Rudolfs Balcers and Josh Norris Profiles

Analysis

It’s a crazy time of year to write about the Sens (there’s so much material so I’m very behind on my MCU stuff). Beyond what follows I have a much delayed post about the Sens ECHL affiliate in Brampton (now no longer shared with Montreal), an article looking at Dorion’s trade history, and another post filled with general bits of news mostly about the rebuild (additional material from my initial post about the subject). This, however, is a look at the org’s newest prospects.

Ary posted a breakdown of newly acquired Rudolfs Balcers and Josh Norris (my own Coles Notes version was out a week ago). Ary’s article is an excellent read, although he admits he’s leaned towards the positive with Norris because he didn’t want the player facing fan wrath and he’s certainly received more negative press than Balcers (for pretty obvious reasons)–Varada has mentioned toxic fans, but we clearly go to different places for Sens opinions as most of what I see/hear are org apologists (I’ve seen nothing toxic, frankly). What new information has Ary brought to light in his article and how has it impacted my opinion?

Rudolfs Balcers

In my original article I simply summarized the scouting material on-hand (prior to the draft and afterwards); Ary quotes some of that, including one opinion from a scout I hadn’t seen before. Beyond that he provides some statistical data (beyond just the obvious numbers). He spends a lot of time on Emmanuel Perry’s NHLe numbers and given that I have little familiarity with that I can’t make much comment on it (other than saying translating minor league or junior production to pro is extremely difficult).

The aforementioned scouting report (written in June, 2016, the year after he was drafted) praises a few things: speed, shot, elusiveness; suggesting his primary need is strength. I didn’t specifically quote the Hockey Prospects appraisal from 2015, so let’s see how it compares:

In both competitions [IIHF U18 and U20] he was able to display his talent, and against his peers in Switzerland he was still dangerous offensively while facing the top nations in the World. Rudolfs is an impressive skater, possesses deceptive speed and he is able to hit another gear apparently without further effort. His skills and skating allow him to get into good shooting positions and his wrist shot is legit. However, too often he doesn’t look determined enough to take his chances as soon as they come up. He looks weak physically and not overly competitive, getting softer as the game gets tougher, even if in April he did show some improvement in that area. He is a prospect that will need a long development path, but given his talent level he might be worth the wait.

It’s clear the only exposure HP had to him were the three international tournaments referenced above (no one is paying scouts to watch games in Norway), but the talent profile is exactly the same. His unusual route to the draft, btw, echoes Alexandre Texier’s from 2017 (playing in the French men’s league but noticed via international tournaments).

What about opinions post-2016? Blogger favourite Corey Pronman wrote about Balcers as part of his San Jose prospect profile on August 15th (prior to the trade) and said the following:

Balcers had a great first pro season, as the best player for the Barracuda, and had a decent World Championships with Latvia. Balcers is a skilled forward, but what stands out the most to me is his hockey sense. He has great vision and overall offensive instincts. He can play at a pro pace and show the intellect to make plays at both ends of the rink. He’s not a big forward and only an average skater, but he makes defensive plays due to his work ethic and hockey IQ. I have some skepticism on his overall upside when I pick apart his skill set, but he keeps producing at a high level.

Pronman then revisited the profile in the wake of the trade:

All he’s done is produce, though, at various levels and events. … Scouts love his skill and IQ, and while they acknowledge he’s not a very fast skater for his size, I’ve heard the term “darting” and “shifty” used more than once in describing how he gets around the ice. I think he plays and he could play soon in the NHL. He’s got talent and is versatile. His biggest backers in the scouting community think he can be a top-six forward. I’m more of the top-nine area right now with the caveat that he’s had some impressive moments in the past year that have made me reconsider. I’d just like to see a tad more speed in his game to get him to that range.

Clearly (like most scouts) Pronman’s only exposure to him in his draft year and the subsequent season was via international tournaments. Once Balcers made the jump to the CHL it became much easier for scouts to see him. One of the things that’s changed is the opinion about his speed: it’s gone from blazing to just average–with agility emphasized. The love of his shot continues unabated. The comment about his work ethic is new and refutes HP’s 2015 opinion (or, to be generous, illustrates a change).

I don’t think Pronman is wrong about his speed and that is of some concern. As long as he has the hands as advertised and is elusive, however, his NHL-potential remains. Pronman plays it safe projecting him as a top-nine forward, but certainly the top-six remains a possibility.

Josh Norris

I’m not that keen on Norris, as was undoubtedly clear in my summary about him, so what new insights do we have via Ary? Let’s first go to a comparison Ary doesn’t make that occurred to me after posting my initial thoughts: he and Johnny Gruden‘s remarkably similar numbers at the same stage of their development:

Norris (16-17): USDP 61-27-34-61/USNTDP 25-12-14-26
Gruden (17-18): USDP 61-28-32-60/USNTDP 25-15-19-34

I projected Gruden to be a marginal pro, but like Norris there are positive underlying numbers despite the underwhelming projections (the underpinning for Norris is the theory of reliance–betweenness–attempting (via numbers) to ascertain how dependent players are on their teammates (the metric being used seems a little simplistic to me, but it is interesting). There is, of course, a much higher ceiling provided for the first-round pick, so why is that? Reading the scouting reports I think its easy to figure out:

Steve Kourniasos (via Ary):

plays physical, is matched up against top players … plays a heavy game and uses his size and determination to win puck battles … Playing in traffic isn’t a problem for Norris … A talented, mature leader with an NHL-ready build

RLR:

Big center is a rugged banger who can do a little of everything … Goes hard to the net both with and without the puck. … Strong physical force who is also good on faceoffs and responsible defensively – strong on the backcheck and kills penalties. High character, you win with guys like him

International Scouting Service (ISS):

Very competitive, he is willing to play in traffic and to battle for possession … [Bryan Smolinksi] uses [his] body well with a little nastiness

Future Considerations:

He is strong on puck and works like a mule … tough to deal with along the boards and effective in the cycle game. … has the ability to throw a hit to create turnovers … his two-way game at a premium position should make him a nice compliment to a team’s bottom-six.

Hockey Prospects:

shows good compete and grit to his game when needed … plays physical … [NHL scout] I like that he makes himself a bit of a pain in the ass to play against
sometimes.

And what about Pronman in the here & now?

[First link] has good athletic traits

[Second link] [how] great an athlete he is and how coaches trust him in all the tough situations

The theme is: he plays a hard, safe game. This is pure adrenaline for the org who, especially since Trent Mann took over their amateur scouting, is the poster child for safe picks (indeed, an anonymous NHL scout quoted by HP literally calls Norris ‘a safe pick’ and Dorion himself has just mentioned a preference for safe picks). Norris has, in short, the sort of ‘truculence’ Brian Burke used to yammer about. This isn’t to say he’s a one-dimensional prospect, as Ary thoroughly explores his offensive skills, but concerns remain:

HP:

There is a lot to like in his game yet not a pure goal scorer with immense creativity and high-end skill [NHL scout] his big issue is consistency

FC

He has a good shot but has to do a better job of finding an open lane before attempting a shot, as it gets blocked a lot leading to the puck clearing the zone … He doesn’t have high-end offensive potential

ISS

3rd line center with offensive upside … [Dennis MacInnis] Not a lot of flash to his game

RLR

Doesn’t have the slick moves and puckhandling wiggle to beat defenders off the rush

Pronman

First link: has skill, but I wouldn’t call it high-end. There are stretches where he can fade into the background offensively … doesn’t have a ton of pace to his game

Second link: they [scouts who like Norris] also acknowledge his skills aren’t standout and he needs work. .. The more pessimistic scouts just don’t buy him having enough offense and projects out as a third-liner — tops. I tend to fall in the latter camp

Summarizing: he may lack talent–there are concerns that he doesn’t have the puck skills to provide more than third-line output, and you don’t need to trade (or draft) for that (especially when you have arguably a more talented player with the same profile in Colin White). Its clear one of the major motivations for San Jose in taking him so early (I had him ranked 43rd for the draft) was because of how good he was at the combine. This is a terrible way to assess a player and clearly San Jose had no problem jettisoning him as part of the deal–the Sharks have been very adept at finding third-line talent for free in Europe for years (Joonas Donskoi, Melker Karlsson, Marcus Sorensen, etc), so it’s not a talent threshold of concern.

The Revised Prospect List

With all that information available, where do I two slot into the Sens prospect pool? Balcers slides in after Chlapik at #4 in the middle-six category (while he had a better rookie season the latter has better draft pedigree), while Norris gets the #9 slot behind Alex Formenton in the top-nine category. The forward top-ten would be:
1. Logan Brown
2. Brady Tkachuk
3. Filip Chlapik
4. Rudolfs Balcers
5. Drake Batherson
6. Gabriel Gagne
7. Colin White
8. Alex Formenton
9. Josh Norris
10. Andrew Sturtz

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

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The Rebuild

Image result for bring the hammer down

This is a long post folks, so strap in and enjoy.

I’ve been beating the drum for 2011 rebuild comparisons for quite some time (not because I predicted a rebuild, but because of the rhetoric I was hearing on TSN 1200); in that spirit the mighty Nichols has begun the colonoscopy of that comparison in his usual bold letters. The focus of his latest piece is much broader than that (I was looking at the prospects themselves–specifically the hype generated about them), but he rightly takes to task the ridiculous idea Gord Wilson was floating that the current prospect pool is comparable to that of the 1990s. Nichols succinctly dissects how quickly Melnyk and Bryan Murray gave up on a full rebuild to chase the dream of a Cup (or, more accurately, playoff gates for the cash-strapped owner). He hits the nail on the head when he says:

there is always going to be this nagging suspicion that the Senators will change course as quickly as it did following the Duchene trade and perhaps most importantly, there is also the question of why fans should trust the owner and front office that put this organization in this position to begin with.

Unfortunately, the path to contention isn’t simply a matter of which team accrues the most talent at the top of the draft. Organizations like Buffalo and Edmonton are illustrative of the problems that can be created by poor asset management. Teams can’t simply rely on early first round picks, there needs to be an emphasis on analytics, scouting, recognizing the signs of when it’s time to sell high on players (or walk away) and cap management. 

