Here's a steaming pile of shit written by Christian Butzek for the ever so enlightening Bleacher Report. It wasn't too hard to tear it to pieces in a Fire Joe Morgan format. As always, my comments will be in bold. Enjoy.
The Ottawa Senators have thus far exceeded expectations by remaining in the hunt for a playoff spot. Brian Murray, however, has been a chronic under-achiever as the club’s general manager, with a legacy of poor managerial decisions. That Murray still holds down the GM title has more to do with his personal appeal than his accomplishments.
The Senators are exceeding expectations? I'd hate to hypothesize what you'd be writing if the combination of Shannon, Cheechoo, Spezza and Kovalev had produced at a level proportionate to their combined $15.6M cap hit.
In the future, I think that there should be a caveat to any written criticism of a professional sports executive. If you're going to take the time to produce an argument as to why Ottawa's General Manager isn't up to Christian Butzek standards, make sure you spell Bryan Murray's name right.
Murray is instantly likeable. He’s accessible to the media and candid in his remarks, provides media-friendly sound-bites, and his dry sense of humour in press conferences can draw a chuckle from fans watching at home.
Um, okay. So the team is overachieving and the only reason why Murray here is because he's a personable individual. (Just ask Jim Fox.) If you're going to go against the grain and make this statement, why did you wait until the Senators four game losing streak ended to publish this tripe? Put your money where your mouth is. Asshole.
There’s no doubt of Murray’s ability to manage human relationships within the club. In three seasons as head coach, he never had a public falling-out, despite a cadre of trouble-makers in the squad in Ray Emery, Brian McGratton, and Dany Heatley. Murray was able to keep a tight leash on the former two and stroke the latter’s ego.
So Bryan Murray's still employed because he's a regular Dr. Phil. Bullshit. It's actually been well documented that Emery got away with a lot of stuff while the team was winning. Murray never had a falling out with Heatley because Heatley's a front-running douchebag who didn't complain when the team was winning. And Murray has a speech impediment
But the people skills that enabled Murray to be a respected coach have not translated to success in the GM’s chair. The Senators went from a Stanley Cup finals appearance to squeaking into the playoffs as the eight seed in Murray’s first year as GM, and were swept by the Penguins in the first-round. Last season, they finished near the bottom, failing to make the playoffs for the first time in 11 seasons.
Once a perennial Stanley Cup favourite, the Senators metamorphosed into an also-ran, then into a doormat in just less than two years. How have the Senators rocketed down the standings?
The Senators rocketed down the standings because his predecessor rode the coattails of the previous Marshall Johnston regime. Between traded and bungled picks, Chara vs Redden, Ottawa blowing their gift-wrapped 9th pick in 2005, and Muckler's inability to address a Stanley Cup contender's need -- FUCKING GOALTENDING -- Murray inherited a team devoid of prospects and whose best players were on the cusp of free agency.
Even though it’s not really problematic to sign one’s elite talent to long-term deals, it’s counter intuitive to sign replaceable veterans to inflated, long-term deals making them completely untradeable in the process. Without young, NHL-ready talent, Ottawa’s veterans could print their own tickets and bleeding heart fans applauded the moves because they’d hate to see one of their own homegrown guys go.
Bryan Murray stumbled out of the gate immediately after assuming the GM’s cap. He announced a month-long selection and interview process to find the next the coach, interviewing highly qualified candidates Peter Deboer and Bob Hartley, before settling on his assistant and friend, John Paddock. Even the Murray-friendly Ottawa media described the process as a sham.
Yeah, it's a sham to promote the assistant coach who shares the same coaching philosophies as the former Head Coach of the team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals the season before. That wouldn't make any sense. Do you know what else doesn't make sense? Your timeline. It's wrong. Hartley and DeBoer were interviewed prior to Murray settling on Craig Hartsburg. It's okay that you forgot about this. I've tried to repress those memories too.
Murray fired Paddock before the end of the season and replaced his former partner with himself without much success.
