With the Senators’ quarterfinal matchup with the New York Rangers only three days away, general manager Bryan Murray made an appearance on today’s Hockey Central panel on the Fan 590. To listen to the show, you can click here.
You can read more after the jump. As always, my thoughts are in bold.
Millard: When did you feel confident that you were going to make the playoffs?
A: When we played on Long Island and won the game. We won 5-1 – that got us in and that’s about the first time really.
Doug MacLean: That’s BS. Oh no, because when I was with you and I remember, we were up by nine points and I was like, “Geez Bryan, can we hold on?”
(MacLean pretending to be Murray) “Doug, I mean we’re nine (points) up. We’re in the playoffs.”
This was like two months before and now you’re saying it takes to the last game?
It’s somewhat scary to see that Doug MacLean uses ‘we’ to describe his relationship with Murray and by extension, the Senators.
A: No, I remember that conversation well Doug. It’s really hard and I think Buffalo, Darren, you talked about them in the playoffs last night.
Darren: Thanks for bringing that up! I screwed up, okay?
A: No, no. It’s fine. They took a big run but they got far behind, unfortunately for them and you get caught up in yourself trying to win every night. And it’s hard to win in this league every night. It doesn’t matter who you are or how good you are. We got ahead. We had a little run for awhile. We dropped back and then we had another run. I felt in the last few weeks that we had a real legitimate chance to make it.
Kypreos: I remember visiting (Doug) Mac(Lean) in the summer and we were in his backyard, drinking a cold one and he says, “Boys, I think Bryan (Murray) is in trouble this year.”
He entered the season armed with a three year extension, ownership approval, and a fan base that had low expectations. Somewhere Randy Cunneyworth is shaking his head and throwing out his Rosetta Stone software.
MacLean: I said they’d win twenty-five games. I said it on this show.
Kypreos: After they won their twenty-fourth game.
MacLean: No, no. Twenty-five games I said they’d win. How many games did you expect to win Bryan?
A: I didn’t know that I really had a number. I felt that we’d compete. I didn’t know like everyone else. I think I knew the players better. I knew the leadership core better obviously. I knew some of the kids that had played in Binghamton last year quite a bit better. I think adding Kyle Turris really added to our mix partway through the season. There are a lot of things that come into play while building a hockey team but I really felt that we could compete. I didn’t know. I think there are some really good teams that are out of the playoffs. I think it’s a real achievement today to make the playoffs. I think with fourteen teams out, I bet you out of those fourteen teams, there are seven or eight really good hockey teams that given a break or two, would have made it. I take it as a real compliment to the whole group here and I’m not too bitter at the critics at the start of the year.
Kypreos: Was there one specific game this season that you said, “Okay, now I’m convinced that we’ve got a chance here”?
A: No, there were a number of games that we rallied late and came back. That was sort of in the first half where we were down. I remember one game in Toronto and one game against the Rangers where we weren’t very good early and had a great run in the third period. I kind of felt that if we could ever get this group to believe in themselves; to believe that if we played hard every night from start to finish that we could compete. That started to happen and I’ve said many times, the coaching staff did a real good job of putting guys on the ice at critical moments that were going. They didn’t care what their names were and I think that really sent a really good message to our group.
MacLean: I picked Karlsson to win the Norris last week; ahead of Chara and ahead of Weber. I based a lot of it on your comments about him; about his play in the defensive zone because you have watched him more than anybody. But Bryan, did you ever envision he and Spezza being this good together or he being this good? I mean, what a step this kid has taken.
WTF? Does MacLean have PHWA voting privileges?
You know what helps foster that creativity? Having your best offensive players play together… wait for it… at the same time!
One of the things that Paul MacLean has done much better than his predecessor is his personnel management. Last season under Cory Clouston, Karlsson spent 22.6-percent of his 5v5 ice-time playing with Jason Spezza – who was far and away the Ottawa Senators’ best offensive player. This season, that number almost doubled to to 41.7-percent. Shocking!
A: Yeah, he’s taken a huge step Doug. I think it’s a combination of getting points and playing better defensively. But his quickness has really allowed him to make a huge step. I know we get reputations in this league and they’re hard to dispel but Erik has come one-hundred miles without the puck. (He) really has done a good job and helped the transition game greatly. Obviously Jason and other people have stepped up too and taken advantage of what he gives from the back end. But a good pick by you by the way.
Kypreos: Does a kid having that much success that early kind of confuse things when it comes to getting him signed to a new contract?
A: No, the one thing that… I’ve been talking to Erik, as we do to our players all the time, and he said, “one year does not a career-make” so I know Donnie (Meehan) and his staff at Newport Sports record everything. I recorded that too. We’ll get him done. It’s like every good player. It’s going to cost money. It’s going to cost term, we hope. Erik Karlsson is a good player and we recognize that and we can negotiate accordingly.
It’s intriguing to hear Murray speak so candidly about how the organization would prefer that Karlsson take a contract that has term to it rather than have him sign a one or two year deal at a lesser average annual value.