Preach brother, preach. I’m not sure if it’s ironic or sad that both Edmonton and Buffalo are/have been headed by former members of the Senators org (Peter Chiarelli, who left during the Muckler regime, and Tim Murray).

fail

Speaking of the rebuild process, I’ve mentioned I don’t believe the plan to rebuild goes back to February, but Dorion is sticking to the narrative, repeating that timeframe and saying the only indecision was which piece to move–deciding on Karlsson after contract negotiations weren’t progressing as hoped. Like Nichols, I don’t buy this story at all–the offer made to EK wasn’t at market value and as the Don himself reports:

He [Karlsson] believed, or was led to believe, that Eugene Melnyk was close to selling the team. He was told that his good friend, Daniel Alfredsson, would become the Senators’ president. And he was banking on being presented a contract offer to keep him in Ottawa colours for at least another eight years, followed by one more that would make him a Senator for life.

Nichols points out the org is attempting to place the blame on Karlsson rather than themselves (just as the org did with Daniel Alfredsson). I think Nichols is absolutely right that the intent in hiding the rebuilding plan was to protect the flagging season ticket base, since on the trade front being open about it would make much more sense.

Why do I believe the rebuild hadn’t been decided in February? The most obvious reason: you don’t trade for Matt Duchene in November and just give up on everything three months later (Dorion’s ego is much too big for that kind of cold rationalism). Beyond that, if that decision had been made then we would have seen more trades characteristic of that process–not just big names, but bit parts that have some appeal to contenders that are of no use to a rebuilding team. We already know how the org behaves in a rebuild because we saw it in 2011–moving out favourites like Chris KellyMike Fisher, etc–trading away popular character pieces. That’s not what Dorion did–he moved a couple of fat contracts (Phaneuf and Brassard) and spare parts. The moves were applying a new coat of paint rather than stripping down the engine for a rebuild. The other indicator that the decision hadn’t been made was that they made no moves either leading up to the draft or at the draft itself (save the Hoffman deal, which was forced by the public relations disaster). Given that, if I’m right, why are we getting a rebuild now?

The Melnykian dictum since his SEC issues forced him out of Biovail (2007) has been make the playoffs–fulfill that short-term need and don’t worry about the future. Eugene needs the money from playoff gates to prop up his other activities (Travis Yost doesn’t get enough credit for bringing his financial struggles into the public eye). This is part of the reason why the 2011 rebuild quickly turned into a soft reboot and that we’ve heard that sentiment any time the Sens have had a subpar season up until now (chatter about how quickly a team can turn things around–Todd White was spouting that off today, for instance). What’s changed?

Melnyk can’t afford the lineup he has that’s meant to generate playoff gates. The weight of the internal budget means that the org’s string of short-term fixes (Bobby Ryan in 2013, Derick Brassard in 2016, Duchene in November, etc) aren’t feasible anymore. They also can’t rely on a hometown discount or try and deflate Karlsson‘s price with surrogates in the media whining about his ‘deficiencies’–two Norris trophies and a broad consensus that he’s a generational talent meant he was about to get paid.

The above theory could still fit the February timeline, so what’s my objection to it? I think Melnyk (and probably Dorion) couldn’t accept that the team that nearly made it to the Cup final just a year ago wouldn’t make another deep run. While the rationalists among us understood how fluky that feat was, the org itself was happily drinking its own Koolaid. All that talk we heard in February about them trying to attach Ryan to a Karlsson trade wasn’t just hot air–it was a transparent attempt to free up the money required to re-sign the other stars who could drag Dorion’s collection of detritus (Tom Pyatt et al) back into the playoffs. The org was desperate to maintain the model of mediocrity they’ve repeated ever since they lost the 2007 Cup final. To be blunt, I think Dorion is lying about when the decision to trade EK was made–if he could have moved him in February along with Ryan he would have.

So what happened? The deadline proved no one would swallow the poison pill of Ryan‘s contract, but this wasn’t enough for a philosophical change. It took the Hoffman situation, with the usual unimpressive return, followed by an inability at the draft to get what they wanted for Karlsson. They were left looking down the barrel of a terrible roster with no easy/quick fix.

Dorion and Melnyk were in a no-win situation of their own devising. EK would be moved for a bag of magic beans (how do you let yourself get fleeced by the same guy twice?)–that was apparent long before the trade was made–leaving the org with very few tangible assets. One of the worst teams in the league was going to be much, much worse–there was no high end free agent to sign (internal budget), no first round pick (recklessly traded away), and the prospect cupboard lacked the star power to garner a good return (no Jonathan Dahlen or Shane Bowers or Jakob Silverberg etc). In essence the team painted itself into a corner such that they had no choice but to rebuild.

To summarize: the decision to move Karlsson was made no later than February, but the decision to rebuild didn’t firm up until after the draft in June. All their decisions make sense within that framework.

The Rebuild Comparison (2011 and 2018)

Image result for comparison 2011 2018

I’m going to be fairly reductive in this rather than comprehensive because I’m making a pretty basic point. To narrow it down I want to focus on the prospects at the time, following the criteria I outlined in my prospect rankings a couple of weeks ago (excluding players with 50+ NHL games, 4+ AHL seasons, and those on AHL-contracts). I think it would be fairly simple to point out the established pieces in place in 2011 (established NHLers) were a better group than those who exist now (EK, Alfie, and Spezza vs Stone/Duchene), but for a rebuild I think that’s less relevant which is why I’m looking at the prospects.

2011 Prospect Pool

2011 Draft  (all who have or will play 200+ games are highlighted; this still with the org are in blue)
Mika Zibanejad
Stefan Noesen
Matt Puempel
Shane Prince
Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Fredrik Claesson
Darren Kramer
Max McCormick
Jordan Fransoo
Ryan Dzingel

Others
Top-tier: Mark StoneJared Cowen, Jakob Silverberg, Robin LehnerMike HoffmanPatrick Wiercioch, Andre Petersson, Derek Grant, Jim O’Brien, Stephane Da Costa, Bobby Butler, David Rundblad, Nikita Filatov
Also-ran: Jakub Culek, Marcus Sorensen, Bryce Aneloski, Chris Wideman, Jeff Costello, Corey Cowick, Brad Peltz, Mike Sdao, Mark Borowiecki, Emil Sandin, Louie Caporusso, Ben Blood, Eric Gryba, Kaspars Daugavins, Erik Condra, Cody Bass, Colin Greening, Craig Schira, Pat Cannone, David Dziurzynski

The two-part division may seem arbitrary, but it’s based on thoughts at the time and a synergy of the conventional opinion (you can check out Corey PronmanHockey Futures (John Henkelman), McKeen’sThe Hockey News and Hockey Prospectus‘ lists from back in the day)–briefly:

CP
1. Rundblad
2. Zibanejad
3. Filatov
4. Da Costa
5. Cowen
6. Silfverberg
7. Wiercioch
Lehner (fourth-best goaltending prospect in the league)

THN
1. David Rundblad
2. Mika Zibanejad
3. Nikita Filatov
4. Jared Cowen
5. Robin Lehner
6. Jakob Silfverberg
7. Patrick Wiercioch
8. Stefan Noesen
9. Colin Greening
10. Matt Puempel

HF
1. David Rundblad
2. Jared Cowen
3. Mika Zibanejad
4. Robin Lehner
5. Jakob Silfverberg
6. Matt Puempel
7. Nikita Filatov
8. Bobby Butler
9. Patrick Wiercioch
10. Colin Greening

Hockey Prospectus
1) David Rundblad
2) Mika Zibanejad
3) Nikita Filatov
4) Stephane Da Costa
5) Jared Cowen
6) Jakob Silfverberg
7) Patrick Wiercioch
8) Derek Grant
9) Matt Puempel
10) Robin Lehner

We have the benefit of hindsight and can say players like Rundblad and Filatov were overvalued, but my point isn’t who did or didn’t turn out but the caliber of prospects the org had (as in their value as assets around the league). Guys like Rundblad and Cowen were thought of as top defensemen; Lehner was an elite goaltending prospect (he’d just won the Calder Cup as a teenager); players like ZibanejadSilfverberg, and Da Costa were projected as top-six forwards or better. When I went through the 2018 prospects there was no elite goaltender, no first-line forwards, and no top-pairing defensemen. Zero. That doesn’t mean no one will become that kind of player, but it does mean the prospect pool of today doesn’t measure up to the last rebuild (which itself doesn’t hold a candle to the early days of Ottawa in the 1990s, as Nichols goes over in his post).

My point isn’t to demean current prospects–there are a lot of players to like–but they are all complimentary players–guys who round out top-flight talent which the team largely lacks. My intention, frankly, is perspective. The absurd hype I’m hearing needs context–fans need to be realistic about what they have and where the org currently stands. Losing out on that first overall pick (likely this year) means there’s no elite relief in sight until the 2020 draft rolls around. That means it’s time to buckle up and prepare for the long haul of losing.

Public Relations

One of the funnier/sadder things about the org is how out of touch they are with the fanbase. There are a small number of hardcore folks who buy-in with the team no matter what, but by and large Melnyk and Dorion habitually put their foot in their mouths when attempting to discern the mood of the public.

Ruszkowski’s comments only serve to alienate [upset fans] and reinforce the idea that the front office is comprised of like-minded individuals who serve their boss for better or worse. (Mostly worse.)

I absolutely agree with this and it’s interesting to me that comments like this are so rarely heard anywhere else. It’s been clear for quite some time that the org is a poster child for confirmation bias and I have no idea what (if anything) can shake them from it. Dorion’s response to unhappy fans is to talk about parking improvements and concession prices, which is so tone deaf I’m at a loss to make a coherent response to it–how could either matter if those fans simply don’t show up? The org is in no position to turn its nose up at any part of the fanbase and advertising defense-first hockey doesn’t lend itself to an entertaining product. Melnyk has long assumed eroding attendance was due to performance, not him, and I doubt he’d allow any subordinate to suggest otherwise.

Summary and What to Do

I’m making four basic points:
1) The organization is being disingenuous (or, at worst, lying) about how we arrived at the rebuild
2) The org has demonstrated neither the patience, will, or understanding to conduct a proper rebuild
3) The org is clueless about its own fanbase
4) We begin the rebuild in much worse shape than the aborted 2011 rebuild

None of this comes as a surprise other than the decision to rebuild itself. I wasn’t sure Melnyk would ever allow it given his financial difficulties, but there really isn’t a choice now that they’ve traded away their only superstar.

