Sens GM Bryan Murray fielded questions on Tuesday as part of the Senators' season wrap up proceedings at Canadian Tire Centre.
Here's what he had to say...
On where this team ranks amongst his most disappointing seasons:
I'm not sure that I can rank it, it's a disappointing finish, there's no question. In the league today there are a lot of teams that are pretty close to the same level, 14 teams miss the playoffs, but it's disappointing because we felt going into the year, and I feel today, that we had the calibre of player that would certainly give us a shot to be a playoff team — not just a contender, a team — with an opportunity to move on. I think when you have a couple of years where a young group looks like they're improving, and they did, and we win a round, to face the little bump in the road, or big bump, obviously it's disappointing.
On being upset over the course of the season:
Obviously I don't like losing. Some of the guys in the room could answer this better than me, I don't know whether you get grumpier as you get older or what, but at any rate it was disappointing. Some of the games, and I told the players yesterday, there were periods in games that were embarrassing the way we played. We got outshot 20-2 one period I believe it was. That's not good for any team at any level, let alone the National Hockey League.
On Spezza's future:
I'm not sure why Jason is the single guy that is being evaluated, number one. I guess maybe he wore the 'C' and that's part of it. I believe we have five guys that are going to be going into their last year and decisions have to be made and will be made at the right time. We've spent two days now in great conversation, I think, with number one, our players, and number two, our coaching staff. We will make that determination. As I said there are four other guys that are going into their last year and a couple of guys that are unrestricted right now and every one of them will be evaluated. Do we want the budget to sign them all or will we make a decision to move some of them. Jason will be one of them, we'll talk, he's our captain at this point, he has a year left in his contract. We'll see where we go with him.
On Spezza's season:
I think like a lot of players you'd like more. I think point-wise he did fine. I think after we got a right winger for him that was a permanent guy he did real well. I think we always — and I've talked to the coaches about this at great length — we always point at leadership being an issue when the team doesn't make the playoffs. I maintain that leadership comes more from the off-ice people than the on-ice people, I think coaches and management take responsibility in giving proper direction and a proper plan and they're as accountable as anybody and it has to be that way. Jason was a new captain and there was probably — and I think he has said this to me and probably to you people — there were probably a few things he would have wished he'd done differently.
On the coaching staff:
They should have done better. Unless you win a championship I think you can say that about everybody. I think there were some stages in the year where maybe a different decision could have been made. I just finished with the coaches right now and said, you know, the thing about coaching, and I've done it a long time, everybody has an opinion on what you should have done and I'm the same with you. I asked 100 questions this morning, I got lots of answers, some I liked, some I didn't like. When you don't make the playoffs, they have to be better next year, we have to be better next year, the players have to be better. Paul MacLean's the coach and the staff, there may be some adjustments within the staff as far as responsibility now, but we're very happy we have a group that has experience, that the players — to a man — believe in. I think that was the biggest thing I heard yesterday.
On evaluating the coach based on this season or his body of work:
You have to look at the overall body and where the players were left wanting and where they feel we can go with it. I think you learn by losing sometimes. It's a pretty easy year and nice summer when you get yourself into the playoffs and win a round or two and get some awards but when you don't do that and you get questioned, I think you learn a great deal about what you have to do to get better. I think every conversation we've had in the latter part of the year and up until today is how do we make the group better? What teaching tool do we have to improve upon? What kind of practice do we have to adjust to make it better? What responsibility do we give to the players? You can't give it all to them, you have to take a big part of it. I've said this my whole career, when you lose you better step up and when you win you better step back and let the players get the credit. That's what we're trying to do. We're taking and Paul's taking his share of responsibility.
On changes he plans addressing short term:
I think we probably need another harder forward for sure. I think as we evaluate there may be other changes too but we certainly — I know everybody points to the defence. We have to cut goals against down, we have to be much better in our own end. That was the big bugaboo for me. We had so many careless plays in our own end, at times guys looked confused and we'd give other teams second and third chances because of a careless play or a bad play or bad positioning. The big thing going into it is we've got eight young defencemen — seven younger and Chris Phillips who's the veteran guy in the group. The coach will have a choice of what they want and who they want to play but I do think we do need another bigger forward that can play a harder game for us.
On defensive shortcomings being the product of coaching or overrating younger players:
It's probably a combination of both. I certainly felt that some of our young guys would make considerable steps and we didn't have one — Cody Ceci we brought up late — but not one of our young defencemen showed marked improvement. I think that sometimes the plateauing after a couple of years — you look good, you're playing pretty well and then you level off before you take the next step. It's a terrible thing that you have to lose to win in the long run but maybe that's the reward at the end of all of this.
On what changes the coaching staff needs to make in the approach:
My note to him today was the players liked the old Paul. They liked the guy that sat and talked to them, that treated them in a more easygoing fashion, that taught and not confronted. There were some mistakes made obviously, you don't go to some of your better players and confront them early in the year and expect change. The change is usually in the negative form. I think what Paul did in the two years leading up to this was a real strong indication of the type of coach he is. I think as you go through your career you learn lots of things and, again, I think it's a stage where he'll be much better because of it.
