Assistant GM Tim Murray made an appearance on The Drive yesterday afternoon, the bulk of which is transcribed below. The big news of Zibanejad staying in Bingo (rather than playing in the WJC) was explained from the organization's perspective. Among other topics hit on were Lehner's hot start, the job Luke Richardson has done, and if Tim would like to see Cody Ceci moved to a contender.
As always, my thoughts are in bold.
On what he is doing to keep himself busy these days…
“Lots of different things – the AHL, this weekend I’m going to do some college free agents finally. I’ve been through the OHL and seen the Super Series and the under-18s. (I’ve been) talking to lots of different people – agents and that so you always find a way to put in your day.”
If only there was another Justin Schutz to pluck, amirite? Dude is killing it ... *shakes fist in Edmonton's direction*
On Mika Zibanejad not playing in the WJC, and playing in the AHL being the best road to take for his development…
“Yep, it is… Without going into our internal stuff too much, that’s a big part of it, the been there done that kind of thing. I think the keys to becoming a real good pro are focus and preparation and I think that is what we’re trying to do with all our young kids down there. I think we’re the youngest team in the league down there and we’re having some success in low scoring, tight games. To take him out of that to go back to being a wheel and getting his bum patted every second and minute in Sweden when he has already been through that. We’re trying to instill different things in him that aren’t instilled at that level and we just basically, it comes down to it, we don’t see that helping his progression to become a good pro.”
Who am I to argue if they think this is what's best for Mika's development? The Senators are in a position to control his playing environment. As opposed to last year, which is something Tim didn't shy away from criticising in August with regards to Djurgarden - “Unless you’re there every day you don’t know, but I can say there were times they didn’t (put him in the role they promised). Consistently, they didn’t. There were probably times we didn’t see them play that they did. Overall, no, it wasn’t a great experience, that’s for sure. ... Nothing is ever a waste of time so it wasn’t a waste of time, but it was close to that I guess."
On being worried about Swedish backlash…
“Yeah, we’re not worried about that. We have to do what’s best for the kid. We have to do what’s best for the Ottawa Senators organization. Obviously he was consulted on this. His agent, Craig (Oster) and I had many conversations over the last two weeks about it and you want to make sure that you’re doing the right thing. And that means that they have to be on board, certainly. They know what we believe but they have to be on board and I think we are all on the same page and we came to the same conclusion that if he’s going to be a good NHL player, either this year or next year, being away from pro hockey for a month and away from Luke (Richardson) down there is not what we think is the best thing.”
SteffeG had a post on this yesterday...but at the risk of sounding like a jilted Swede myself, I do think there is some truth to the argument that if the Senators had a top Canadian prospect who had scored the OT winning WJC goal last year, they'd be less prone to draw a firm line and keep him in the AHL
Suspect a lot of this comes down to the distance involved in travelling to Ufa, Russia and playing on international ice. If this year's WJC was in North Dakota (on NA ice) like it was during the 04-05 lockout, the Sens brass might have felt differently.
On there being any disappointment from Mika…
“No, basically Craig called me and said, ‘Have you been in touch with the Swedish federation and what are our thoughts on Mika going back to the WJC?’ and I said, ‘Whatever Mika wants to do,’ and he said, ‘Well, I’ve talked to him and here are my thoughts, what do you think?’ and I said, ‘In a perfect world, this is what we do.’ So that initial thought came from their side and I thought it was exactly what we want to do and certainly, I consulted with Bryan (Murray) and he thought the same thing. The closer we get to (the WJC) and if Sweden is struggling, will opinions change on it, who knows? But, I know on our side, we’re all on the same page. I think it’s the right thing to do. If he had been a fourth line bit player last year, I think that would have come into the equation and we might have made a different decision but all those things were taken into the plan, and this is what we’ve come up with.”
Will be interesting to hear Zibanejad's take on how all this went down. His Swedish agent commented Thursday that Ottawa's unwillingness to grant Mika's release was due to their belief the NHL could be playing again soon (a strain of optimism that looks to be shared by no other organizations, to say nothing of Alfie making plans to leave for Europe).
Still, Zibanejad scored an overtime championship winner to end a 30-year drought for his country; understatement to say a lot of players would take that.
As a fan though, it's a bit unfortunate, we all wanted to see Ziba play in this tourney, even if any benefit to his development would be marginal at best. For 99% of the fanbase, watching crystal clear HD broadcasts during the holidays is preferable to watching a blurry online stream of Bingo @ Albany. At least we have burgeoning scoring star Mikael Wikstrand to look forward to!
Who has stood out in your mind on Binghamton…
“Our goaltending has been outstanding, so you have the two guys there obviously who have been basically, really good every single game. So, they keep you in games. Our blue line has been basically been really good every single game. Our forwards are playing well and I mean, I keep hearing this negativity that we don’t score, but who cares? I don’t care. I mean, the idea is to win. They’ve all bought into the system and like I say, we’ve been playing some very hard, physical games and I think that can only help (the prospects) development and prepare them for the next level.”
WE WANT GOALZ!!!!!1
On Robin Lehner being the MVP of the team thus far…
“Yeah, great numbers and again, great attitude. He has really learned a lot in two years. The talent has always been there and I think, when these players get to the American (Hockey) League and the National Hockey League, the talent has got them so far. But it’s preparation, it’s execution and it is focus and these are things that young guys have to learn and some learn them quicker than others. He has come in with a great mindset this year. He knew that he had made some mistakes in the past and owned up to them, finally and I think it has made him a better goaltender and a better person.”