So what, as fans, are we to do? My approach won’t change. I’m still a Sens fan, but I gave up on this incarnation of the org quite some time ago, which is one of the reasons most of my coverage is on prospects and the AHL team–I can enjoy them regardless of the Luddites in charge. In that respect I’m quite keen on Belleville’s upcoming season (depending, a little, on how many prospects are rammed into the NHL lineup). In respect to the NHL side of things: until there is change at the top it’s just not realistic to expect the nonsense to stop. Removing Pierre Dorion wouldn’t change things because Melnyk would simply hire someone just like him. Melnyk has to go before the Ottawa Senators can truly evolve and compete.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Thoughts on the Karlsson Trade

Image result for chris evans laughing

So the trade we’ve long expected and dreaded has arrived and just like when the Sharks fleeced the Sens in the Mike Hoffman trade they’ve done it again. Doug Wilson doesn’t laugh very much, but adding Erik Karlsson must have put a smile on his face. We’d all accepted that the Sens were going to lose the trade–you can’t get proper return for a generational player–but the question remained if they were going to get burned as badly as Bryan Murray did in the Jason Spezza trade (for whom the Sens got nothing in return). I don’t think Dorion’s deal is as bad as that, but it’s not a good deal either (as The Athletic has just gone over in interviews with scouts/execs).

What did the Sens get for their best player (and Francis Perron)? Four bodies and some picks. No elite players–none with high upside–but two seemingly decent NHLers and a couple of okay prospects.

While the analytic breakdowns for both Chris Tierney (82-17-23-40) and Dylan DeMelo (63-0-20-20) haven’t come out yet (I figure Nichols or Yost will do it), we can take a quick look at them: Tierney has played 284 NHL games while the latter has logged 133–both have decent numbers for depth players and are young enough that there might be some upside, but they were easy for the Sharks to give up (for perspective: the former was behind Boedker in points-per-game, so not part of the top-six; the latter was fourth in blueline ppg’s).

So that’s two competent if unexciting NHLers, but what about the prospects? Again the Sharks did not give up the guys at the top of their prospect list. Instead we got the kind of prospects the Sens have in abundance–middle of the road players without elite potential:

Rudolfs Balcers 21 LW (5-142/15; 19-20) AHL 67-23-25-48 (0.71)
The Latvian was drafted out of a Norwegian league so only Hockey Prospects profiled him (no one ranked him)–HP liked his skill set but thought he was too soft and not competitive enough (a pretty generic criticism in scouting circles–Pronman shared this view until his numbers just didn’t go away). Kuddos to the Sharks for finding the guy as, if nothing else, he can play at the AHL level (leading the hapless Barracudas in scoring in his rookie season–none of his teammates were even close to his production).
No one made projections for Balcers when he was drafted, but he’s produced offensively in every league he’s played in and his tally would have lead the BSens last year–if nothing else he will help Belleville’s anemic offense and there’s always the hope those puck skills can translate at the next level. [In the aftermath of the trade Pronman projected him as a top-nine forward.]

Josh Norris 19 CL (1-19/17) NCAA 37-8-15-23 (0.62)
Every scouting resource I saw projected him as a third-line checking center with good character and offensive limitations (a taller Colin White, at least by description). Why San Jose used a first-round pick for that, I have no idea, but losing him doesn’t cost them anything. There should be no rush by the Sens to get him out of the NCAA environment.

The picks: the Sens will get a late 2019 or 2020 first-rounder (almost certainly the latter because the former is conditionally owed to the Sabers if the Sharks make the playoffs), a late 2019 second-rounder [this is actually the better of San Jose or Florida’s picks, so might be decent], and there are two conditional picks (which even if triggered will be late in whatever round they’re in). While it’s possible to turn the two guaranteed picks into good NHLers, the Sens have not had great luck with their top-picks, so while the picks are better than nothing there’s no chance of a Karlsson replacement (or near-replacement) from them.

In the end the trade comes across as a salary dump–a victim of the internal, Melnykian budget, and it’s a move that the Sens are going to have a very difficult time recovering from for years ahead. In the short term the move might actually help the BSens as the two players who came back means one less prospect will be shoved into the NHL lineup and Balcers adds a genuine offensive threat. Glass half full, right?

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Assessing Bryan Murray (updated through the 2012-13 season)

On April 8th, 2011, with one game remaining in a failed season, the Ottawa Senators re-signed GM Bryan Murray to a three-year deal.  The most obvious question at the time was why?  Clearly ownership saw Murray as the best man to rebuild the team that crumbled beneath him in 2010-11 and thus far it appears as though that belief was well-founded.  There’s no guarantee the Sens rebuild will continue in a positive direction, but it’s worth looking back at the work Murray has done as Ottawa’s general manager.

Bryan Murray took over from John Muckler on June 18th, 2007, just six days before the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.  I’ve read criticism of Murray regarding that draft, but there’s no question that the selections were made with Muckler’s scouting staff and guided by their philosophy.

2007 Draft

Considered a weak draft at the time (see McKeen’s, for a more optimistic view here’s Sports Illustrated; for a look at the overall success of the draft go here), Ottawa made four selections, trading away their final three picks to Tampa for a fourth round pick in the 2008 draft (Derek Grant).

1-29 Jim O’Brien (NCAA) Looked like a failed pick after his rookie season in Binghamton, but by the end of his ELC proved he could be a useful fourth-liner (although perhaps not with Ottawa)
2-60 Ruslan Bashkirov (QMJHL) A bust who was never signed and now plays tier-2 hockey in Russia
3-90 Louie Caporusso (OPJHL) The undersized forward spent his rookie year largely in the ECHL and as a four-year NCAA grad it doesn’t look like he has NHL-potential (perhaps not even AHL-potential); he was let go after his ELC expired
4-120 Ben Blood (USHS) Big blueliner also spent four years in the NCAA, but his rookie season as a pro was a disappointment as he was unable to be an AHL-regular

2007-08 Contracts

June 22 – Dean McAmmond – 2 years/1.4; a solid player, but his numbers dropped considerably before he was shipped out to the New York Islanders
July 3 – Matt Carkner – 2 years/0.5; made his way from the AHL to the NHL level
July 24 – Ray Emery – 3 years/3.166; re-signing the starting goalie in the Cup run seemed like a no-brainer, but was bought out the next year
July 31 – Chris Kelly – 1 year/1.263; based on his strong play when Spezza and Fisher were injured
August 7 – Luke Richardson – 1 year/0.5; a depth signing who never quite delivered
September 17 – Mike Fisher – 5 years/4.2; I thought at the time it was too much money and too much term; traded to Nashville in 2011
October 3 – Dany Heatley – 6 years/7.5; thought to be solid signing at the time (link), forced a trade to San Jose (2009) and is now in Minnesota (2011)
October 16 – Randy Robitaille – 1 year/0.625; a depth signing out of Russia, the Sens hoped he would provide some scoring depth (link), but he did not.  The following season saw him playing in Switzerland
November 2 – Jason Spezza – 7 years/7.0; I liked the contract at the time and I still do

2007-08 Coaches

Murray hired John Paddock, who had been his assistant the past two years and was a long time AHL coach (with a distant and lousy NHL coaching record from his days with Winnipeg, 281-106-138-37).  Paddock got the team off to a fantastic start (15-2), but wore out his best players and the team quickly slid down the standings. Paddock was fired February 27th, after two embarrassing back-to-back shutout losses, finishing with a 36-22-6 record (he’s since struggled to get head coaching positions in the AHL).  Murray took over and the team barely made the playoffs where they were promptly swept by the Penguins.

While the Paddock hiring may have seemed like a logical step to Murray—a solid minor league resume  and his assistant—he was hardly the best coach available, so Murray deserves criticism for the hire (as he has suggested himself since).

Buyouts

June 20 – Ottawa waived and then bought out Ray Emery; his play was only partially the issue.  Because of his age the cost of the buyout was reasonable.  Emery had to go to the KHL to salvage his NHL career, which now seems solidified as a quality backup.

2007-08 Trades

June 23 – Ottawa’s 5th (Matt Marshall; was not signed by Tampa after four years in the NCAA), 7th (Torrie Jung; was not signed by Tampa and he’s spent his pro career in the CHL), and 7th (Justin Courtnall; turned pro and spent his rookie season in the ECHL) to Tampa for a 4th in 2008 (Derek Grant; completed his sophomore season with Binghamton where he saw limited NHL action). The thought here was that the following year’s draft was much stronger and deeper and it appears as though Murray was right.  This is a win for Murray.
July 17, 2007 – Traded Peter Schaefer to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Shean Donovan. Muckler overpaid Schaefer, whose cumbersome contract wound up being buried in the minors and then bought out by the Bruins.  Donovan was a solid soldier for Ottawa, although there wasn’t much gas left in the tank.  This is a win for Murray.
February 11, 2008 – Traded Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves to the Carolina Hurricanes for Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman.  Corvo demanded a trade, so Murray didn’t have many options; Eaves struggled with injuries.  Commodore turned out to be a complete bust for the Sens (and subsequently for Columbus, who bought him out), but Stillman was an adequate rental.  None of the four players are still with the teams they were traded too.  Given that the trade failed to help the Sens in the playoffs this is a loss for Murray.
February 26, 2008 – Traded a sixth-round draft pick in 2008 (6-169, Ben Smith, who has 20 NHL games under his belt and is a solid prospect) to the Chicago Blackhawks for Martin LapointeLapointe was supposed to provide grit for the Sens, but his best days were long behind him and he was a disappointment.  Lapointe subsequently retired.  This is a failure on Murray’s part.

2008 Draft

Considered a good draft year (link) and the selections can be said to truly reflect Murray’s philosophy.  All the players selected have been signed except for Emil Sandin (who is now a UFA).