On what prompted the change in approach:
You win a round and you think you're on the edge of making a huge step and you probably feel that if I push them a little harder here, that'll move it up. Depending on the individual you deal with, some guys you can yell at and push and they'll respond. If you push another guy he'll say "Sorry sir, I can't do that." He received that fairly loud and clear from a couple of players.
On not giving MacLean a vote of confidence on the radio:
I made a mistake in that, I should have said I'm not answering the question but if I said that you would have asked the same question today and said I didn't give him a vote of confidence or whatever. I should have waited for 80 games or 82 games and then made the statement. I tried to be diplomatic at the time and it was the wrong way to do it. I'm an old guy and I even learn that now that I can't do that with you guys in the press.
On if he regrets the Ryan trade or the departure of Alfredsson:
I'd ask you, would you trade the 10th pick overall and Silfverberg for Bobby Ryan. I would do it again today in a heartbeat. I didn't expect that we'd be picking 10. I read the comment would I trade Ben Bishop? Ben Bishop couldn't sit here and be lost on waivers in the summertime because only two guys can play. Ben got a chance to go and play and I told you at the time but the explanation wasn't very clear from me obviously. We got a fourth round pick coming and we had Cory Conacher for a short time. We found out we had Mike Hoffman coming who's a little bigger and quicker, we made that change and I let Tim get a nice head start on us in Buffalo by doing that. Bobby Ryan got 23 goals, Silfverberg got 10 this year. I think Bobby Ryan is going to be a very important player here in the future, he's at a young age, we've already talked about extending him and I would make that trade again in a heartbeat. As I said, there are five guys who are under contract, there are two guys who are unrestricted. We're trying to make the determination of who we're going to try to keep. Some of them will have a choice obviously and they will make that choice on their own, but for the most part — I've had a conversation with every guy that has a contract coming up this year or next year and it seems to me that there is some interest in that. Just to follow up on Daniel Alfredsson, of course, and I said that at the time. I've had three times in my career that this type of incident has happened to me. Stu Barnes in Florida, lost him after we went to the Stanley Cup final, it was all about a contract at that time, we lost him and we didn't have a very good next year. Paul Kariya in Anaheim, had a deal done and he ended up going on the last day to Colorado for $1.2 million. I lost Daniel Alfredsson. The end result following each year was the same as it is today. We know these people have influence in the room and on the ice and I would be wrong if I said he didn't have an impact on what happened here.
On the play of the Binghamton kids to wrap up the season:
Well that's, again, what I feel really good about in the organization. As I've said, we've had a couple of young guys who made some nice strides for a number of years and kind of leveled off this year. I think Mark Stone is now an NHL player, he looks like he needs a big summer but I thought he played terrific when he got a chance to come here and play. Pageau the last two games looked like a real solid NHL player. We've got Matt Puempel — I shouldn't go through the list of guys but — we've got Puempel who is certainly playing like a star in Binghamton, we've got Lazar coming out of Edmonton in the Western Hockey League and he looks like a ready made NHLer. There's a couple of other guys like Borowiecki who's waiting on pins and needles to start in September here. We've got some people, some real character people coming. We do have to address some other issues. Do we flip a player or two to get a different type of veteran guy around here? I wish I could tell you everything today and I could but I'm not going to.
On if Spezza wants to remain a Senator:
You would have to ask him that. My indication from him in conversation with him is he's got a year left, he's the captain of our team. We'll have to make a decision on him contract-wise going forward. I haven't offered him a contract and I'm not prepared to do that at the moment.
On if he'll attempt to re-sign Hemsky:
We were still a little bit on the bubble — the odds were we were behind the 8-ball to make the playoffs and I understand that. I liked Ales, I thought he could bring something to our hockey team. I thought you had to pay a pick for it but it would give us a great chance to bring him to Ottawa, find out what type of person he was, number one, and could he help us right now and, if we wanted to, could we entice him to come back and play in Ottawa. We had a brief conversation about it. That's to be decided going forward.
On how close Lehner is to becoming a starter:
I still think to be a good team in the league you need two goaltenders. You need both that can win games for you. The way the game is played now, as we see again, there are a lot of injuries in that area and having that second guy that can play. I think Robin is very close. If we gave him the stick and said go in the net and play every night, I think he could win a lot of hockey games for us.
On Kassian's future after the Toronto scratch:
I should explain that. Dave Nonis called me and he wanted to call a young player up. He didn't want to call up one of the tough guys, he said "I'm dressing Colton Orr but I'll talk to him." He was afraid I was going to send a player out to maybe attack one of their players and I assured him I wouldn't do that. It was not Paul MacLean that made that decision, I suggested it would be better to just play the game, we don't need a war with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the last game of the year. You wrote a nasty article about Paul but you should have wrote it about me... Matt Kassian's not in our plans and I don't think we're in his plans. I think he indicated to me yesterday that he wants to have a chance to go somewhere he might get a chance to play more often. He didn't feel he played a lot here, I'll have further conversation with him, but we need, as I said earlier, a harder forward that can play the game hard and stick up for teammates if necessary.
We're talking, I talked to him yesterday, he's certainly interested in continuing to play here, he loves Ottawa. That will be a conversation and a decision we have to make because we can't keep everybody and we don't want to keep everybody because we do have some young guys that have to have an opportunity.
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