GM Bryan Murray Discusses the NHL Trade Deadline

Sens TV posted the above video yesterday showing GM Bryan Murray answering questions about the team’s success and its intentions for the NHL trade deadline. For the purposes of this blog entry, I’ve cherry picked the parts of the interview that I thought were interesting and relevant. The rest can be heard by watching the video itself. As always, any comments that I have concerning one of Murray’s answers will be in bold.

Q: How much do the performances of your prized prospects influence what you’re going to do at the deadline?

A: (The prospects) aren’t going to help us this year at this point in time, in all likelihood anyway. At this year’s deadline, we’ll look at it in a realistic manner. The plan was to build and hopefully be competitive this year. If we’re going to be a playoff team, we’ll take a different view of it. There’s no question. We’ll take a look at the roster that we have and I’ll talk to Paul and obviously Eugene is going to be a big part of it because we did have a plan in place. If you try and get a player from another organization, financially you have to make a decision, number one. Number two you have to decide what you’re willing to pay for that asset so that will take some time and some discussion but we have talked. I’ve talked to Eugene about it. I’ve obviously talked with Paul (MacLean) and Tim (Murray) and we’re going to keep our eyes and ears open to see if there’s anything and then we’ll have to make the call at the right time hopefully.

This corroborates what Eugene Melnyk told Jeff Sammut the other night during his appearance on the Fan 590 about already having preliminary discussions about the direction of this team for the remainder of the season. What Murray does frankly is give a very political answer that doesn’t tip his hand as to how the next few weeks will shake out. Obviously because of the team’s success, the plan is accelerated somewhat and the organization will do its due diligence and explore every possible trade scenario. I don’t want to read too much into Murray stressing the financial aspect of making moves because Melnyk has to green light any additional salary that the team takes on. In fairness to him, I believe he was just explaining the process itself. 

Q: Do you see yourself making a big move or tinkering?

A: Well, I like our team. We’ll have to take a look as we go through this road trip. We have a tough schedule right now. If we can compete during the next three weeks, two and a half or three weeks at least, then I have to say ‘when we get into the playoffs, anything can happen’. My thought has always been at deadline time, if you can add something to your team that the players believe is a good addition, that really adds a lot to your roster because they see that we’re trying. So I’m not sure. I think that our depth is okay right now but we may need a substantial piece.

The ‘anything can happen when we get into the playoffs’ attitude, more commonly referred to as Jay Feaster Syndrom, is a bit disconcerting. I mean, Murray’s correct in asserting that they cannot assume that every prospect is going to pan out for the organization but by flipping future assets for a shot this season, those odds will diminish further. For a team that appears to be on the way up but not one that many would agree is on the verge of being a perennial playoff team, perhaps it might be more prudent to be patient and wait until the offseason to add a substantial piece. At that time, maybe it would be easier to find a second pairing defenceman or sell high and upgrade on a Michalek or a Foligno without risk ruining the chemistry that currently exists within the dressing room.

Q: Do you have any needs right now?

A: There are always needs on every hockey team and I’m not going to really be specific but very definitely… we brought up two young guys (Petersson and Borowiecki) to come on the trip with us because we have two fairly big injuries. Plus, we have Brian Lee who will be a short-term guy… short-term injury. Injuries are going to happen in this game; when you’re playing back-to-back in particular so we need depth. We need another player or two. I was hoping that they would be available in the minors and they might well be but certainly that would be one thing. But the other part is that you always like guys who can play and put pucks in the net. If that kind of player is around then obviously we would go after that.

The two injured players that Murray’s referring to are Peter Regin and Jesse Winchester. It’s interesting to hear Murray reference Regin, albeit indirectly. (At the very least, he didn’t refer to Regin as the ‘short-term guy’.) In light of his recent injuries, impending RFA status and the influx of prospects (ie. Silfverberg, Zibanejad, etc.) compete for a job next season, a few have questioned whether the organization would even qualify Regin with an offer. 

Q: By making the Turris deal, does that take the pressure off to find a top six guy?

A: Kyle’s come in and done a real good job for us too. He’s young and at that time, what we were looking to do was add a younger player; not necessarily a proven guy. But it looks like he fits the bill right now; he skates real well and shoots the puck well. We’ve said it all along, it’s just a matter of him developing his strength and that will take a year or so. He’s a good player and he does take the pressure off in terms of desperately looking for a player.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say that I’m glad that desperation has been removed from the equation.