1-15 Erik Karlsson (SuperElit) – coming off a Norris trophy season he spent much of this year injured
2-42 Patrick Wiercioch (USHL) – lanky blueliner got his chance in the NHL and performed well
3-79 Zack Smith (WHL) – gritty center is an NHL-regular
4-109 Andre Petersson (SuperElit) – skilled winger missed most of his sophomore season due to injury
4-119 Derek Grant (BCHL) – lanky center had a solid sophomore season with Binghamton
5-139 Mark Borowiecki (CJHL) – punishing blueliner had a solid sophomore season in the AHL
7-199 Emil Sandin (SuperElit) – smallish winger failed to be a regular player in the SEL and was allowed to become a FA

2008-09 Contracts

March 25 – Jesse Winchester – 2 years/0.55; signed as a free agent out of college, Winchester didn’t produce offensively as planned, but turned into a solid grinder; he spent this past season playing in Europe
June 21 – Chris Kelly – 4 years/2.125 million; signed prior to becoming a UFA, Kelly continued to put up his usual numbers before being traded to Boston (2011)
July 2 – Jarkko Ruutu – 3 years/1.3 million; signed after reaching the Cup final with Pittsburgh, he didn’t deliver what was expected while he was with the Sens and was eventually traded to Anaheim (2011) for a 6th round pick (Max McCormick); he’s played in Finland since
July 2 – Shean Donovan – 2 years/0.65; a cap friendly contract, but Donovan had nothing left in the tank and only played 90 games over those two seasons; he’s now retired
July 8 – Jason Smith – 2 years/2.6; a bad contract for a player who didn’t have gas left in the tank, he retired before the second year of his deal and now works for the organisation
July 31 – Antoine Vermette – 2 years/2.75 million; unable to produce enough as a top six player in Ottawa, he was traded to Columbus in the first year of his deal for Pascal Leclaire and a 2nd round pick (Robin Lehner); he’s now with Phoenix
September 27 – Luke Richardson – 1 year/0.5; unable to stay in the lineup, he retired November 27th and stayed with the organisation.  He’s now Binghamton’s head coach
October 30 – Daniel Alfredsson – 4 years/4.875 million; an excellent contract

2008-09 Coaches

Murray hired Craig Hartsburg, who was coming off back-to-back World Junior wins.  Hartsburg had a good track record in junior, but his NHL record was mediocre (albeit more extensive than Paddock’s, 443-184-184-69).  Hartsburg was not a strong systems coach and the team struggled under his regime.  Finally, on February 1st, Hartsburg was fired after accumulating a 17-24-7 record (he went back to junior for two season and is now an NHL assistant coach).  Cory Clouston, enjoying a strong season in Binghamton, was brought up as the interim coach.  The team responded well under Clouston’s more structured approach and he was signed to a two-year deal.

Murray deserves criticism for the Hartsburg signing, who again was not the strongest candidate available.  The team struggled all season long and the coach was allowed to linger longer than was needed.  The Clouston hiring was much like the Paddock hiring–done without competition.

2008-09 Trades

June 20, 2008 – Traded their 1st round pick (Chet Pickard; struggled as an ECHL goalie and spent this past season in Europe) and their 3rd round in 2009 (Taylor Beck; is coming off a solid sophomore campaign in the AHL) for the 15th pick (Erik Karlsson). The Sens desperately needed an upgrade on their blueline, particularly on the right side; making a splash when the draft was in Ottawa likely helped the decision.  This is a huge win for Murray.
June 25, 2008 – Traded Brian McGrattan to the Phoenix Coyotes for the Boston Bruins’ fifth-round draft pick in 2009 (Jeff Costello). McGrattan’s substance abuse problems and declining effectiveness made him an asset that needed moving.  This is a win for Murray.
August 29, 2008 – Traded Andrej Meszaros to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Filip Kuba, Alexandre Picard and San Jose’s 1st round draft pick (previously acquired) in 2009 (which was subsequently traded to the Islanders). Meszaros and the team could not come to terms on a contract, so Ottawa did well in bringing in a solid veteran and prospect.  Meszaros never did find success in Tampa, but when moved to Philadelphia responded in a supporting role.  The Sens got more out of the trade (Kuba), so I’ll give this one to Murray.
September 2, 2008 – Traded Lawrence Nycholat to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Ryan Shannon.  Nycholat demanded a trade, so Ottawa exchanged their problem for one the Canucks had (Shannon had a one-way contract the following season).  The Sens definitely won the trade, as Shannon was a solid soldier while he was with the organisation.
November 10, 2008 – Traded Alexander Nikulin to the Phoenix Coyotes for Drew FataNikulin demanded a trade and rather than simply losing the asset to the KHL Ottawa brought in an AHL veteran.  Nikulin struggled with San Antonio and returned to play in the KHL afterward.  Fata signed with Providence after his year in Binghamton, but Ottawa received more tangible value than Phoenix, so it’s a win for Murray.
February 20, 2009 – Traded Dean McAmmond and San Jose’s 1st round draft pick in 2009 (1-26, Kyle Palmieri; a regular NHLer) to the New York Islanders in exchange for Mike Comrie and Chris Campoli. The Sens had no room for McAmmond, so took on Comrie’s onerous and expiring contract to get Campoli on a very cap friendly deal.  Comrie subsequently signed with the Oilers, while Campoli had an up and down career with the Sens before being traded himself (the acquired pick was used as part of the trade to draft Matt Puempel).  The final assessment of the trade is yet to be made, as it has boiled down to Palmieri vs Puempel.
March 4, 2009 – Traded Antoine Vermette to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Pascal Leclaire and a 2nd round draft pick in 2009 (Robin Lehner). Vermette had flat-lined as a player in the organisation; the Sens had to choose between he and Mike Fisher, and while Vermette had more offensive prowess, Fisher was the tougher player to play against.  The trade (including the pick) was intended to solidify the Sens between the pipes.  Vermette had two good seasons with Columbus before being traded, while Leclaire completely failed as a Senator.  Lehner may make Murray a genius, but in the short term this is a loss.

2009 Draft

Considered a deep and talented draft, Ottawa had its first top-ten pick since the 2005; other than Peltz every player has signed an ELC.

1-9 Jared Cowen (WHL) – big blueliner was injured most of his sophomore campaign
2-39 Jakob Silfverberg (SuperElit) – was excellent with Binghamton and solid with Ottawa in his rookie season; traded to Anaheim as part of the Bobby Ryan deal
2-46 Robin Lehner (SuperElit) – the big goaltender played his way into an NHL roster spot
4-100 Chris Wideman (NCAA) – undersized blueliner finished his collegiate career and showed promise in his rookie AHL-season
5-130 Mike Hoffman (QMJHL) – didn’t make the offensive leap in his third pro season
5-146 Jeff Costello (USHL) – gritty winger had a strong junior season in the NCAA
6-160 Corey Cowick (OHL) – gritty winger finally found consistency in his third year in the AHL
7-190 Brad Peltz (EJHL) – sniper left college early to sign an AHL-deal with Binghamton where he only played a few ECHL games; a bust
7-191 Michael Sdao (USHL) – tough blueliner finished his NCAA career and was solid in his brief AHL-stint

2009-10 Contracts

March 4 – Filip Kuba – 3 years/3.7 million; signed after a career year with Ottawa, he’s suffered repeated injury setbacks and became a lightning rod for criticism in 2010-11; enjoyed a strong final year before signing with Florida as a UFA
July 1 – Chris Neil – 4 years/2.0 million; signed after an awful year, was up and down, but has returned to form
July 6 – Alexei Kovalev – 2 years/5.0 million; a surprise signing at the time that failed utterly (if my memory is correct, the reaction at TSN to this was hilarious, but I can’t find the video of it); he was traded to Pittsburgh (2011) for a 7th round pick (Ryan Dzingel)
August 3 – Brian Elliott – 2 years/0.85; a cap friendly deal for a likeable player; unfortunately he lost his confidence in 2010-11 and was traded to Colorado for Craig Anderson; he’s been very good in St. Louis
October 20 – Matt Carkner – 2 years/0.7; a solid rookie season in the NHL was followed by diminishing returns; he signed with the Islanders as a FA
March 29 – Bobby Butler – 2 years/0.9; the highly sought-after NCAA free agent signed a deal similar to Winchester‘s in 2008; he won a Calder Cup in his first full pro season which was not a sign of things to come

Waivers

October 2 – having no room for Christoph Schubert on the roster, Murray was unable to trade the big defensemen; he was picked up by Atlanta on waivers and had a decent season with the Thrashers, but his NHL career is now apparently over (he’s playing in Europe).

2009-10 Coaches

The first season for Murray where who was coaching was not a question; Clouston got the team into the playoffs and was generally given good grades for his performance (Puck Daddy).

2009-10 Trades

June 27 – Traded their 2010 6th round pick (6-166 Drew Czerwonka; was not signed by the Oilers and is playing in the CIS) to Edmonton for their 2009 7th round pick (7-191, Michael Sdao). The Sens considered the 2010 draft to be weak and were high on Sdao, so they made the move.  This is a win even though Sdao‘s pro prospects aren’t yet clear.
July 8, 2009 – Traded Alex Auld to Dallas for San Jose’s 6th round pick (6-178 Mark Stone).  With Elliott established as an NHL player, there was no need for Auld on the roster.  Stone has proven a very valuable prospect so this is a big win.
September 4, 2009 – Traded Shawn Weller to Anaheim for Jason Bailey. A minor-league exchange of disappointing prospects; Weller was in the final year of his rookie contract, while Bailey’s continued through 2010-11.  Neither asset remains with their new organisation.
September 12, 2009 – Traded Dany Heatley and a 5th round draft pick (5-136 Isaac Macleod; he finished his junior year at Boston College) in 2010 to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and San Jose’s 2nd round pick (subsequently moved to the Islanders and then Chicago, 2-58 Kent Simpson; he spent his rookie pro season in the ECHL) in 2010. Heatley had demanded a trade at the end of the season and this was the best deal Murray could get for him.  Cheechoo proved to be a complete bust and was bought out.  Murray was never going to “win” the trade, particularly with a public trade demand from Heatley, but Michalek is at least a tangible asset who is signed long term.  Heatley spent two seasons in San Jose before being moved to Minnesota.
February 12, 2010 – Traded Alexandre Picard and their 2nd round pick in 2011 (subsequently moved to Edmonton, 2-46, Martin Marincin; had an excellent rookie season in the AHL) to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Matt Cullen. Murray paid a steep price for Cullen, who played well in the playoffs, but the team didn’t win and he wasn’t retained.  While Picard wasn’t important, giving up a 2nd round pick makes this a loss for Murray.
March 2, 2010 – Traded San Jose’s 2nd round pick (Kent Simpson) to the New York Islanders in exchange for Andy SuttonSutton never fit in with the Sens (rather like Mike Commodore two years before) and he wasn’t retained, so this is a loss for Murray.
June 25, 2010 – Ottawa traded their 1st overall pick (1-16 Vladimir Tarasenko; he enjoyed an excellent rookie season in the NHL) to St. Louis for prospect David Rundblad (1-17/09; subsequently traded to Phoenix for Kyle Turris). Sens scout Anders Forsberg was very high on Rundblad, who wound up dominating the Swedish Elite League the following season.  Assessing this trade is still three or four years away, but is likely a net loss for Murray.

