Karlsson’s a pretty good player, he got drafted very, very high and stepped in and played in the NHL next year and be a good player. We think Rundblad’s there or better right now. Patrick (Wiercioch) is playing but not a priority player in Binghamton right now. We wish that he would play a little bit more. He probably will be a better NHL player than an AHL player just because of his style and his body build right now. A year from now however, I think if Patrick is 10lbs heavier and a little stronger, which I believe he will be over the summer, that he’ll be a real contender for a spot here next year.

(Gryba) is really one of the most improved players down there. He’s huge. His skating and positioning defensively was a little bit of a question earlier in the year but he’s really made great strides. We’ve very happy with Eric. Again, all of them can’t play next year. We just can’t have that many rookies on our team but he will be a NHL player.

Well we have Greening, who has really made, again, big strides. The one thing that we were really concerned with Colin was that he was big and could really skate but never really got involved physically. Now he’s fighting down there. It’s almost like he’s looking to do it more often because we’ve kind of encouraged that. He’s playing much better. Again, we hope that he’s one of the people who we can bring up and give him some exposure so that when he goes back for the summer, he’s excited about what he can do in the fall for the NHL team. He’s one guy, Condra… other than skating, this is a good player. He’s one of the other guys I’d like to give a look to simply because it appears his head and hands, he gets points, he makes the players that he plays with better… so we’d like to give him a game before it’s over too.”

Surprisingly, no one in the media had the stones to ask Murray whether it was reasonable to assume that the organization could rebound so quickly, especially when it appears willing to absorb the short term losses for future gains by moving a veteran players like Chris Phillips, who play significant minutes, and replace them with rookies like like Cowen, Rundblad or Lehner. You’d imagine that a GM who banked so heavily on significant production from young but more experienced players like Regin and Foligno would realize this.

Granted, there are a number of players who may be close to NHL ready but on paper, you’re looking at an abundance of third and fourth line calibre players who are on the cusp. Considering that it has been Ottawa’s third and fourth line guys who have essentially carried the ball this season, I’m hoping that you the readers will be able to understand my scepticism that their promotions should translate into a better team next season.

Hilariously, after scorning MacGregor and Scanlan earlier in the scrum, Murray wasn’t done. When discussing free agency as a potential avenue to acquire another forward, Murray sarcastically offered this gem, “We don’t have enough (up front) right now, but we’d like to find one in the draft or… I’m afraid to mention free agency with you guys because obviously, we overspend every time. We might have to go and find one more forward at the end of the day in July when free agency opens up.”

It’s not that you overspent Bryan, no one should have a problem with you ponying up the cash to bring in a free agent or two.  The problem is that he brought in past their prime veterans who were counted upon to help shoulder the burden and compliment the core group of players. Unfortunately, the core players on this team simply aren’t good enough to mask the faults that Gonchar and Kovalev have.

While all of this was breaking today and I was providing some commentary via Twitter, @fisher12fan tweeted, u really hate Murray with a Passion enh?

It has nothing to do with hating Murray. If you’re familiar with this website or my opinions, you’ll come to the realization that I have defended him on a variety of occasions and especially early on in his tenure. My problem with Murray lies in his repeated deflection of blame, whether it’s towards the media, injuries, the previous regime or the cap era. Like in today’s scrum, I have yet to see him or his staff take ownership for  mistakes and say that they will work towards remedying them (even if it means taking a short term loss for future gain). Looking back on his tenure, I think you will notice that many of his trades were reactive (not proactive) and that has contributed largely to an underachieving/overpaid core of players that he is incredibly loyal to because he coached these same players during the ’07 Cup Finals appearance.

Because of comments about dipping into free agency, expectations of this team’s young players and a one year rebuild, I have some serious doubts that he has the willingness and savvy to make the difficult decisions regarding this team’s core and for that reason, I would love to see a fresh face who has fresh ideas and no attachment to the bulk of this roster. http://bloguinpro.com/the6thsens/administrator/index.php?option=com_content&task=add

I’m sick of the quick fix.

Fin.

Other Noteworthy Things:

- “I did not put a claim in on him (Nabokov). I didn’t think that was a right way to go with the position that we are in right now and I think he’s shown why. Rather than claim him, we get some information ahead of time. He wanted to report to a playoff team, to a team like Detroit, that was very serious about the Cup. He didn’t want to go elsewhere. The other thing that I thought that I had was claim him and trade him back to Detroit to get a pick but the league rules prevent against that from happening. He had to go back on the waiver wire and could be claimed by anybody. So there was no benefit other than we would have had to pay a fee to pick him up, so I didn’t do it in that way.”

- “Mike Fisher doesn’t have a no-movement clause. I have talked to players but I don’t think I should go there.” (Note: From Brent Wallace’s Twitter @tsn_wally, Fisher has a limited no-move clause. He can provide a list of teams he doesn’t want to be traded to but he has not be asked to submit a list.)

- Murray on the subject of injuries, “Milan’s just starting to play. He’s been playing for 2-3 weeks now where he’s back to where he’s playing like the hockey player that he is. We’ve had Fisher hurt for a period of time. We’ve had Spezza out for a period of time. Alfie’s been hurting for quite some time and Leclaire…” I guess this helps explain why Alfie’s monthly production has gone from 12 points in October to 6 to 5 and to 5 in January.

- Neate Sager of Buzzing the Net (@neatebuzzthenet) says that the Oilers have a greater interest in Swedish defenceman than they do in Ryan Nugent Hopkins. Great news for Sens fans who want to see the organization land either of RNH or Gabriel Landeskog. 

- Elliotte Friedman has included Ron Hextall (Los Angeles) and Julien Brisebois (Tampa Bay) on the list of potential GM candidates. He also mentions Dallas as a possible trade destination for Brian Elliott.

- In an interview on The Healthy Scratches, Eugene Melnyk indicated that there are two untouchables on the Senators roster. One was unnamed (Karlsson?) the other was Alfie. Bryan Murray also appeared on their show although much of what he said was a reiteration of this morning’s scrum.

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