The Sports Daily > The 6th Sens
Murray Speaks: Injuries, Coaches, Garrioch’s Column

With the Senators winning five in a row and going 5-1-0 since Erik Karlsson’s injury, it was only a matter of time before Senators GM Bryan Murray made an appearance on the FAN590.

I’ve transcribed the eleven minute interview below, but for those who would prefer to listen to it, you can listen to it here, or by streaming the embedded audio below.

As always, my thoughts are in bold.

On describing his team’s performance this season…

“Competitive. Hardworking. Outstanding goaltending…”

On his team being surprising?

“No, it’s never surprising when you win. It’s not supposed to be.”

Every Bryan Murray interview on the Fan 590 seems to start out like. With the unexpected success that the team has had for the past season and half, I believe I’ve heard the phrase, “I thought we’d have a real competitive club,” about 4,136,981 times. 

On whether the team is lucky or him and his management team is just this smart…

“No, I don’t think anyone is that smart. No one ever expected that we would lose that calibre of player with Cowen and Karlsson on the blue line in particular. I think you see we don’t move the puck quite as well out of our own end as we probably will going forward. Losing Spezza, Michalek and Latendresse up front… Peter Regin’s back now. Anderson in goal (is injured too). It’s been a bit trying and I’m a nervous wreck every game but we’ve fortunately so far been able to find a way to compete every night, at any rate.”

Who could blame Murray for being a nervous wreck? With the rate that injuries are happening to this team, it’s a small wonder that Paul MacLean hasn’t been struck by one of Chris Phillips’ wayward clearing attempts while the Sens are on the PK. 

On the acquisition of Ben Bishop and Marc Methot being important pieces right now and making the moves to trade for them…

“Well, Marc first of all, we had to trade Nick Foligno to get him. We liked Nick a lot. We thought he had a really good future with the organization, but I had called about Marc Methot two or three times over the last couple of years. We liked his compete (level). We liked his size and skating. He was a perfect fit, we felt, for Erik Karlsson and now that Erik is out, Erik Condra has come up from the minors and Marc has kind of taken him under his wing. The two of them have been more of a shutdown pair than they have been an offensive pair but (he was) a real good acquisition for us, there’s no question. And goaltending-wise, we’ve just been real blessed really having Anderson and then when he went down, getting Ben Bishop last year. And we’ve got (Robin) Lehner waiting in the wings to be a top goaltender in the league, so those are the areas that as we know…. Doug, you and I know that when we had (John) Vanbiesbrouck playing in Florida, we had a pretty good hockey team because he’d give you a chance to win every night.”

Weird. Usually when a slip of the tongue and John Vanbiesbrouck go together, it culminates with the Beezer resigning as head coach of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds . Fortunately for Bryan, he just mispoke. He meant to say Eric Gryba when he really said Erik Condra. 

On having some sort of blueprint and whether the injuries to this team have altered the blueprint or speeding up the process…

“Well, we’re young. Luke Richardson, first of all, had done a real good job in the minors with a group of guys our staff obviously had scouted pretty well.  We still have three first rounders playing junior hockey that have a chance to play as early as next year. I think there’s three or four more kids at least in Binghamton that have a chance to be called up, if anything should further happen. We’re young Nick. I think the key role players on our team are still… they’re still young people. They compete real hard. They don’t score real easily, we know that. I guess if we ever thought that we were going to get one hundred percent healthy, the supposition might be that we try to go at the deadline and get somebody, but  it doesn’t look like that will be the case. I think Karlsson and Cowen are probably (out for the season) at this point and time, Spezza should be back, but I’m not sure when. So, we have to evaluate it on a daily basis more than anything, I guess.”

This paragraph is probably the most interesting topic from the interview. It’s normal for an organization to prop up their own draft picks and drive up their value through the media or third party scouting entities, but considering that  Stefan Noesen and Cody Ceci were both invited to Ottawa’s training camp this season, maybe they’re not that far removed from the parent club. Matt Puempel on the other hand is having a Cy Young candidate kind of season with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, but it’s probably naive to believe that he’s close to cracking an Ottawa roster in the next year or two. Injuries have not only prevented him from competing for a roster spot on the Canadian World Junior team, but they’ve cost him a lot of development time over the past two seasons. It’s a fair assumption to say that he’ll probably need more development time than Noesen or a younger prospect like Ceci. Nevertheless, his Cy Young-esque 29 goals and 9 assist season has to be encouraging. He hasn’t lost his knack for finding the back of the net.

On the other hand, when Murray references three to four players still playing in Binghamton who could conceivably have a chance to play, who is he referring to? Stephane Da Costa and Mark Borowiecki are two of those players. I’m not sure whether injuries prevent Stone or Hoffman from qualifying but if they do, maybe he’s referencing a Jean-Gabriel Pageau or a Shane Prince? Or maybe I’m just not giving Corey Cowick enough credit for the season that he’s having down there in his 4th line/PK role. 