2010 Draft

Considered a weak draft (link), the Senators had already traded away many of their picks so only made four selections.  Sorensen and Aneloski are no longer in the system while Culek and Stone are signed.

3-76 Jakub Culek (QMJHL) – defensive forward barely played in his overage season in the Q due to injury
4-106 Marcus Sorensen (SuperElit) – undersized energy forward was unable to secure time in the SEL and was not signed
6-178 Mark Stone (WHL) – big skilled winger had a solid (albeit injury-plagued) rookie season in the AHL
7-196 Bryce Aneloski (USHL) – offensive blueliner finished his NCAA career but was not signed by the Sens; now in the ECHL

2010-11 Contracts

July 1 – Sergei Gonchar – 3 years/5.5; considered the best available UFA blueliner, Murray won him over with term; considered a great signing at the time (link), it was occasionally a rocky road
July 1 – Jesse Winchester – 2 years/0.75; there was still belief that he had untapped upside, but I thought a one-year deal would have made more sense; he’s now playing in Europe
July 14 – Bobby Butler – 2 years/1.05; had an awful first full season in the NHL and was subsequently bought-out, signed with New Jersey and then waived and picked up by Nashville
July 21 – Nick Foligno – 2 years/1.2; never did establish himself as a top-six forward, he was traded to Columbus for Marc Methot as an RFA
July 29 – Peter Regin – 2 years/1.0; after a solid rookie year and a great playoff, big things were expected; instead he struggled in his sophomore season and then was injured most of last year; was re-signed to a cap-friendly, one-year deal
February 28 – Chris Phillips – 3 years/3.083; coming in the midst of an awful season, I didn’t like the price or the term for the declining veteran
March 31 – Stephane Da Costa – 2 years/1.325; the highly sought-after NCAA free agent signed a deal similar to Butler‘s in 2010; he wasn’t ready for the NHL and was inconsistent in the AHL; he was re-signed as an RFA

Buyouts

June 29 – Jonathan Cheechoo was bought out.  I don’t think Murray deserves much criticism here, as no one anticipated Cheechoo as being as completely finished as he has proven to be.

2010-11 Coaches

Cory Clouston was seen as an up-and-coming coach who had worked some magic to get the team into the playoffs.  Not everyone was a believer (The Hockey News), but the team entered the season with a lot of optimism (link).  Everything went wrong for Clouston.  When his goalies played well the team couldn’t score.  When the goalies didn’t play well the team still couldn’t score.  Players were disagreeing with him publically (look at November 30th link).  For a time it looked like Ottawa would be the worst team in the NHL.  With the season clearly over and a rebuild beginning, the team’s play picked up, but Clouston’s fate was sealed.  There was a lot of criticism over Clouston’s inability to communicate with players as well as his varying standards for how play effected ice time.  I believe the former trait made the latter worse.  For Clouston to get another chance in the NHL he’s going to have to find a new approach to handling NHL players (he spent last year in the WHL).

After Clouston was dismissed the Senators looked for a new coach.  Calder Cup winning Kurt Kleinendorst was among the top contenders, but Murray ultimately went with a man he knew from his days in Anaheim–Detroit assistant coach Paul MacLean.  MacLean had spent eight years as Mike Babcock’s assistant, with previous head coaching experience in the IHL and UHL (winning the Colonial Cup in the latter in 2000-01).  Kleindorst had better winning pedigree (ECHL, BISL, and AHL championships to go along with his U-18 gold medal), but MacLean proved himself in his rookie campaign by leading the Sens into the playoffs and making them a tough opponent for the Rangers in the first round.

2010-11 Trades

February 10, 2011 – traded Mike Fisher to Nashville for a 1st round pick (1-21 Stefan Noesen) and a conditional 2nd round pick in 2012 (voided). The trade kicked off the rebuild.  At the time the Senators were 17-30-8 and going nowhere.  Fisher had a big contract with term left (two more years).  Noesen was subsequently packed for Bobby Ryan which makes this a clear win.
February 16, 2011 – traded Chris Kelly to Boston for a 2nd round pick (2-61 Shane Prince). The likeable Kelly was better served on a team that was in contention and went on to help Boston win the Stanley Cup.  His contract (too much for a third-line center) and age brought about the move.  He’s re-signed with the Bruins.  As with the previous trade, this one can’t be assessed yet.
February 17, 2011 – traded Jarkko Ruutu to Anaheim for a 6th round pick (6-171 Max McCormick). Ruutu never found a comfort zone in Ottawa and getting something for the impending UFA was better than nothing (Ruutu remains out of the NHL). This is a win for Murray.
February 18, 2011 – traded Brian Elliott to Colorado for Craig Anderson. The trade that gave the team hope also dashed their chances for a top-three pick.  Anderson was in the midst of a horrible funk in Colorado and needed a change in scenery, while Elliott had completely lost his confidence.  This is a win for Murray.
February 24, 2011 – traded Alexei Kovalev to Pittsburgh for a conditional 7th round pick (7-204 Ryan Dzingel). Getting something for Kovalev was an achievement for Murray and makes this a win.  Kovalev subsequently played in the KHL.
February 28, 2011 – traded Chris Campoli and a conditional pick (voided) to Chicago for Ryan Potulny and a 2nd round pick (2-48, later traded to Detroit to select Matt Puempel; Detroit selected Xavier Ouellet; was solid in his final year in the Q). Campoli was no longer in Ottawa’s plans and they picked up an AHL-asset in Potulny who would help Binghamton win the Calder Cup.  Chicago walked away from Campoli‘s arbitration award and he then signed with Montreal (he’s now a UFA).  This is a win for Murray in the short-term, but ultimately boils down to Puempel vs Ouellet.
June 24, 2011 – traded two 2nd round picks (their own, 2-35 Tomas Jurco (had a middling rookie season in the AHL), and the one acquired from Chicago, 2-48, Xavier Ouelette) for Detroit’s 1st round selection (1-24 Matt Puempel). The Sens were high on Puempel, who they considered for the 21st overall pick, so jumped at the opportunity to get him.  Time will tell on the trade.
June 25, 2011 – traded their 3rd round pick (3-67 T. J. Tynan) to Columbus for Nikita Filatov. Filatov wanted out of Columbus, but there wasn’t much interest in the NHL.  I liked the gamble, but Filatov was unable to stick in the NHL line-up and returned to Russia.  The Sens have retained his rights, but loss this deal in the short-term (truly assessing the deal will depend on Tynan‘s development (he had a rough junior year in the NCAA)).

Waivers

February 24, 2011 – picked up Marek Svatos from Nashville on the waiver wire.  Desperately in need of NHL bodies, Svatos didn’t achieve much before being concussed by Jay Rosehill.  There was never any intention of keeping him and he did not play last season.
February 28, 2011 – picked up Curtis McElhinney from Tampa on the waiver wire.  McElhinney allowed Robin Lehner to stay in the minors and he was decent as the season wound down.  There was never any serious consideration of keeping him and played for Portland in the AHL last year (he subsequently signed a two-way deal with Columbus).

2011 Draft

The draft lacked the high-end talent of previous years, but was considered to have good depth.  Because of Ottawa’s trades they had a plethora of picks to re-stock the organisation (for full scouting reports go here).

1-6 Mika Zibanejad (SEL) – looked better in Ottawa than Binghamton this past season, but still rough around the edges
1-21 Stefan Noesen (OHL) – power forward enjoyed a solid final year of junior hockey before being traded in the Bobby Ryan deal
1-24 Matt Puempel (OHL) – had a solid finish to his OHL career
2-61 Shane Prince (OHL) – undersized forward showed promise as an AHL rookie
4-96 Jean-Gabriel Pageau (QMJHL) – after a slow start as a pro enjoyed a great late run in the NHL
5-126 Fredrik Claesson (SEL) – solid AHL season from the Swedish rookie
6-156 Darren Kramer (WHL) – spent a lot of time in the ECHL during his rookie season
6-171 Max McCormick (USHL) – gritty forward had a solid sophomore season in the NCAA
7-186 Jordan Fransoo (WHL) – big blueliner didn’t develop as much as needed and was not signed
7-204 Ryan Dzingel (USHL) – skilled forward enjoyed an excellent sophomore season in the NCAA

2011-12 Contracts

March 21 – Craig Anderson – 4 years/3.1875; too much term for my liking, but Anderson was excellent this past season
May 19 – Zack Smith – 2 years/0.7; well-deserved contract, he’s coming off an up and down year this season
May 19 – Colin Greening – 3 years/0.816,667; provides solid if unspectacular play
July 1 – Alex Auld – 1 year/1.0; was even more terrible than expected; his NHL career is over (played in Austria this past season)
July 5 – Zenon Konopka – 1 year/0.7; the popular forward didn’t play much and signed with Minnesota the following season
July 6 – Erik Condra – 2 years/0.625; not much pop in his offensive game, but provided a ton of intangibles

2011-12 Coaches

Paul MacLean was excellent in his rookie season as the Sens head coach (41-31-10), unexpectedly leading the team to a playoff birth and making them a tough seven-game out for the New York Rangers.