The off-season of 2008 was a repeat of the previous summer. After a lengthy search for a new head coach, Murray went with a proven hand, hiring former NHL coach, Craig Hartsburg. Murray didn’t wait long before axing the hapless Hartsburg who he dismissed at the half-way mark. Thus, bringing the total number of coaches to five in two seasons, including Bryan Murray twice.
Ah, so you do remember Hartsburg. Good for you. Granted, Ottawa's been through a slew of coaches but you've already conceded that Ottawa's overachieving as a hockey club. So, if the team's overachieving, is it safe to assume that you think that the coaching staff is doing a good job? And if they are, does it really matter that the team went through this many coaches before finally arriving at one who seems capable of doing the job properly?
An organization once renowned for its stability under John Muckler has been under constant change.
The only thing that was stable under the Muckler era was his alcohol consumption. If anyone is interested in a 6th Sens article that drops trou on the Muckler era, click here.
Things go from bad to worse when examining his player personnel decisions. Murray's contract extensions and free agent signings have amounted to precious little, moves analogous to a weak wrister from outside the blue-line.
The Senators GM handed monster contracts to Jason Spezza, Mike Fisher, Ray Emery, and Dany Heatley after their run to the Cup finals. And that’s when Murray’s midas touch left him and went south.
Jason Spezza’s point totals took a noticeable dip after signing a new long-term deal. Mike Fisher too saw a steep decline in his production. Fans and media pundits questioned whether these players where deserving of such lucrative deals, given the knock that Spezza has always been a suspect skater and Fisher injury-prone.
Jason Spezza's point totals for the last four years:
2005-2006 -- 90
2006-2007 -- 87
2007-2008 -- 92 (Holy shit, they went up during the season in which he signed his deal.)
2008-2009 -- 73
Conclusion: Jason Spezza's stat totals must be static. Off years shouldn't be attributed to Craig Hartsburg's system and a poor puck moving blueline. No, they should be attributed to something more conclusive - Like blaming the Senators for rewarding Spezza for his two 90 point seasons. The only reason why people are shitting on Spezza's contract is not because he's a suspect skater, it's because of how his hunched over skating style has helped foster some lingering back issues that could be incredibly detrimental over the term of his contract.
I'd touch upon Mike Fisher's consistent 45 point production but the man is cock teasing us with his play this year? Will he finally crack the 60 point threshold that management envisioned when he signed his deal? Stay tuned. It may be the most compelling Senators story down the stretch.
After threatening to deal the petulant Ray Emery all season, Murray was forced to buy out Emery one season after he signed him to a three-year 10 million dollar deal contract.
I'm sure Bryan Murray's losing a lot of sleep over his deft inclusion of a Ray Emery buyout clause in Ray's first non-entry level deal. It's only costing the Senators a $500k cap hit. This isn't a Martin Gerber contract. Get over it.
Again, the Dany Heatley signing seemed to ignore the player’s past history. Heatley asked to be dealt two years into his new 7-year deal. Murray eventually moved the disgruntled forward to the Sharks, but not before Heatley collected his 4 million dollar bonus on Canada Day.
Yeah, how does Bryan Murray ignore Dany's previous history? The Senators had just gone to the Stanley Cup and Heatley seemed happy being on the most productive line in hockey. If you're going to trash the Senators organization for ignoring Heatley's vehicular homicide charge and subsequent trade demand, trash the stable John Muckler regime.
Free agent signings Luke Richardson, Jason Smith, Jarko Ruutu, and Alex Auld all failed to make an impact.
And that Michalek guy, he sucks too. They may not be headliners, but shrewd moves like dumping Peter Schaefer's contract, trading Lawrence Nycholat for Ryan Shannon, and moving up in the draft to select Erik Karlsson are moves that can't be taken for granted.
On the trade front, Murray’s moves mirror a juggling act gone bad.
On the substance front, Butzek's article mirrors a lip-glossy shallowness that can only be found elsewhere on programs like MTV's Jersey Shore.
Holy shit! There's more of this tripe?