Kypreos: Do you want to get something done sooner than later or is this something that can wait?
A: It can wait. We’re not going to do it during the playoffs for sure. So when the year winds down here, we’ll get a chance to sit down here with his people and his group and they know, we’ve talked enough already that we both know this is a very good, young hockey player.
MacLean: In your thirty-plus years in the NHL, have you ever had one contract dispute with a player that seriously has ever been an issue? You always get your deals done, right?
A: I think that players like to be treated right. They deserve to be treated right. We’re not going to dispel anything that he’s done this year. I hope, like heck that he wins the Norris Trophy and he has that leverage to negotiate with, but it will be a fair contract, that I believe, on the part of both parties.
Leave me your fair contract suggestions in the comment thread below.
Millard: Why do you think you can pull off the upset as the eighth seed against the one?
A: Well, I think we have a competitive team. I think it’s going to be a heck of a series. Both goaltenders are very good. Lundqvist has the edge as far as stats go over the course of the year, but very definitely, Craig Anderson has in the latter part of the year has played very well for us. I think both defences, their defence is a little bit different than ours. They block more shots. We create more offence off the back end, I believe. We’ve got stars on both teams. I think it’s going to be real exciting. Good hockey. It’ll be fast. I think we compare to them, I’m not sure why but we certainly played even with them during year. And in spite of what people believe, I think the regular season does mean something – psychologically as much as any other reason but I really do believe that our group feels that they are competitive. It’s going to be tough. We are the underdog. I would say that as well but I think you’ll see that we’ll do a good job.
MacLean: I’ve got to tell you Bryan, having watched Paul MacLean coach this year and listened to his press conferences versus some of the other garbage that I listen to in other post-game conferences, it’s unbelievably refreshing to see how well he’s handled himself in his rookie year as a head coach in the NHL. You should be congratulated on making a good choice.
A: I appreciate that Doug. He is a good choice or has been a good choice. He is a good man. He’s a people person. He’s got skills with the players in the communication part. He doesn’t expect anything from them that he won’t do himself. He treats the media likewise, with great respect. Hopefully this helps build an organization over the long-term that really is successful.
Kypreos: One thing that is abundantly clear is that his relationship with his key veterans – Spezza, and I have to ask you about Daniel Alfredsson. There’s no way that you can let this guy retire next year.
A: Well, I’ve told him that ten times Nick, so I hope that you’re right there. He’s had such a real good year and I watch him, he just finished practice. I watched him there and he’s having more fun than all of the young guys put together pretty much – at this point and time, his skating and his health and all the things that have all come together for him. The one thing about Paul in that part too, he has given the veteran players some ownership of this team and he’s not afraid to do that and it appears that some coaches are afraid to do that. Paul has done that and the guys have bought in as a result.
The veteran players may have ownership, but we shouldn’t discount Bibi’s 50-percent ownership in Alfie’s retirement decision either.
Other Monday News of Pithy Importance
– Chris Neil, who crashed head first into the boards during last Saturday’s gameday practice, has confirmed that he will be ready for the start of the Rangers series on Thursday night.
– For those who haven’t seen the actual playoff schedule, here it is:
|Thursday, April 12, 2012||7 p.m.||Ottawa at NY Rangers||NHL Network, CBC|
|Saturday, April 14, 2012||7 p.m.||Ottawa at NY Rangers||NBC Sports Network, CBC|
|Monday, April 16, 2012||7:30 p.m.||NY Rangers at Ottawa||CBC, CNBC|
|Wednesday, April 18, 2012||7:30 p.m.||NY Rangers at Ottawa||CBC, CNBC|
|*Saturday, April 21, 2012||7 p.m.||Ottawa at NY Rangers||NBC Sports Network, CBC|
|*Monday, April 23, 2012||TBD||NY Rangers at Ottawa||TBD|
|*Thursday, April 26, 2012||TBD||Ottawa at NY Rangers||TBD|
Apparently there are still tickets available for the Senators’ home games, so get on it.
– The Central Scouting Bureau has released their final 2012 NHL Entry Draft rankings. The Sarnia Sting’s Nail Yakupov tops the North American list and is followed by Ryan Murray, Mikhail Grigorenko, Sarnia teammate Alex Galchenyuk and Morgan Rielly. Filip Forsberg is the top ranked European prospect.
– Broad Street Hockey takes a look at score-adjusted Fenwick and which teams have been playing the best hockey since the NHL trade deadline. For what it’s worth, Ottawa apparently has been one of the better puck possession teams during this time. Hopefully that bodes well for them heading into the postseason.
– According to the New York Times‘ Larry Brooks, Rangers collegiate prospect Chris Kreider has flown home to Tampa and there is no indication that he is close to signing with the Rangers anytime soon. It was expected that he would sign with the team following the conclusion of the Frozen Four and be available for the start of the postseason.
– The Amazing Kreskin thinks that the Senators should re-sign Matt Gilroy.