2011-12 Trades

December 11 – Traded their 2013 7th round pick (John Gilmour) to Chicago (which then was moved to Calgary) for Rob Klinkhammer; the move was meant to help Binghamton, which he did before being called to duty in Ottawa to round out the season; he subsequently signed in Phoenix; unless Gilmour turns into an NHLer this was a good trade for Ottawa
December 17 – Traded David Rundblad and their 2nd round pick to Phoenix (subsequently moved to Philadelphia, who picked Anthony Stolarz; he struggled in the NCAA, but was solid in the OHL this season) for Kyle Turris.  The Sens were desperate for a second-line center and Turris was demanding out of Phoenix.  This trade has to be measured against both Rundblad and Tarasenko, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out, but it really does address an organisational need (assuming Turris develops as expected).
February 26 – Traded their 2013 2nd round pick (Tommy Vannelli) to St. Louis for Ben Bishop.  At the time Craig Anderson was hurt and the team was desperate to add goaltending depth as Robin Lehner was having an off-season.  Bishop was subsequently traded to Tampa for Cory Conacher and a 4th-round pick (Tobias Lindberg), so the latter plus the pick will be assessed against Bishop and Vannelli.
February 27 – Traded Brian Lee to Tampa Bay for Matt Gilroy.  Two players who were failing in their respective organisations, given that the Lightning have re-signed Lee (who did not play well this season) and Gilroy was allowed to walk, this is a loss for Murray.
July 1 – Traded Nick Foligno to Columbus for Marc MethotFoligno was an RFA and clearly the Sens were not sure that he would ever become a full time top-six forward, so they exchanged him for a defensive defenseman.  Methot was excellent in his first year in Ottawa, while Foligno (signed by the Blue Jackets to a big deal, 3 years/3.083) did not show signs of evolving into a better player, so this is a win for Murray.

2012 Draft

Thought to be a weak draft, the Sens made seven selections with no second round pick for the third year in a row; none of the prospects are expected to crack the lineup this upcoming season (for full scouting reports for each player go here).

1-15 Cody Ceci (OHL) – offensive defenseman helps fill an organisational need after the departure of Rundblad; enjoyed a strong end to his junior career
3-76 Chris Driedger (WHL) – his strong performance earned him consideration from team Canada’s WJC braintrust
3-82 Jarrod Maidens (OHL) – skilled forward still isn’t fully recovered from a serious concussion
4-106 Tim Boyle (USHS) – an off the radar selection who didn’t play much in his NCAA rookie season
5-136 Robbie Baillargeon (USHL) – the talented forward struggled until traded in his final USHL season
6-166 Francois Brassard (QMJHL) – a strong season as Quebec’s starting goaltender
7-196 Mikael Wikstrand (Allsvenskan) – defensive defenseman put up big numbers while playing with locked out NHLers, but lost his zip post-lockout; will spend another season in Sweden

2012-13 Contracts

May 4 – Peter Regin – 1 year/0.8; coming off an injury-plagued year the Sens rolled the dice on him staying healthy, but his play simply didn’t measure up
June 19 – Erik Karlsson – 7 years/6.5; the Norris Trophy winner signed a cap-friendly, long-term deal with the club which serves both well so long as he can stay healthy
July 1 – Mike Lundin – 1 year/1.15; the injury-prone, offensively limited blueliner was awful in limited duty; signed in the KHL
July 1 – Guillaume Latendresse – 1 year/2.0; the injury-prone winger suffered from injury and inconsistent play and was let go
July 11 – Chris Neil – 3 years/1.9; a good deal for both sides
July 18 – Jim O’Brien – 2 years/0.637; a solid deal to fill out the bottom of the lineup, he fell out of favour with the coaching staff this season leaving his future cloudy
July 23 – Kaspars Daugavins – 1 year/0.635; a similar deal to O’Brien‘s, but with less commitment, he was waived and picked up by Boston late in the season; currently a UFA

Buyouts

This summer saw the end of the road for highly touted college free agent Bobby Butler.  Despite ample opportunities he struggled badly enough that no other team would take a chance on him at his current salary.  It’s hard to criticise Murray for giving him the deal, but with all the prospects in the wings there was no room for Butler.  He joins a now lengthy list of free agents signed out of college post-lockout who have failed in the NHL (Gilroy, Hanson, Wellman, etc), making me wonder just how much talent is really hidden there.

2012-13 Coaches

MacLean’s magic continued as he willed the injury-bedevilled Sens into the playoffs (25-17-6) and through the first round before getting steamrolled by Pittsburgh.

2012-13 Trades

March 12 – Traded their 2014 6th-round pick to Minnesota for one-dimensional enforcer Matt Kassian; a kneejerk move that did nothing to help the team’s performance (they were 8-8 with him in the lineup during the regular season); if the Wild pick is a dud than the move isn’t quite as bad
April 3 – Traded Ben Bishop to Tampa for Cory Conacher and a 4th-round pick (Tobias Lindberg); Bishop had lost the duel against Robin Lehner to back-up Anderson and as a pending free agent was moved; it will be some time before the trade can be assessed, but the Sens did well to get what they did for an asset they had to move anyway
June 7 – Traded Sergei Gonchar to Dallas for a conditional 6th-round pick (the condition was met when Gonchar signed with the Stars, the Sens picked Chris Leblanc); Ottawa wasn’t going to meet the 39-year old’s contract demands, so getting something for him is a win for Murray
July 5 – Traded Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen, and their 2014 1st-round pick to acquire Bobby Ryan from Anaheim; the Sens clearly got the best player in the deal, but acquiring the power forward required a hefty price–judgement, as always, will take some time
July 9 – Traded Pat Cannone to St. Louis for future considerations; Cannone had a lousy sophomore season in Binghamton and was scheduled to make a fat AHL salary the following year; moving him is a win

Waivers

March 27 – Kaspars Daugavins was picked up by Boston; it was a rough season for the popular Latvian who spent much of his time in the pressbox; there was no room for him in Ottawa so getting him off the roster is a win for Murray

2013 Draft

Considered an average draft, the Sens made seven selections with no second round pick for the fourth year in a row; none of the prospects are expected to crack the lineup this upcoming season (for full scouting reports for each player go here).

1-17 Curtis Lazar (OHL) – character pick is expected to play for Canada at the WJC
3-78 Marcus Hogberg (Swe Jr) – big, raw talented goaltender is expected to start regularly in the Allsvenskan
4-102 Tobias Lindberg (Swe Jr) – off-the-wall rightwinger is a long term project who likely will play another season of junior in Sweden
4-108 Ben Harpur (OHL) – big defenseman is a project who will spend more time in junior this coming season
5-138 Vincent Dunn (QMJHL) – agitator is a couple of years away
6-161 Chris Leblanc (EJHL) – off-the-waller will play with Merrimack in the NCAA
6-168 Quentin Shore (NCAA) – blueliner will continue his collegiate career at Denver

Contracts 2013-14

July 5 – Clarke MacArthur – 2 years/3.25; did not fit into Toronto’s system, the top-six forward soaks up the spot presumably taken by Silfverberg prior to him being traded
July 8 – Joe Corvo – 1 year/0.9k; vet who forced his way out of Ottawa not long ago returns on a cheap, one year deal where he’s expected to round out the bottom of the blueline
July 12 – Erik Condra – 2 years/1.25; re-signed possession wiz got a well-deserved raise
July 22 – Patrick Wiercioch – 3 years/2.0; offensive-blueliner signed a good deal off a limited sample size

There are a couple of more RFA situations to sort out and as they are I’ll add them here.

Overall

As it stands, that is the complete record for Bryan Murray.  He has been the GM for five years during which he’s made the playoffs three times (losing in the first round each time), hired four coaches, and seen the core of the 2007 Stanley Cup final wither away.  So, by category, here’s how I assess him:

The Draft: A, excellent.  The cupboard was bare when Murray took over and now it is starting to overflow.  The 2008, 2009, and 2011 drafts were considered excellent, while 2010 is disappointing (it’s too early to judge 2012 and 2013).  The pump is primed and the Senators should have successive waves of quality players filtering into the organisation for years to come.
Contracts: C, mediocre.  I have his score at 22-19-4 (with the third column representing either results that are yet to be determined or that were neither good nor bad).  Murray’s free agent signings remain a weak point.
Trades: B+, good.  I have his score at 18-9-10 (very few are draws, most in the third column are yet to be determined).  Murray’s deadline deals to help playoff pushes have been his biggest failures.
Coaches: C, average.  Three failed coaches are only gradually being made up for by one excellent hire.
Overall: B+, good.  Murray has been a better builder than contender, but time may seem him overcome the latter challenge as well.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Assessing Bryan Murray (updated)

On April 8th, 2011, with one game remaining in a failed season, the Ottawa Senators re-signed GM Bryan Murray to a three-year deal.  The most obvious question at the time was why?  Clearly ownership saw Murray as the best man to rebuild the team that crumbled beneath him in 2010-11 and this past season indicated that belief was well-founded.  There’s no guarantee the Sens rebuild will continue in a positive direction, but it’s worth looking back at the work Murray has done as Ottawa’s general manager.

Bryan Murray took over from John Muckler on June 18th, 2007, just six days before the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.  I’ve read criticism of Murray regarding that draft, but there’s no question that the selections were made with Muckler’s scouting staff and guided by their philosophy.

2007 Draft

Considered a weak draft at the time (see McKeen’s, for a more optimistic view here’s Sports Illustrated; for a look at the overall success of the draft go here), Ottawa made four selections, trading away their final three picks to Tampa for a fourth round pick in the 2008 draft (Derek Grant).

