The passing of Bryan Murray on Saturday, August 12th not only represents a great loss for the greater Ottawa community, but his absence has created a huge hole within the Senators’ hockey operations department.
For Yahoo! Sports’ ‘Puck Daddy’ blog, I wrote a Senators piece of #NHLAltHistory in which I examined the consequences of John Muckler’s inability to land Gary Roberts at the 2007 trade deadline at the behest of Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.
Subtle plug, right?
Within the construct of the article, I posited that Muckler’s shortcoming created enough of a rift with ownership to allow Bryan Murray to take over the general manager’s role.
Had Muckler been able to swing a trade for the veteran left winger, he not only would have kept his job, but he probably would have held onto the position for a number of years.
In other words, Murray’s revamping of the front office – hiring Tim Murray as an assistant general manager and Pierre Dorion as chief amateur scout in 2007 or hiring Anders Forsberg as a European scout in 2008 – built the foundation for the Senators’ organization. But perhaps most importantly, had Muckler stuck around, Erik Karlsson probably never plays a game for this organization.
These front office hires are just one aspect of the organization that Murray helped shape, but it’s easy to understand what kind of impact he had as a general manager and later as a senior hockey advisor.
In an organization where C-level executives and coaches were dismissed at a rate that Donald Trump’s administration would appreciate, Murray was the one constant.
Working under an impulsive owner who’s renowned for letting his emotions get the best of him, Murray had the unenviable chore of operating a hockey club while keeping his owner at arm’s length.
Over the years, others paid the price for the organization’s shortcomings, but Murray remained at the helm and in the owner’s trust.
Even as a senior advisor, I always imagined him as a buffer between Melnyk and Dorion, but now that he’s gone, how will the front office dynamics change?
The beloved Daniel Alfredsson has already bolted the organization for a second time in four years and it’s still not understood why we left.
We can only read the tea leaves or cryptic tweets.
Having lost two of this city’s most well-liked sports figures from their front office in one offseason, this is unchartered territory for the Senators and raises a lot questions.
How will the Senators replace Murray and Alfredsson in the front office? Does the organization have the capital to bring someone into the fold? Assuming they do, will they look externally for a solution or will they simply promote someone from within? If they don’t bring in another body, will having fewer eyes and opinions in the front office be to the detriment of the hockey club? Will Murray’s passing have an impact on the relationship between Dorion and Melnyk?
Last season’s playoff run will only raise expectations in this city, so the pressure is going to be on Dorion deliver and if he can’t, he’ll have to placate his owner and deal with that stress.
If he can’t, it could make for a long year.