Murray dealt away Pat Eaves and Joe Corvo in a last-gasp effort to remain competitive in 2008. As Murray plugged one hole another sprung open. He added a gritty player but was then left without a puck-moving defenseman to quarterback the power-play, like Corvo whom he had just dealt. The players the Senators received in return, Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore, soon left the organization, leaving Murray with nothing to show for his moves.
What's wrong with taking on two expiring contracts for Patrick Eaves (who has done sweet fuck all EVER) and Joe Corvo (a guy who didn't want to be here)? Murray tried to shake up the team for the playoffs without really touching the core of the club. It didn't work and it hasn't really cost the team. I fail to see how this was a bad move.
The Senators lost young defenseman Andrej Mezsaros when he and his agent became entangled in a contract dispute with the Senators organization. Murray opted to trade the young defenseman for an aging veteran in Filip Kuba. The jury is still out on who won the deal.
When Meszaros was dealt to Tampa Bay, he signed a 6-year $24M deal with the Lightning. In retrospect, the Meszaros deal breaks down to Meszaros and McAmmond for Campoli, Kuba, Picard, and Mike Comrie. Not bad for an overrated, mulleted bag of ass.
Murray again sacrificed the future in trading away a first-round draft choice to the Islanders to acquire Chris Campoli who is, at best, a fifth-defenseman.
You just shat on the Senators for giving up on a young defenceman in Meszaros but immediately turn around and shit on the Senators for acquiring a similar kind of player in Campoli? I don't get it. I can understand the resentment that a first was dealt moved because I felt that the pick could have been used to move up in the draft and get another top 15 selection.
And all the while Murray has shuffled the coaching ranks and made changes to the team’s core, he still hasn’t found the second line power-forward he’s been after since the spring of 2007, nor has he obtained a name goalie the franchise has always lacked.
Yeah, because that trade of Vermette for Leclaire and Lehner doesn't stand to set up the Senators goaltending situation for the next ten years.
Worst of all, there’s the allegation of unprofessionalism in his handling of the Heatley trade request. Heatley’s agent claims they asked for a trade behind closed doors only for Murray to leak it to the media, a definite no-no in sports circles, and which created the summer’s worst spectacle—the Dany Heatley trade drama.
I thought one of your arguments was that Ottawa should have done their due diligence on the fact that Heatley's a douchebag? So why are you so eager to believe every word that comes from his representation? Oh, because it fits your argument. Mmmmkay.
The Ottawa Senators have been spinning their wheels under the leadership of Bryan Murray. To kick-start a turn-around, they may have to give Murray the boot.
It's taken a couple of years for some Muckler mistakes to manifest, there's no sense panicking because the Senators organization isn't a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Just take a couple of deep breaths and relax suckhole. To turn this franchise around, this team has to rebuild its foundation from the rotten, barren mess that John Muckler left in the wake of his firing. The only way to do this is through the draft and by improving the farm system, two facets of the administrating a hockey team that Murray has done very well. Fans need to recognize that it takestime to retool, it's not a process that can simply happen overnight.
Purse Snatchers (14-14-2)
Game Day Prediction:
As is the norm, here's my game day prediction for the Ottawa Citizen's Prediction Panel. Enjoy.
There are a lot of reasons to like Ottawa in this one. Not only did Montreal register 13-shots in a lacklustre win against Philadelphia last night and have to bus to Ottawa after the game, but the Senators have finally returned from an unimpressive road trip in which the losses mounted faster than the excuses for Jason Spezza's poor play. In homage to Eugene Melnyk throwing out clichéd lines at his charity event on the weekend, I'll throw out a tired prediction and bank on Alexei Kovalev having a big game against his former club.
Your Non-AP styled gloss over of Sunday night's game:
There's been enough criticism and overanalysis going on lately, so I'm not going to pile onto what can only be considered a disappointing roadtrip. That being said, Sunday night's victory was an an interesting win considering that I've been conditioned to expect the team to lose games in which they blow three leads and go to a shootout to decide the outcome.
Looking For a Big Bodied Forward
According to a report in The Province, Ottawa's General Manager, Bryan Murray, isn't satisfied with his team's ability to score garbage goals and fight for rebounds in heavy traffic areas.