Also a great hair-do that's obviously been the source of Lehner's resurgence.
On Silfverberg trending in the right direction…
“Yeah, for sure. He’s been playing with different linemates and he is certainly getting his power play time and killing some penalties. But he himself has stated that it has been a struggle at times in certain games. Against Toronto he (had a goal and an assist) on Thursday night and then (against) Syracuse, see the tape, right from puck drop, he is being hit, sticked, spit on, whatever… He is the focus of their game plan that night and he doesn’t get a point. But what he did was he took a lot of their attention and then other guys step up and we win a game against arguably, the best team in the league. Again, there has been a learning curve but he has taken it all in stride. I just think that you will see a lot of these guys, including him, in the second half, be more comfortable and start to produce on the scoreboard a little more than they are now.”
One of the best things about offensive depth is skilled guys on the PK. Loved that about the Martin-coached teams.
On the job that Luke Richardson has done…
“Well, yeah certainly, if you haven’t seen them play, that is what you look at -- the standings and goals against. Different people (are) stepping up every night, so he’s done a great job. And even beyond that, if you go and watch (Binghamton) play, we play the game right. We don’t have a tough guy but we have team toughness. Different guys step up when they have to and we don’t fight for the staged fight. We play the game right. We check hard. We track the puck hard. We always have a man high. We pinch our D. We do a lot of good things that you want to see your NHL teams do. We play an aggressive brand of hockey and again, I’m not too worried about how many goals we score. I think that is going to bode well for the young guys coming up and I think there are quite a few guys down there that can step up. Whether it’s to have a long career or just play games, I think they are really learning a lot (from) Luke about what it takes to get to the next level and then how you stay at the next level.”
10-4-2 a decent way to start your AHL coaching career. Have to think the goaltending will regress a little at some point, likewise on some of the roster's low shooting percentages. Could be a wash.
On Mark Borowiecki, the injury to Jared Cowen, and the door being open to him…
“Yeah, I don’t know how many guys Shawn (Simpson) has had like this in his career, I’ve maybe had one other one. They are just guys that you do not find. Huge heart. Whatever. Every kid tells you at the draft that they will do whatever it takes (to be an NHLer) and most of it is bull. This guy, it is that. It is whatever. He goes to the wall every night for you and for his teammates. He is the most courageous guy that I have ever been around. And it’s not just his play, it’s the way he practices. Nobody wants to practice against him in battle drills, well you’re going to, so you better practice a little harder. You better battle a little harder. He just makes everyone around him better. He certainly makes our scouting staff (look) better. A fifth round pick and a North American defenceman at that, that doesn’t usually happen after two rounds or so, that is going to play in the National Hockey League and is going to be hard to play against. He has his limitations for sure, but he is just a guy that nobody really wants to dump the puck in his corner anymore. Everything is a battle against this guy, and we love him.”
I kind of worry the org and media's campaign to build up Boro as a super-competitive monster who drinks the blood of his enemies may be detrimental. Not that he isn't competitive and mean on the ice, and not that those things are bad. Just that the hype has placed him in a box, and It seems every minute he's on the ice (this season) he's made a point to justify it -- 71 PIM's in 16GP seem excessive to anyone else? Not hating, but it might not hurt the guy to hear a few other parts of his game praised every once in awhile.
On Andre Benoit and whether he needs to clear waivers before the start of the season and whether he needs to clear waivers before going back to Bingo…
“Well, that depends on the new CBA. I don’t know. We were talking about that yesterday, so I don’t know what is going to happen.”
In a story last week from Kevin McGran about things the NHL and NHLPA had "more or less agreed to"; one of the listed items was "Eliminate re-entry waivers". Time will tell.
On Cody Ceci and whether he would like to see him get moved to a contender…
“Well, we have got a pretty good relationship with them. If they come to us and say that is what they feel is best for their organization, we certainly wouldn’t say no. There is a good chance that he is not back in junior next year and that he turns pro. I think it works for both sides. They are in our building and they are a local team that we like, obviously. If they can move him and that helps their future and it helps our guy salvage his season and have two good months of hockey, we’d be all for it."
The 67's are bad, not Raptor-bad...but pretty damn bad. Jeff Hunt can see the forest for the tree's, and indicated two weeks ago they'd be looking at trading veterans if the team's situation didn't improve. Well it hasn't, they're 1-9 in their last 10.
Ceci currently sits third in defenseman scoring in the CHL, he should bring a sizable return.
In the Zibanejad - Team Sweden situation, we can look back to Karlsson's first yr as a Sens. He was struggling (as the whole team was) and Ottawa decided against sending him to the WJC and Team Sweden got mad because Ottawa had just sent Karlsson down for a month to the AHL after he only put up 3 points in his first 9 NHL games.
Ottawa felt back then that Karlsson would be better off staying with the organization (he was recalled at the end of Novemebr) then going off to the WJC and look how it turned out for Erik. He worked through his struggles at the pro level and two years later, he won the Norris.
Zibanejad needs the time to work through his struggles at the pro level. Who knows what kind of tournament he might have if he went. He would have to battle through 6 NHL drafted d-men for team Canada that would zone in on him and make his life hell. That make break his confidence and hurt his development.
It sucks for Team Sweden, but Ottawa needs to protect their property and continue his development.