Monday, June 18, 2007
Executive Dramas
Well ...

After making the Stanley Cup Finals, the Ottawa Senators are undergoing an intriguing and unexpected executive change. John Muckler has been "let go" as GM and will be replaced by Bryan Murray.

Several theories are abound. Too many of them involve Gary Roberts for my liking.

a) Melynk wanted him out ... because Muckler didn't get Gary Roberts. Apparently, Melynk was dissatisfied with Muckler failing to address an apparent weakness on the team. In the first three rounds, we were more than adequate, but you have to concede that Gary Roberts' extra physical nature and veteran experience would have helped the Senators in games 1 and 2 vs the Ducks. This rumour however portrays Melynk, our financial saviour, in an unfavourable light because it's not his job to make these executive decisions neither should he be making them. A meddling owner makes the role of an executive team extremely difficult because they have to constantly seek third-party approval.

b) Murray wanted in. Murray, who coached last season without a contract for the upcoming season, likely made a backroom deal with Mlakar and Melynk to become GM. Unfortunately, Muckler wasn't informed in the discussion. Murray, who was the GM and co-architect of the 2007 Stanley Cup winners, understandably wants to make the decisions around here. If the quotes from Murray around the Trade Deadline are worth anything, it's easy to conclude that Murray wanted ... Roberts. Murray felt he could no longer work with Muckler's philosophy and wanted more power. Or ... Murray had planned this all along.

It is a shame that it happened this way for John Muckler. While some of his decisions have been failures, he's guided this team calmly and competently through some key crossroads. He leaves Murray with a formidable legacy and history should judge Muckler favourably. Here are some components of Muckler's legacy:

Hossa for Heatley. Biggest trade in Senators history. After Hossa was signed, Muckler flipped him to the Atlanta Thrashers for Dany Heatley, who wanted out because of the unbearable lightness of being in Atlanta. A perfect storm of situations, and Heatley worked out to compliment our team better than Hossa ever did. It's very rare that a trade of this magnitude works out to benefit both teams.

Daniel Alfredsson's contract. Muckler's contract effectively made Daniel Alfredsson a Senator for life (until 2009) and imposed an informal team salary cap (which would eventually be broken by Wade Redden). After the lock-out, Alfie's contract of $5.5 mil became an absolute bargain.

Wade Redden over Zdeno Chara. Perhaps the biggest decision in Senators history? (We don't have much history, so everything's a superlative.) After being dumped by a smaller, faster and better transition team, I think Muckler felt that Chara's looming size and physical stature would become antiquated in the post-lockout NHL. Chara was let go, and Redden was signed to a 2-year, $6.5 mil.

Now? The rumours surrounding Wade Redden's future in Ottawa have put him anywhere from Edmonton to San Jose and back again. Murray didn't sound too firm on keeping Wade Redden on Team 1200 earlier today, but at the same time, Murray must realize that with the likely departure of Tom Preissing, someone has to make those breakout passes. As terrible as Wade Redden was when we needed him, he's an important cog on this team. Wade Redden is not easily replaceable.

What does Bryan Murray do now?

1. Hire a new head coach. Pat Burns is an obligatory name. John Paddock, according to TSN, is a frontrunner due to his familiarity with the team as assistant coach and head coach at Binghamton. Randy Cunneyworth, former Senators captain and current Sabres' farm team head coach, is also mentioned. Beyond that, I don't see anybody else being considered seriously.

2. Decide ...

Preissing? Tom Preissing, our Economics major and defenseman extraordinaire, seems to have already resigned himself to leaving. He is worth far more than the >$1 mil that he's getting now, and with the right team, will become a 20 minutes, Top 4 kind of guy. He totally excelled in the role that he was given in Ottawa, and even his weakness of avoiding physical play was totally avenged by his strength in getting the puck out. He also had a falling out with Bryan Murray, since Preissing didn't step on the ice for a minute of our season's last period. His smooth style of puck moving and reluctance to engage in physical contact seems to be in direct opposition with Bryan Murray's preference for hard-hitting, physically bruising defensemen. Alas, TP was reliable and hilarious and will be much more appreciated financially by his next team.

Comrie? It was revealed that Comrie was playing with an injury through the later rounds of the playoffs, but whether his playing time was limited by injury or Murray's dislike of him remains to be seen. I'd love to see Comrie back and his tenacity, pugnacity, seem to be what Murray likes.

McAmmond? It's been announced that before Muckler was unceremoniously dumped, he had negotiated a 2-year, $1.75 mil deal. I'd love to see McAmmond return because his speed is valuable and he has enough offensive instincts to fit in anywhere. Murray better not go on a power-trip and undo this deal.

Saprykin? I think Oleg is safe under the reign of Murray because his playing style seems to be compatible with what Murray wants. Oleg was a hardworking player during our playoff run and fits in well.

Redden? Is he worth the salary cap space? Is he replaceable? The case for Redden goes something like this: he's an important cog, our team loses without him -- numbers don't lie!, he's an important leader, he will get better. The case against Redden goes like this: perennial disappointment in important moments (game 7, 2003 ... game 2, 2007), he sucked this year and we survived, he's a liability and we can do better than him.

Yours truly is stuck here all summer, so expect posts all through the summer. If I get bored, I'm going to start making up crude stories about Sidney Crosby's love life. So. That's what you have to look forward to.

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Anonymous kv said...

Sweet. Great post as per usual. So does this mean, you're sticking around throughout July and August. I for one am ecstatic to hear it. I adore your blog.

I was just thinking about Redden. I both want and fear trading him away. I have never seen this team without him and the unknown right now is looking a little scary. And now with Murray at the forefront, which I'm pretty okay with (sorry Mucks), I'm even more wary about what will happen to this team.

18 June, 2007 23:44  
Blogger aquietgirl said...

I'm afraid of Redden being the inexplicable glue of the team that tips our chemistry just right. And without him! -- something weird happens and he's the unknown that we're missing.

If Preissing leaves -- which is very probable -- I don't think we can afford to trade Redden. I don't think we'll get out of the East without at least two superbly mobile defenseman.

19 June, 2007 20:30  
Blogger PaV said...

AQG - not sure about that - Redden is good, but I can't see him being around much longer. He is not physical enough for Murray - and you know who ever Murray hires as head coach, they are going to play the same style as him.

I love Redden, but his time in Ottawa is done, he is not worth the 6.5Mil

20 June, 2007 08:17  
Blogger hambown said...

I think we should sit on our current D minus Preissing. Schubert and Meszaros are both coming into their own (viz. Dean Lombardi's thoughts on young defensemen posted on hockeybuzz), giving us a pretty solid top six.

In my view, Murray should think about moving Schaefer and Eaves with a view to bringing more physical and more motivated forwards. Comrie is a fine second line centre, but will probably be too expensive for us. If we can't get Comrie back, I'd rather see Fisher get that job.

This off season will require no small amount of fancy dancing, hope Murray's up to it.

21 June, 2007 14:04  

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