On Stanley Cup winning teams have more than ten draft picks on their team and the Senators having 17 draft picks on their team currently…

“Well, the scouts have done a very good job – led by Pierre Dorion and Tim Murray. I think that we evaluate and do a good job, but the other part is, a couple of years ago, when we made the decision to move guys like Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly, they were very difficult decisions to make – to let that quality of person go. But we were able to get first round picks and other picks back. We had three first rounders that particular year, so the scouts had a chance to really good and work, and they’ve done that. The other part that we’ve worked very hard at is the player development part – where we have Randy Lee in charge of that (with) a variety of people doing a lot of work and (having) daily contact almost with the prospects. And I think when you do that, you send a loud and clear message to the players that you expect a commitment. If they’re going to ever be players, we want them to play in this organization and fortunately for us, some of them have really come up, played well and played hard for us. I think long-term, we’ll get better as a result of this.”

How can the Senators not get better because of this adversity that the current lineup is experiencing without its top guys. If guys like Silfverberg, Zibanejad, Grant, Dziurzynski, Gryba and et al, can play and seamlessly contribute without just being content to survive, it will only give them confidence and some swag. The effects are already noticeable in the aforementioned players’ games, and hopefully it’s a trend that continues over the next few years with some of the organization’s pedigreed prospects. 

On there being any updated on Ottawa’s injured players…

“Well, Michalek skated today. Mark Stone skated today. Craig Anderson put his skates on and went out for a short skate. He’s coming on the trip. We leave this afternoon to play Boston, Philly, and the Islanders. And he’s coming on the trip with a chance to play – that is, if he can get back into the net now that we’ve got these kids playing. So he’s close, and Spezza has had a skate. Cowen got approval to do more (exercise) going forward and Karlsson is still on crutches. We’re getting a couple of guys somewhat close to getting ready to play.”

Interesting inclusion of Stone’s name.  

On there being a chance that Spezza could come back earlier than anticipated…

“We’re not anticipating that. We think that if he plays, it will be mid-April, but we can hope. I know the guys are working real hard with all the injured players and hopefully we’ll get somebody back early and maybe Jason would be one of them.”

And why would Murray admit it if he was? It’s probably better for the collective mindset of the players to develop that, ‘we’re not going to get any help, so whatever, we might as well do it ourselves’ attitude.

On being upset on the night that Karlsson got hurt and possibly regretting saying anything about Matt Cooke…

“I never said anything about Matt Cooke that I probably should have. I heard one of the people on a different channel or different station make a comment that that’s the way we check in the NHL now – we take guys in and feet come up and that… I don’t know, I guess I haven’t been in the league long enough to know that that has changed in our method of checking. But, I was not very happy. As I said to Brendan Shanahan, it doesn’t matter to me if (Cooke) was suspended or not and it didn’t. And I don’t care that anything else is done to him. We lost a real good player because of a play that shouldn’t happen in our league. I don’t think it was intentional. I’m not saying that. I was upset at the time and I still am obviously that we lose a calibre of the player we did the way we lost him.”

And the organization continues its habit of saying that Matt Cooke didn’t intentionally cut Karlsson, he was just intentionally reckless. Draw your own conclusions people. 

On people within the Senators organization working on developing products that implement Kevlar within the hockey socks…

“Yes, Ken Villa is one of the people that works with Mr. Melnyk and is working really hard on this project. We have talked about it at considerable length. We’ve talked to our trainers about it. Obviously you want to protect your player any way you possibly can, and that’s the project that is going on for us right now.”

Interesting news. Nice to hear that Melnyk is diversifying his portfolio from orgasm inducing nasal sprays to kevlar protection. 

On the job that the coaching staff is doing…

“I’m very proud and I’m very proud of the people they are, to start off with. They provided stability. Their people skills are outstanding in that I think, any players that has come from another organization or was drafted by us are very pleased with the way they’re treated here. Paul has been outstanding in tempering anything that might fall apart because of injuries. When we lost Erik, he said, ‘Well, who are we bringing up?’ and you tell him who you’re bringing up and he just goes to work with that player and gives him a chance to play. They provided a system that works. They provided a way to play to survive some nights when we don’t really play real well with the puck. I think they’ve done an outstanding job. Well, I know they’ve done an outstanding job.”

Well put. 

On how this coaching staff differs from the Cory Clouston era…

“Oh… I don’t know that I should go there… other than, I think the people skills as I mentioned… I had Doug coach with me and one of the strong things that I found out about coaching in this league is, if you treat your players with respect, you treat them and make proper demands, they’ll play hard for you. And that’s what Doug does and that’s what Paul MacLean does, and I think he’s been outstanding in that area.”

Can’t emphasize how funny the ‘Oh…’ moment was. This part of the interview alone is worth the listen. 

On Bruce Garrioch continually writing that everybody reads his Sunday columns, and whether he puts any credence into that column…

“I guess I’m one of the guys that don’t read it. I think I get accused of a few things that Bruce writes and let me assure you that he works real hard. He worries about that column all week and I make a point of  waiting a day or two before I do read it.”

After his first sentence, I was half-hoping that Murray would crap on the hilarious paywall that the Sun employs. Ah well, another time then.