“We don’t go to the net much, or often enough for me,” said Murray, in evaluating his team at the end of this road trip. “I think getting behind, we’ve had a more difficult time creating offence than I thought we would, and, obviously, it’s the same old story.
“When your best players don’t play well and sort of carry the offence, you don’t get it from your third and fourth lines often enough.”
Uh, okay. Who cares about production or players who work hard for their scoring opportunities? As long as Murray's next addition is like Kovalev and is amongst the most entertaining players in the League, who cares about production?
And With the First Overall Selection...
According to TSN, the highlight of this website's banner, Alexandre Daigle, will join former Senator Randy Robitaille, on Canada's Spengler Cup entry. There's no word on whether he was the selection committee's first choice for the roster, but at least if Canada doesn't win, the mainstream media won't care enough to mention the word bust.
Melnyk Speaks, Garrioch Writes, Kovalev Speaks, I Bang Head Off Of My Keyboard...
The National Post ran an article in which Eugene Melnyk threw out more cliched one liners than an Arnold Schwarzennager career montage.
When asked by Sun Media's Bruce Garrioch about how he felt about Melnyk's comments, Kovalev responded by saying,
“People who know hockey to understand I wish this could be an individual sport where you can prepare yourself and know you’ll have a good game or a bad game like in tennis” said Kovalev. “In hockey, one person can make a difference, but I’m a new guy on the team.” ~ Ottawa Sun
I suppose that's a bit more professional than Kovalev thanking The Euge for staying composed and not building a bomb and blow himself up. At least we can finally stop referring to Kovalev as enigmatic. He only wishes hockey was like tennis. What's the big deal?
The Bryan Murray Conspiracy Theory:
In an article written by The Citizen's Allen Panzeri, Bryan Murray hypothesizes that the reason why Jason Spezza isn't lighting it up -- It's because he tried too hard early on to make a favourable impression upon the Canadian Olympic team's management team.
“I think it’s frustration now, more than anything,” Murray said. “I think, and I may be wrong here, but I think he wanted to impress the Olympic guys so much early on, and then when nothing happened in a positive way for him, I think he has let that affect him a little bit.”
Add this to the list that includes:
- A nagging back injury
- The loss of Dany Heatley
- He neglects to shoot and his passing efficiency has waned
- He got married this past summer.
- Changing his stick composition back to wood
- The Lanark County excuse that Spezza's too soft
- Too many Yzerman career parallels
Ottawa Senators (13-10-4)
Anaheim Ducks (10-13-5)
Television: Rogers Sportsnet
Gametime: 8:00pm Eastern Time
It's hard to believe that in 2007, both of these teams were vying for the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup. It's fascinating to see how quickly these two teams have fallen into NHL irrelevancy. Oh well, since Ottawa's not the capital of Asshole Town, I'm not going to dwell on how the Ottawa Senators have completely defecated the mattress this western road trip. Instead, I'll just view it as a microcosm of Ottawa's systemic problem -- They're having a hard time winning games on the road this season. Away from SBP's confines, the Senators currently sport the third worst road record in the NHL with a 3-7-1 mark. Ottawa can ill afford to let this trend continue because their 24 road games in the second half loom more ominously than a Bruce Garrioch shadow in the dressing room. The only positive after tonight's game might be that this road trip will have come to a conclusion.
Here's my prediction that ran as part of the Ottawa Citizen's Prediction Panel. (To view the rest of the panel's predictions, click here.)
Senators 2, Ducks 4
Maybe it’s safe to say that the Counting Crows had it right when they penned that it would be a long December. It’s only one week in and already the Senators have lost all three games on this west coast road trip that has inexplicably taken them from California to Arizona and now back to California to face the Ducks. If it wasn’t for the recent play of Jonathan Cheechoo, this roadie would be an unmitigated disaster. You don’t need to be Gordon Bombay to recognize that Ottawa’s goaltending, effort and defensive zone coverage have been terrible lately. Instead of relying upon the efforts and production of their third and fourth line players, guys like Spezza and Kovalev have to step it up soon as the Eastern Conference standings tighten up. Oh wait, Montreal’s coming to town on Tuesday. I’ll predict Ottawa to break their losing streak then.