1-29 Jim O’Brien (NCAA)
Looked like a failed pick after his rookie season in Binghamton, but by the end of his ELC proved he could be a useful fourth-liner
2-60 Ruslan Bashkirov (QMJHL)
A bust who was never signed and now plays tier-2 hockey in Russia
3-90 Louie Caporusso (OPJHL)
The undersized forward spent his rookie year largely in the ECHL and as a four-year NCAA grad it doesn’t look like he has NHL-potential
4-120 Ben Blood (USHS)
Big blueliner completed his final year in the NCAA and joins Binghamton as a rookie in this upcoming season; looks like a depth player

2007-08 Contracts

June 22 – Dean McAmmond – 2 years/1.4; a solid player, but his numbers dropped considerably before he was shipped out to the New York Islanders
July 3 – Matt Carkner – 2 years/0.5; made his way from the AHL to the NHL level
July 24 – Ray Emery – 3 years/3.166; re-signing the starting goalie in the Cup run seemed like a no-brainer, but was bought out the next year
July 31 – Chris Kelly – 1 year/1.263; based on his strong play when Spezza and Fisher were injured
August 7 – Luke Richardson – 1 year/0.5; a depth signing who never quite delivered
September 17 – Mike Fisher – 5 years/4.2; I thought at the time it was too much money and too much term; traded to Nashville in 2011
October 3 – Dany Heatley – 6 years/7.5; thought to be solid signing at the time (link), forced a trade to San Jose (2009) and is now in Minnesota (2011)
October 16 – Randy Robitaille – 1 year/0.625; a depth signing out of Russia, the Sens hoped he would provide some scoring depth (link), but he did not.  The following season saw him playing in Switzerland
November 2 – Jason Spezza – 7 years/7.0; I liked the contract at the time and still do

2007-08 Coaches

Murray hired John Paddock, who had been his assistant the past two years and was a long time AHL coach (with a distant and lousy NHL coaching record from his days with Winnipeg, 281-106-138-37).  Paddock got the team off to a fantastic start (15-2), but wore out his best players and the team quickly slid down the standings. Paddock was fired February 27th, after two embarrassing back-to-back shutout losses, finishing with a 36-22-6 record (he’s since struggled to get head coaching positions in the AHL).  Murray took over and the team barely made the playoffs where they were promptly swept by the Penguins.

While the Paddock hiring may have seemed like a logical step to Murray—a solid minor league resume  and his assistant—he was hardly the best coach available, so Murray deserves criticism for the hire (as he has suggested himself since).

Buyouts

June 20 – Ottawa waived and then bought out Ray Emery; his play was only partially the issue.  Because of his age the cost of the buyout was reasonable.  Emery had to go to the KHL to salvage his NHL career, which now seems solidified as a quality backup.

2007-08 Trades

June 23 – Ottawa’s 5th (Matt Marshall; was not signed by Tampa after four years in the NCAA), 7th (Torrie Jung; was not signed by Tampa and has spent the past two seasons in the CHL), and 7th (Justin Courtnall; finished his third unremarkable season in the NCAA) to Tampa for a 4th in 2008 (Derek Grant; completed his rookie season with Binghamton last year). The thought here was that the following year’s draft was much stronger and deeper and it appears as though Murray was right.  This is a win for Murray.
July 17, 2007 – Traded Peter Schaefer to the Boston Bruins in exchange for Shean Donovan. Muckler overpaid Schaefer, whose cumbersome contract wound up being buried in the minors and then bought out by the Bruins.  Donovan was a solid soldier for Ottawa, although there wasn’t much gas left in the tank.  This is a win for Murray.
February 11, 2008 – Traded Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves to the Carolina Hurricanes for Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman.  Corvo demanded a trade, so Murray didn’t have many options; Eaves struggled with injuries.  Commodore turned out to be a complete bust for the Sens (and subsequently for Columbus, who bought him out), but Stillman was an adequate rental.  None of the four players are still with the teams they were traded too.  Given that the trade failed to help the Sens in the playoffs this is a loss for Murray.
February 26, 2008 – Traded a sixth-round draft pick in 2008 (6-169, Ben Smith, who has 19 NHL games under his belt and is a solid prospect) to the Chicago Blackhawks for Martin LapointeLapointe was supposed to provide grit for the Sens, but his best days were long behind him and he was a disappointment.  Lapointe subsequently retired.  This is a failure on Murray’s part.

2008 Draft

Considered a good draft year (link) and the selections can be said to truly reflect Murray’s philosophy.  All the players selected have been signed except for Emil Sandin (who is now a UFA).

1-15 Erik Karlsson (SuperElit) – won the Norris Trophy this past season
2-42 Patrick Wiercioch (USHL) – lanky blueliner experienced his second straight inconsistent season in Binghamton
3-79 Zack Smith (WHL) – gritty center enjoyed his first full season as an NHL-regular
4-109 Andre Petersson (SuperElit) – skilled winger had a strong rookie year in Binghamton
4-119 Derek Grant (BCHL) – lanky center had an up and down rookie season with Binghamton
5-139 Mark Borowiecki (CJHL) – punishing blueliner enjoyed a fantastic rookie season with Binghamton
7-199 Emil Sandin (SuperElit) – smallish winger failed to be a regular player in the SEL and hasn’t been retained

2008-09 Contracts

March 25 – Jesse Winchester – 2 years/0.55; signed as a free agent out of college, Winchester didn’t produce offensively as planned, but turned into a solid grinder; he’s currently a UFA
June 21 – Chris Kelly – 4 years/2.125 million; signed prior to becoming a UFA, Kelly continued to put up his usual numbers before being traded to Boston (2011)
July 2 – Jarkko Ruutu – 3 years/1.3 million; signed after reaching the Cup final with Pittsburgh, he didn’t deliver what was expected while he was with the Sens and was eventually traded to Anaheim (2011) for a 6th round pick (Max McCormick); he’s played in Finland since
July 2 – Shean Donovan – 2 years/0.65; a cap friendly contract, but Donovan had nothing left in the tank and only played 90 games over those two seasons; he’s now retired
July 8 – Jason Smith – 2 years/2.6; a bad contract for a player who didn’t have gas left in the tank, he retired before the second year of his deal and now works for the organisation
July 31 – Antoine Vermette – 2 years/2.75 million; unable to produce enough as a top six player in Ottawa, he was traded to Columbus in the first year of his deal for Pascal Leclaire and a 2nd round pick (Robin Lehner); he’s now with Phoenix
September 27 – Luke Richardson – 1 year/0.5; unable to stay in the lineup, he retired November 27th and stayed with the organisation.  He’s now Binghamton’s head coach
October 30 – Daniel Alfredsson – 4 years/4.875 million; an excellent contract that should see Alfie through to retirement

2008-09 Coaches

Murray hired Craig Hartsburg, who was coming off back-to-back World Junior wins.  Hartsburg had a good track record in junior, but his NHL record was mediocre (albeit more extensive than Paddock’s, 443-184-184-69).  Hartsburg was not a strong systems coach and the team struggled under his regime.  Finally, on February 1st, Hartsburg was fired after accumulating a 17-24-7 record (he went back to junior for two season and is now an NHL assistant coach).  Cory Clouston, enjoying a strong season in Binghamton, was brought up as the interim coach.  The team responded well under Clouston’s more structured approach and he was signed to a two-year deal.

Murray deserves criticism for the Hartsburg signing, who again was not the strongest candidate available.  The team struggled all season long and the coach was allowed to linger longer than was needed.  The Clouston hiring was much like the Paddock hiring–done without competition.

2008-09 Trades

June 20, 2008 – Traded their 1st round pick (Chet Pickard; has struggled as an ECHL goalie) and their 3rd round in 2009 (Taylor Beck; is coming off a solid rookie campaign in the AHL) for the 15th pick (Erik Karlsson). The Sens desperately needed an upgrade on their blueline, particularly on the right side; making a splash when the draft was in Ottawa likely helped the decision.  This is a huge win for Murray.
June 25, 2008 – Traded Brian McGrattan to the Phoenix Coyotes for the Boston Bruins’ fifth-round draft pick in 2009 (Jeff Costello). McGrattan’s substance abuse problems and declining effectiveness made him an asset that needed moving.  This is a win for Murray.
August 29, 2008 – Traded Andrej Meszaros to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Filip Kuba, Alexandre Picard and San Jose’s 1st round draft pick (previously acquired) in 2009 (which was subsequently traded to the Islanders). Meszaros and the team could not come to terms on a contract, so Ottawa did well in bringing in a solid veteran and prospect.  Meszaros never did find success in Tampa, but when moved to Philadelphia responded in a supporting role.  The Sens got more out of the trade (Kuba), so I’ll give this one to Murray.
September 2, 2008 – Traded Lawrence Nycholat to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Ryan Shannon.  Nycholat demanded a trade, so Ottawa exchanged their problem for one the Canucks had (Shannon had a one-way contract the following season).  The Sens definitely won the trade, as Shannon was a solid soldier while he was with the organisation.
November 10, 2008 – Traded Alexander Nikulin to the Phoenix Coyotes for Drew FataNikulin demanded a trade and rather than simply losing the asset to the KHL Ottawa brought in an AHL veteran.  Nikulin struggled with San Antonio and returned to play in the KHL afterward.  Fata signed with Providence after his year in Binghamton, but Ottawa received more tangible value than Phoenix, so it’s a win for Murray.
February 20, 2009 – Traded Dean McAmmond and San Jose’s 1st round draft pick in 2009 (1-26, Kyle Palmieri; after two pro seasons he looks to solidify himself as a regular NHLer) to the New York Islanders in exchange for Mike Comrie and Chris Campoli. The Sens had no room for McAmmond, so took on Comrie’s onerous and expiring contract to get Campoli on a very cap friendly deal.  Comrie subsequently signed with the Oilers, while Campoli had an up and down career with the Sens before being traded himself (the acquired pick was used as part of the trade to draft Matt Puempel).  The final assessment of the trade is yet to be made, as it has boiled down to Palmieri vs Puempel.
March 4, 2009 – Traded Antoine Vermette to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Pascal Leclaire and a 2nd round draft pick in 2009 (Robin Lehner). Vermette had flat-lined as a player in the organisation; the Sens had to choose between he and Mike Fisher, and while Vermette had more offensive prowess, Fisher was the tougher player to play against.  The trade (including the pick) was intended to solidify the Sens between the pipes.  Vermette had two good seasons with Columbus before being traded, while Leclaire completely failed as a Senator.  Lehner may make Murray a genius, but in the short term this is a loss.

2009 Draft

Considered a deep and talented draft, Ottawa had its first top-ten pick since the 2005; every non-college player has been signed.

