The Senators finally made it official today by announcing that Bryan Murray has signed a contract extension to remain as the general manager for the next three seasons.
And it's a smart, prudent move by the organization.
There is going to be a nasty backlash from a certain reactionary segment of the fan base who have called for the firing of Murray all season long, but hey, you can't please everybody.
I'm sure it was a difficult decision for both Eugene Melnyk and team president Cyril Leeder, but they came to the right one in keeping Murray around to finish what he started this season.
Like I said in a previous article, this is really the first time Murray has had a chance to build this team from the core out. Since taking over from John Muckler in the summer of 2007, Murray went with the core players who had so much success in years past which reduced his role to that of a caretaker GM.
Once the bottom dropped out, Murray began making drastic, necessary moves this season and will get his first chance to really build the team the way he wants it, rather than keeping the old teams built by other general managers together.
So far, so good.
For whatever faults he has, Murray is highly respected by his players, by player agents, by the hockey community and by his GM peers.
He's also a survivor, as his 30 plus years in the NHL can attest. Bringing in a new general manager, particularly a young one, is no guarantee of brighter days ahead. Minnesota and Colorado fans can attest to that.
Some may wonder about the length of the deal, but anything less than three years wouldn't allow Murray to see through his plan. In a sense, you can be sure that 3 years is the number that both Murray and Melnyk agreed is the time it will take to get this team back to elite status and competing for the Stanley Cup.
That's not tomorrow, but it's sooner than it sounds. It's obvious that Melnyk is expecting results in a short time frame and Murray's plan is structured to do just that. There will likely be no playoffs next year either but that's just the nature of rebuilding. Murray has made a big commitment to the organization here to get things back on track and it's honourable that he doesn't want to leave the team in a state of disrepair.
In short, Murray has vowed to fix this thing and he's willing to put in the time to do it.
He deserved that chance and now he's going to get it.
Which brings us to Cory Clouston, the hard-working yet seemingly doomed coach of the Ottawa Senators. I laid out the reasons I believe Clouston will be let go in my last post (or as someone called it, a "hatchet job"), but that doesn't mean the young coach doesn't deserve respect from the fans.
He was hired during a time of crisis and did a relatively good job of bringing back some respectability to the team on the ice. Yet some of his decisions led to the estrangement of some very good hockey players on this team, most notably Dany Heatley, and the organization suffered mightily for it.
Like all rookie coaches, he did some great things, and some not so great things. For some, it will seem unfair when he gets replaced, and there is going to be an outpouring of sympathy for the young coach when the inevitable happens. And with that sympathy will come the backlash against the players which always happens like clockwork when a coach gets fired.
Fans always associate more with a coach than they do players and feel that somehow the coach was undone by spoiled athletes. A lot of coaches get treated like martyrs when they are fired, like somehow they don't bear any responsibility for their fate.
This kind of invented sympathy can be a very misleading thing.
When you start feeling sorry for a coach or a player, that should send off alarm bells on the logical side of your brain.
People felt very sorry for players like Martin Gerber and Jonathan Cheechoo and for coaches like John Paddock and Craig Hartsburg. It's a natural reaction and an honest one, but do you really want guys you feel sorry for coaching or playing for your team?
It may be a harsh reality, but when you start feeling sorry for athletes or coaches, that's not a good sign that their career is headed to the stratosphere.
I'll take the guys who tend to piss people off now and then any day.
How's Ray Emery doing lately?