Arm Chair Coaching
Okay, I understand that it's fun as a fan to be cynical and criticize the coaching staff whenever you disagree with the line combinations or who deserves to be a healthy scratch. I get it. But for those sensationalist fans who feel compelled to start banging the fire Clouston drum after this four game losing streak, well...you can fuck right off.
Considering his strong play of late and the deterioration of Jason Spezza's game, wouldn't it be fitting to see these guys play together at some point in the near future? Given Spezza's lack of production and the fact that Alfie and Michalek don't seem to need him to produce, maybe it's time to see if these two can develop some chemistry.
Lines (Updated @ 5pm)
According to Ian Mendes' Twitter, Brian Elliott will start tonight and although there are no lineup changes, there will be shuffled lines -- Spezza will play with Kovalev and Foligno while Fisher will Michalek and Alfredsson.
Zbynek Michalek's 4, Milan Michalek's 3
After losing the first two games to San Jose and Los Angeles on their western road trip, I was all set to predict an Ottawa win against Anaheim and then a loss against to Phoenix to close out the swing. And why? Well, until yesterday I was working under the assumption that the Senators would have finished their western road trip in Phoenix because travel-wise, it made sense. Well, apparently I was wrong and now have to rethink things because after tonight's game in Phoenix, Ottawa will travel back to the state of California to take on the Ducks. Even though Jonathan Cheechoo has shown a pulse, I can't overlook the fact that the travel should compound Ottawa's recent poor defensive coverage and goaltending. Honestly, the only thing that benefits the Senators is the fact that Milan Michalek is squaring off against his brother and has a shown a tendency to elevate his game when motivated. ~ Ottawa Citizen Prediction Panel
While there was a lot of concern that tonight's game wouldn't be televised, the Senators organization has sent out an email to fans who have subscribed to their Sens Insider products. Anyways, here are the finer details of the email:
The Phoenix Coyotes’ home game on Saturday, Dec. 5 against the Ottawa Senators will now be available to subscribers of NHL Center Ice and NHL.com’s GameCenter Live. Center Ice and GameCenter Live will air Jobing.com Arena’s in-house video feed along with the audio from the Coyotes’ radio broadcast.
You must be a subscriber to one of these services to view the game. If you’re not a subscriber, head to a friend’s house, family member or check with any Local Heroes or a nearby pub that would have NHL Centre Ice. Go Sens Go!
Neil Still Out Another Two Weeks But...
...If you're wondering about some of tonight's lineup decisions, Allen Panzeri of the Citizen is reporting that Brian Elliott will get the start tonight while Alexandre Picard is doubtful. Due to Picard's shoulder injury, expect Chris Campoli to re-enter the lineup and assume Picard's position alongside Matt Carkner. For the first time since being called up, it looks as though Ryan Keller may be the odd man out. Even though Keller's averaging close to six minutes of ice time per game, he simply has to be better.
SBP's Parking Lot Isn't As Bad As It Used To Be
According to an article by Ken Warren in yesterday's Citizen, Senators President Cyril Leeder held an informal media session and spoke about how improved the parking lot situation is at SBP this season. Leeder attributed several factors for this improvement.
The completion of the 417 expansion to Eagleson Road has created more lanes on the highway, resulting in a smaller "bottleneck" of traffic following games.
There are more traffic police officers working the roads outside Scotiabank Place, allowing for a better distribution of cars leaving parking lots. The bus parking dropoff and pickup locations have been moved to increase traffic flow and the club has added an additional exit at Lot 9, one of the largest lots outside the arena.
Interestingly, there was never any mention of Ottawa's average attendance being down 1,000 fans from this point last year.
