Friday, April 8, 2011

Murray Back For 3 .... Don't Cry For Clouston

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?


Anonymous said...

Not sure if I get the "finished what he started" logic, given they've started every season looking to get back into the playoffs and compete and now it's an entirely different plan. Given that every GM in the league has a goal of building a contender and winning a Cup, with this logic it makes sense that any GM who produces disappointing results should stick around and finish what they started.

Like anyone, I like that he's respected and seems like a strong drafter, and so I don't really mind this deal too much. It could be worse. (There's always Sather's lifetime immunity.) But I certainly don't feel sorry for Murray for inheriting a Cup final team. He had more to work with than most new GMs when he took over, and four years, three coaches, and an entirely different roster later, we're bottom five in the league. I don't hate this deal, but I certainly don't love it.

Anonymous said...

I think that you're way off base.

This idea that Murray is finally getting a chance to shape is own team is utter nonsense. He's had the job for four years.

He has not been a caretaker GM. No GM in the history of the Sens has made more moves and created more instability than Murray. He's had more freedom to make moves than in any GM we've ever had.

Look at Muckler. If there ever was a caretaker GM, whatever that means, it was Muckler. He inherited a team in 2002. The coach he inherited was Jacques Martin.

He kept Martin. When he finally fired him, he couldn't even choose his own coach because Murray was brought in.

What GM never gets to choose his own coach.

Now look at the players Muckler had. He inherited a core of Alfie, Redden, Phillips, Fisher. Who was the core when he left? Same guys.

How about draft picks? Spezza, Vermette, Kelly, Neil, ... All these guys were drafted before Muckler got there. They joined the lineup during his tenure.

Muckler, more than anyone, did not get to build hos own team. But, .....

He did WIN. That's the important part. He created a work environment and an atmosphere that allowed the players to perform at a high level.

There was no drama. No leaks. No nonsense about this player having character, and that player not having character. It was about WINNING.

It is very similar to what has gone on in Vancouver. Shouldn't we be crediting Dave Nonis or Brian Burke for building the Canucks. After all, Alain Vigneault was brought in by Nonis. Luongo was signed by Nonis. The Sedins and Kessler were brought in by Burke.

Mike Gillis hasn't changed much, except for the approach and the attitude. That's not to say that Nonis or Burke were bad, but it does say that maye it was time for a new direction. A new voice.

Gillis gave Manny Malhotra $2.5M and a NTC. Last summer, many reports questioned that move. Nobody questions it now. All sorts of tweaks he's done have had a dramatic effect.

Getting back to Murray, he has destroyed this team. He'll get a good draft pick this year, not because our he's a good drafter, but because our team finished near the bottom of the standings.

Bryan Murray likes making changes as a GM. He's shown that at every franchise he's worked at. He's got no Stanley Cups to show for it.

I think he's better suited for an expansion franchise, not a franchise that wants to contend for a Cup.

This three year deal doesn't make much sense to me. I'll be watching if Dave Cameron is named coach. If he is, I wonder if the negotiation went something like this:

Melnyk: Hey Bryan, I want to bring Cameron into the organization to reward him for all the good work he's done for me. I want him to be the coach. What do you think about that?

Murray: Well, uh ...

Melnyk: Do you want to be GM under those circumstances?

Murray: (thinking to himself, what other option do I have, it's not like another team wants to hire a 68 year old GM) OK.

Anonymous said...

A quick other note, John Muckler was hired in June 2002. He tenure ended in June 2007.

We had a one year lockout in the middle of that.

So basically, he had four years. In that time, we got one President's Trophy and one Final's appearance.

Murray's had more than enough time to have an impact. Even the President of the United States only gets four years before they make him/her face the music again.

Mark Parisi said...

I'm really unclear why Muckler should get credit for winning with players he didn't draft. If he didn't do the work, how are the results his? That just doesn't make any sense.

Milks, I think you're right on. Now that Melnyk has accepted the need to rebuild, it doesn't make sense to sign a GM for less than three years. Murray's already laid a solid foundation. It was obviously enough to convince Melnyk he was the right guy to finish the job.

Blood Red Army said...

Bold prediction of the decade:

Murray will also return behind the bench.

Anonymous said...

Blah blah blah.

Murray is a government worker in a GM's coat. Mediocre and unable to succeed at getting the brass ring.

P.S. The 'reactionary' fans are the ones that want to win and have success rather that keep an old underachiever around for no reason.


Anonymous said...

"I'm really unclear why Muckler should get credit for winning with players he didn't draft. If he didn't do the work, how are the results his? That just doesn't make any sense."

He took assets and moulded them into a finalist.

Murray took said assets and did...nothing. Oh, he won two playoff games WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO lemme get season tickets!

Anything less than two finals wins from Murray's new core is underachievement.


Mark Parisi said...

Matt, what assets exactly did Muckler "mold" into a finalist? Varada? Smolinski? Bondra? Hasek? Arnason? Saprykin? Gerber? Corvo?

The core of the Cup Finals roster, with the exception of one player -- Dany Heatley -- had nothing to do with John Muckler. Giving him credit for those players isn't just revisionist history, it's nonsensical.

Jon L. said...

Why exactly is Murray being given a 3 year contract again? Oh, it's because of his fabulous work since the 'rebuild' was announced right? Well why in the fuck are we in a rebuild when the guy took over a team that was in the Stanley Cup finals! I'm extremely disappointed that Murray was not removed as GM. The guy makes us the laughingstock of the league because of his ineptitude and his unwillingness to shoulder any of the blame for this franchise's recent failure's. Now we'll probably hire Mr. Cameron who has no NHL coaching experience but we, the fans, will just have to accept that as part of the 'rebuild'. No I don't accept it. Murray should go where Paddock and Hartsburg went, the hockey graveyard for lifetime underachievers. Keep up the good work.