Q: Would you be worried about altering the perception of your team and raising expectations?

A: I think if we’re in a position to change the perception and we’re convinced that we have a chance to at least make the playoffs, so maybe a little bit. But that’s good. I’d like to think that the perception of our team has changed dramatically since September. Most everybody, and I said this to a couple of the writers yesterday, most didn’t know a number of our younger players that had played some games and then gone back to Binghamton and these kids have come in and helped. But, the other part that has been the most important by far is the veteran guys: the Alfredssons, the Spezzas, Phillips, Kuba, Gonchar … guys like that that didn’t have the greatest of years maybe a year ago or some of them. They’ve turned it around and are what we thought they were going to be. Obviously the big player in this is Craig Anderson and the way that he’s played too. I think the perception has changed and I hope it has since the beginning to now.

Although Murray indicated last week that he would feel wrong if he thought that some of these older guys on our team didn’t deserve a chance to be helped going into the playoffs, of the veterans that Murray names, only Jason Spezza is on the right side of 30 years of age. Assuming that this team develops into the perennial playoff threat that we’re all hoping it becomes, Spezza’s probably the only one from this group who will still be around at that time. From an asset management perspective, it’s probably in the team’s best interests to insulate their young talent with more good young talent to give itself a bigger window of opportunity to contend down the road.

Q: A year ago, you said this was the toughest time you’ve ever had as a GM going into the deadline, how different is this for you a year later?

A: You think you know the game and then you see the way that we played last year and it was most disappointing. We went out and did pick up some veteran guys to help our team perform and it didn’t work. Nobody was happy in our room. There was no chemistry whatsoever. It was just an unhappy group that didn’t play well. To me, that’s the biggest thing: I take this as a game. It’s about people. It’s about treating your players with respect; getting them to have an effort every night but also have a little fun with the game and put on a show when they can with their talent level. This year it’s totally different. I can even watch it on tv the odd time and see that we compete pretty well and win games. I was around our scouts last week and we watched three games and everybody was pretty pleased with what they see and contributed to the organization. That’s what we’re in it for: to have some success and understand that it’s a business that we’re lucky to be in.

I loved this comment by Murray that gives a little insight into the hockey ops process. Ultimately, the goal is a championship and the Stanley Cup but Murray has humanized the process with his comment. The job of a scout is a thankless one. Forget the isolated and countless hours spent travelling and watching hockey, these guys rarely ever get more credit for a good draft than a bad one. For what’s gone on in the past few seasons and watch the process be expedited because of some shrewd trades and draft selections, these guys deserve to pause, reflect and savor the moment (even if it’s only for a moment).

Q: Are you worried that the bubble might burst?

A: We play too hard every night. Everybody plays too hard every night to fall by the wayside. That’s the biggest thing for me, night after night. If they did it once in awhile, but this group appear to believe so much in themselves and in the group… even last night going into the third period, I knew we were going to win. I shouldn’t even say it that way but I just felt that ‘okay, we’re back now’. We weren’t very good early but we find a way to win in the third period and we found a way to win. To me, that tells a big story of what this group is all about.

As much as I love the way the Senators have been mounting comebacks and winning in dramatic fashion, it’s not like this team is without some glaring red flags. Having played fifteen games outside of regulation, Ottawa has played the second most number of OT/SO games in the NHL. There’s no question that the ability to never feel like they’re out of a game is an important lesson to learn, the fact is that at some point, the team has to do a better job of filling the net in the early portions of the game. The truth is that they’ve been a terrible first period team this season. They currently rank 25th in goals for while also allowing the second most number of goals with 49. In a league in which the ‘very good’ teams win at an .800-.900 clip when leading after one period, if the Senators are going to have a chance to win in the playoffs against stiffer competition, they need to improve vastly in this area.

Q: So it’s depth and a goal scorer that might not have to pay an arm and a leg for that you may go after?

A: That’s the type of thing. What we did and we do all the time in our exercises is that we evaluate every player in the league. We do depth charts of every team. We look at the teams that look like they’re going to have a tough time down the stretch to make the playoffs and we take players on that team who might be unrestricted or might be available and those are the kind of people that we talk about. We’ve got a bit of a handle on that and that’s the kind of player that we’d probably have to look at. I don’t think we’ll be able to claim a young guy from another organization unless they’re unhappy and we have a guy that they would take for him.

Hmmm, any suggestions readers?

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