Win An NHL Game Day Experience
A friend of mine passed along a link for a contest that sees four grand prize winners win a trip for four (4) to one of the following cities closest to the Contest winner’s residence, either Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto or Ottawa, four (4) tickets to a National Hockey League (“NHL”) game, 2 nights accommodation and $250 CAD cash. Travel dates and city will be selected by Sponsor in its sole and absolute discretion. If you're interested in entering the contest, click here.
In every professional hockey player's career, there comes a moment when you know you've made it as a player. For Senators prospect Erik Condra, that moment came following a 2-goal performance when he was arrested for urinating on a police vehicle.
Condra has been charged with disorderly conduct, a violation, after Binghamton police said he was walking on State street and an officer observed him urinating on a police vehicle.
Condra, 23, who lives on Reynolds Road in Johnson City but resides in the off-season in Detroit, was coming off a two-goal game when the incident occurred at 3:30 a.m. Sunday.
He has four goals, eight assist and 16 penalty minutes in 23 games this season. ~ pressconnects.com
After graduating from the prestigious Notre Dame, wasn't Condra supposed to be a classy one who was considering a career in medicine instead of a professional hockey career?
Foligno A Healthy Scratch?
According to Allen Panzeri of the Ottawa Citizen, Nick Foligno is a healthy scratch for tonight's game against the Los Angeles Kings. Now, I'd hate to harp on the coach that has this Senators team off to a surprising start, but isn't this some kind of double standard for accountability?
For those wondering, Peter Regin will draw back into the lineup while Ryan Keller will likely man a fourth line winger slot and proceed to log five minutes of ice-time.
Who doesn't like a good conspiracy?
Well, thanks to the Ottawa Citizen's Wayne Scanlan, we may now have some theoretical insight as to why Brian Lee, in spite of some recent good play, was demoted back to Binghamton.
Note 3: An eagle-eyed Ottawa Senators fan witnessed an interesting exchange between defenceman Brian Lee and head coach Cory Clouston during the most recent home game, last Thursday's 2-1 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
According to the observer, Clouston marched down the bench in the second period to speak to Lee, who had just come off the ice at the end of a shift. Nothing unusual there, except that instead of just giving the usual player nod of agreement or understanding, Lee turned his head to speak back to the coach, and Clouston barked back at him again.
None of this would mean all that much if Lee had not been demoted to the American Hockey League's Binghamton Senators the next day, while rookie Erik Karlsson was promoted to take Lee's place.
Lee did take an interference penalty early in the second period, and the subject of penalties was a touchy one last week, with the Senators implying they were receiving more than their share of minor infractions.
This much is indisputable. Lee had his butt basically stapled to the bench in the third period of that tight Columbus game. He played exactly one minute 27 seconds of the third. A matter of hours later, he was looking at Ottawa in the rear-view mirror, on his way to Bingo.
Ok, this story may be strictly conjecture and I'm 99.9% certain that Lee's two-way contract vs Chris Campoli's one-way contract played a role as well, but damnit if it's not entertaining to read and discuss. Carry on Wayne...
Lee had been playing pretty well since being called up on Oct. 29. He averaged more than 16 minutes per game, had recorded two goals and one assist and was a minus-1.
Senators general manager Bryan Murray told me from San Jose on Monday that the move was made with the big picture in mind, not any individual incident from the Columbus game, and that he made the decision, not Clouston.
"I decided to flip Lee and Karlsson," Murray said. "I thought Brian had not played with the confidence nor commitment we need from that position. We just want him to develop his game."
Isn't it also weird how Murray mentioned that the organization felt it was in Karlsson's best interests to develop at the NHL level but the organization's never really extended the same opportunity to Brian Lee?
Kings 3, Senators 2Picking against the Senators in a game like this isn't as hard as I thought it would be for a number of reasons. Not only do the Senators have a poor track record on these Pacific Division roadtrips but after facing Heatley and the Sharks on Tuesday, they're probably mentally drained from having to deal with the attention and answer questions surrounding their former teammate. Even though their play didn't reflect it on Tuesday, my feeling tonight is that the Senators might lose a bit of that mental edge now that the Heatley issue is on the back burner for another season.