The Sports Daily > The 6th Sens
Tim Murray Speaks On Buffalo’s WGR550

Former Senators Assistant General Manager Tim Murray made an appearance on Buffalo’s WGR 550 Friday addressing the many questions facing the Buffalo Sabres and his philosophical beliefs on how his team should be managed moving forward.>

To be expected, most of the interview focused on what the Sabres should or will do, but he did touch upon a few Senators-related items and even commented on the usefulness of advanced statistics.

I’ve pulled a few parts from his interview, but if you’d like to listen to the full thing (all 24 minutes) you can so so via the the embed below:

As per usual, my thoughts are in bold.

On goaltenders in Ottawa that he’s had over the years – Brian Elliott, Pascal Leclaire, Martin Gerber, Ray Emery, Alex Auld, Craig Anderson, Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner – and whether he has some kind of philosophy against handing out big contracts to goalies…

“No, it depends on the individual. If you look at that list, besides one and he’s on an entry-level deal, there’s not one (goaltender) on that list who deserves a five-year, $6-million per year deal. Now one of them eventually is going to get it and I have no problem with a young goalie in his prime, if he signs a seven or eight year deal and you tie your wagon to him, you better know him. You better know him as a person and you better know his character, but in the right situation, I would do that for sure.”

Obviously the goaltender Murray is referring to is Pascal Leclaire. Jokes. Interestingly, this is probably the most open and introspective comments that I’ve heard regarding Robin Lehner’s future since he became a NHL regular. If Tim Murray believes that Robin is eventually going to worth that kind of term and salary, you can rest assured that many within Ottawa’s front office department share it.

Despite being tabbed as the goaltender of the future and Murray re-emphasizing that you need to know the person and his character, it’s easy to forget that Ben Bishop was acquired in 2012 to create some competition for Ottawa’s backup goaltender job and push Robin internally to be a better and more driven pro. It’s a testament to Lehner’s improved maturity, competitive drive and makeup that he has risen to the challenge and renewed the organization’s confidence in him.

On an emphasis for creating a puck possession team…

“Puck possession is ideal. I would like players that have hockey sense and are hockey strong. When I say hockey strong, I think that encapsulates good skating and everything else – strong on the puck, strong stick and you have to be able to think the game to be able to play it properly. If you have that, it means you have puck possession. Your back end has to be able to get up into the play. It has to be able to skate and have some skill. For me, the day of the big, lumbering defensive defenceman that tries to push you away from the net (is over). That’s not what I’m interested in. I want guys that can move the puck quickly. You have to go back, retrieve the puck and get the puck going and if you do that, your forwards will buy you dinner all night long, every night after a game. So, the defencemen that are mobile and transition, they have to be able to defend, but that’s where the hockey sense comes in – strength, skating, hockey sense – you’re on your way.”

Meanwhile here in Ottawa, Patrick Wiercioch continues to rot in the pressbox at the expense of the team’s other left-shooting defencemen. Something is going to have to give because things are only going to get more congested next season, should the organization choose to extend Chris Phillips and hold onto Mark Borowiecki.

Borowiecki, if you’ll recall, has the second year (2014/15) of his current contract guaranteed at a one-way, NHL salary. Unless the organization decides that it wants to continue experimenting and using Wiercioch on his off-side, Ottawa, assuming that they want balance on the backend, will have too many left-shooting guys in Cowen, Methot, Phillips (if he re-signs), Wiercioch and Borowiecki. The organization could alleviate this problem by letting Phillips go, but I can’t imagine them doing this now. For better or worse, he strikes me as a legacy player and now that Alfredsson has left, it’s probably a feather in his cap that he’d like to have. 

There’s no question a guy like Wiercioch or a Cowen could fetch the biggest return in a trade, but without Methot or Phillips locked up, why would this organization want to move it’s two youngest guys who have shown in stretches that they can play top four minutes? Moreover, why move them now when it’s not like there are any young left-shooting defencemen in the system who can replace them down the road.

Borowiecki would seem like a natural candidate for a trade, especially since he’s one of those low ceiling/average floor players who should safely fulfill expectations. But, the organization adulates over his compete level and his relentless nature and throw in his Ottawa roots, and it’s difficult to imagine the Sens moving him, even though he projects as a sixth or seventh defenceman.

On the 2014 Draft…

“I would say this year’s draft is not as strong and I’m not saying that because I’m the guy here. But, we’ve been saying that all year. It falls off a little quicker. It’s not going to be a terrible draft, but it’s not going to be a great draft. Next year’s draft, and you can talk to all the scouts that are out there pounding the bushes, next year’s draft just looks like, not 2003, but a top-end draft.”

Bruce Garrioch reported the other day that the Senators, should they fall out of the playoff picture, will want to acquire a 2014 first round pick after trading theirs to Anaheim in the deal for Bobby Ryan. Although the prevailing thought seems to be, “Why would the Senators acquire one now in a weak draft class?”, maybe there’s also something to be said about how much easier it should be to move up this year’s draftboard if other GMs are downplaying the talent and depth of talent that’s available. If the trade demands are small enough for the Senators to consider trading up and rolling the dice on a player, why the hell not? 

On fans balancing conflict of wanting to watch a winner but knowing that losing is what it will takes to win in the future…

“Well nobody wants to go to any arena to watch your team lose, so that’s hard. But we are in a society of fantasy football and fantasy stats. As long as your running back scored three touchdowns, it’s okay that your team lost. I mean, that’s what I hear on sports radio and I’m not a fantasy type of guy. No part of my life is fantasy, but I think that’s part of our society. I think that there are a lot of young hockey fans who are on hockey blogs and Corsi and those things are important, and that tells you what the player is and that’s what they believe and that fine. So, I think there’s a lot of fans that look at the game differently than I did, staying up and watching Hockey Night in Canada so I could watch Guy Lafleur play type of thing. It has changed completely. So I think there is a certain part of the fan base out there that actually, after we lose a game here, is pretty happy because all they’re talking about is (Sam) Reinhart, (Aaron) Ekblad, and players of that ilk. So, I’m not happy with the losses. I know what comes from losing is that you end up with one of those guys, and hopefully that makes you better so you don’t lose anymore and that’s just basis Hockey 101. The 55-year old season ticket holder that lives and dies by the Sabres winning and losing, he can’t be happy and I understand that.”

He said Corsi! 

On Corsi Ratings, Analytics, Advanced Stats…

“They’re useful. I think, and I don’t want to talk down, but I think they’re very useful, the less you know about the game. And I think they’re useful to guys like me too a little bit, for sure. But if you don’t know what hockey sense is as a casual fan, I think they’re very useful. I think you see a guy that drives puck possession through numbers and it tells you a little bit that he has hockey sense. So I think the casual fan that doesn’t quite get what hockey sense is, and different things like that, I can understand totally why these are useful stats.”

Weird. Here I thought the usefulness of these stats would to provide information and create a larger picture for GMs to augment and navigate their decision-making process through complicated trade or free agent scenarios. They’re certainly not the be-all and end-all, I mean, bloggers and internet types certainly don’t have the access to the context for why a player may be going through a slump (ie. personal reasons, injury, etc.) but at least numbers can offer an approach that helps eliminate observational bias and can help identify players who may or may not be held in higher esteem than they otherwise should be. 

Numbers exist, not to prop up bloggers who may feel this need to prove how smart they are, they exist as a mechanism or tool to help identify market inefficiencies in a realm that Murray acknowledged, features archaic philosophies. If teams can get a leg up on their competition exploring these metrics, why the hell wouldn’t they?