1-9 Jared Cowen (WHL) – big blueliner enjoyed a solid rookie season in the NHL
2-39 Jakob Silfverberg (SuperElit) – two-way forward won awards and a championship in the SEL and should start in the NHL next season
2-46 Robin Lehner (SuperElit) – big goaltender suffered through a tough sophomore year in Binghamton
4-100 Chris Wideman (NCAA) – undersized blueliner finished his collegiate career and will be in Binghamton
5-130 Mike Hoffman (QMJHL) – skilled forward lead Binghamton in scoring in his sophomore year
5-146 Jeff Costello (USHL) – gritty winger had an up and down year in the NCAA
6-160 Corey Cowick (OHL) – gritty winger struggled with consistency in his sophomore year in the AHL
7-190 Brad Peltz (EJHL) – sniper played his first NCAA games; beginning to look like a bust
7-191 Michael Sdao (USHL) – tough blueliner had a great year in the NCAA and this coming season will be his senior year

2009-10 Contracts

March 4 – Filip Kuba – 3 years/3.7 million; signed after a career year with Ottawa, he’s suffered repeated injury setbacks and became a lightning rod for criticism in 2010-11; enjoyed a strong year this past season and has signed with Florida as a UFA
July 1 – Chris Neil – 4 years/2.0 million; signed after an awful year, was up and down, but was back to form this past season
July 6 – Alexei Kovalev – 2 years/5.0 million; a surprise signing at the time that failed utterly (if my memory is correct, the reaction at TSN to this was hilarious, but I can’t find the video of it); he was traded to Pittsburgh (2011) for a 7th round pick (Ryan Dzingel)
August 3 – Brian Elliott – 2 years/0.85; a cap friendly deal for a likeable player; unfortunately he lost his confidence in 2010-11 and was traded to Colorado for Craig Anderson; he rebounded with a great year in St. Louis this past season
October 20 – Matt Carkner – 2 years/0.7; a solid rookie season in the NHL was followed by diminishing returns; he signed with the Islanders as a FA
March 29 – Bobby Butler – 2 years/0.9; the highly sought-after NCAA free agent signed a deal similar to Winchester‘s in 2008; he won a Calder Cup in his first full pro season

Re-Entry Waivers

October 2 – having no room for Christoph Schubert on the roster, Murray was unable to trade the big defensemen; he was picked up by Atlanta on waivers and had a decent season with the Thrashers, but his NHL career is now apparently over (he’s now playing in Europe).

2009-10 Coaches

The first season for Murray where who was coaching was not a question; Clouston got the team into the playoffs and was generally given good grades for his performance (Puck Daddy).

2009-10 Trades

June 27 – Traded their 2010 6th round pick (6-166 Drew Czerwonka; was not signed by the Oilers) to Edmonton for their 2009 7th round pick (7-191, Michael Sdao). The Sens considered the 2010 draft to be weak and were high on Sdao, so they made the move.  This is a win even though Sdao‘s pro prospects aren’t yet clear.
July 8, 2009 – Traded Alex Auld to Dallas for San Jose’s 6th round pick (6-178 Mark Stone).  With Elliott established as an NHL player, there was no need for Auld on the roster.  Stone has proven a very valuable prospect so this is a big win.
September 4, 2009 – Traded Shawn Weller to Anaheim for Jason Bailey. A minor-league exchange of disappointing prospects; Weller was in the final year of his rookie contract, while Bailey’s continued through 2010-11.  Neither asset remains with their new organisation.
September 12, 2009 – Traded Dany Heatley and a 5th round draft pick (5-136 Isaac Macleod; he finished his sophomore year at Boston College) in 2010 to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and San Jose’s 2nd round pick (subsequently moved to the Islanders and then Chicago, 2-58 Kent Simpson; he’ll begin his pro career this upcoming season) in 2010. Heatley had demanded a trade at the end of the season and this was the best deal Murray could get for him.  Cheechoo proved to be a complete bust and was bought out.  Murray was never going to “win” the trade, particularly with a public trade demand from Heatley, but Michalek is at least a tangible asset who is signed long term.  Heatley spent two seasons in San Jose before being moved to Minnesota.
February 12, 2010 – Traded Alexandre Picard and their 2nd round pick in 2011 (subsequently moved to Edmonton, 2-46, Martin Marincin; an excellent WHLer; he’ll begin his AHL career this coming season) to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Matt Cullen. Murray paid a steep price for Cullen, who played well in the playoffs, but the team didn’t win and he wasn’t retained.  While Picard wasn’t important, giving up a 2nd round pick makes this a loss for Murray.
March 2, 2010 – Traded San Jose’s 2nd round pick (Kent Simpson) to the New York Islanders in exchange for Andy SuttonSutton never fit in with the Sens (rather like Mike Commodore two years before) and he wasn’t retained, so this is a loss for Murray.
June 25, 2010 – Ottawa traded their 1st overall pick (1-16 Vladimir Tarasenko; he’ll begin his NHL career this coming season) to St. Louis for prospect David Rundblad (1-17/09; subsequently traded to Phoenix for Kyle Turris). Sens scout Anders Forsberg was very high on Rundblad, who wound up dominating the Swedish Elite League the following season.  Assessing this trade is still three or four years away, but is likely a net loss for Murray.

2010 Draft

Considered a weak draft (link), the Senators had already traded away many of their picks so only made four selections.  Sorensen is no longer in the system while Culek and Stone are signed.

3-76 Jakub Culek (QMJHL) – defensive forward signed with the Sens after a mediocre career in the Q
4-106 Marcus Sorensen (SuperElit) – undersized energy forward was unable to secure time in the SEL; he was not signed and is now a FA
6-178 Mark Stone (WHL) – big skilled winger finished a spectacular WHL career; he’ll begin his pro career this upcoming season
7-196 Bryce Aneloski (USHL) – offensive blueliner enjoyed a solid sophomore season in the NCAA

2010-11 Contracts

July 1 – Sergei Gonchar – 3 years/5.5; considered the best available UFA blueliner, Murray won him over with term; considered a great signing at the time (link), it’s been much more controversial since
July 1 – Jesse Winchester – 2 years/0.75; there was still belief that he had untapped upside, but I thought a one-year deal would have made more sense; he’s now an unsigned UFA
July 14 – Bobby Butler – 2 years/1.05; had an awful first full season in the NHL and was subsequently bought-out
July 21 – Nick Foligno – 2 years/1.2; never did establish himself as a top-six forward, he was traded to Columbus for Marc Methot as an RFA
July 29 – Peter Regin – 2 years/1.0; after a solid rookie year and a great playoff, big things were expected; instead he struggled in his sophomore season and then was injured most of last year; was re-signed to a cap-friendly, one-year deal
March 31 – Stephane Da Costa – 2 years/1.325; the highly sought-after NCAA free agent signed a deal similar to Butler‘s in 2010; he wasn’t ready for the NHL and was inconsistent in the AHL; he was re-signed as an RFA

Buyouts

June 29 – Jonathan Cheechoo was bought out.  I don’t think Murray deserves much criticism here, as no one anticipated Cheechoo as being as completely finished as he has proven to be.

2010-11 Coaches

Cory Clouston was seen as an up-and-coming coach who had worked some magic to get the team into the playoffs.  Not everyone was a believer (The Hockey News), but the team entered the season with a lot of optimism (link).  Everything went wrong for Clouston.  When his goalies played well the team couldn’t score.  When the goalies didn’t play well the team still couldn’t score.  Players were disagreeing with him publically (look at November 30th link).  For a time it looked like Ottawa would be the worst team in the NHL.  With the season clearly over and a rebuild beginning, the team’s play picked up, but Clouston’s fate was sealed.  There was a lot of criticism over Clouston’s inability to communicate with players as well as his varying standards for how play effected ice time.  I believe the former trait made the latter worse.  For Clouston to get another chance in the NHL he’s going to have to find a new approach to handling NHL players (he spent last year in the WHL).

After Clouston was dismissed the Senators looked for a new coach.  Calder Cup winning Kurt Kleinendorst was among the top contenders, but Murray ultimately went with a man he knew from his days in Anaheim–Detroit assistant coach Paul MacLean.  MacLean had spent eight years as Mike Babcock’s assistant, with previous head coaching experience in the IHL and UHL (winning the Colonial Cup in the latter in 2000-01).  Kleindorst had better winning pedigree (ECHL, BISL, and AHL championships to go along with his U-18 gold medal), but MacLean proved himself in his rookie campaign by leading the Sens into the playoffs and making them a tough opponent for the Rangers in the first round.

2010-11 Trades

February 10, 2011 – traded Mike Fisher to Nashville for a 1st round pick (1-21 Stefan Noesen) and a conditional 2nd round pick in 2012 (voided). The trade kicked off the rebuild.  At the time the Senators were 17-30-8 and going nowhere.  Fisher had a big contract with term left (two more years).  It will be years before the trade can be assessed.
February 16, 2011 – traded Chris Kelly to Boston for a 2nd round pick (2-61 Shane Prince). The likeable Kelly was better served on a team that was in contention and went on to help Boston win the Stanley Cup.  His contract (too much for a third-line center) and age brought about the move.  He’s re-signed with the Bruins.  As with the previous trade, this one can’t be assessed yet.
February 17, 2011 – traded Jarkko Ruutu to Anaheim for a 6th round pick (6-171 Max McCormick). Ruutu never found a comfort zone in Ottawa and getting something for the impending UFA was better than nothing (Ruutu remains out of the NHL). This is a win for Murray.
February 18, 2011 – traded Brian Elliott to Colorado for Craig Anderson. The trade that gave the team hope also dashed their chances for a top-three pick.  Anderson was in the midst of a horrible funk in Colorado and needed a change in scenery, while Elliott had completely lost his confidence.  This is a win for Murray.
February 24, 2011 – traded Alexei Kovalev to Pittsburgh for a conditional 7th round pick (7-204 Ryan Dzingel). Getting something for Kovalev was an achievement for Murray and makes this a win.  Kovalev subsequently played in the KHL.
February 28, 2011 – traded Chris Campoli and a conditional pick (voided) to Chicago for Ryan Potulny and a 2nd round pick (2-48, later traded to Detroit to select Matt Puempel; Detroit selected Xavier Ouellet). Campoli was no longer in Ottawa’s plans and they picked up an AHL-asset in Potulny who would help Binghamton win the Calder Cup.  Chicago walked away from Campoli‘s arbitration award and he then signed with Montreal (he’s now a UFA).  This is a win for Murray.
June 24, 2011 – traded two 2nd round picks (their own, 2-35 Tomas Jurco, and the one acquired from Chicago, 2-48, Xavier Ouelette) for Detroit’s 1st round selection (1-24 Matt Puempel). The Sens were high on Puempel, who they considered for the 21st overall pick, so jumped at the opportunity to get him.  Time will tell on the trade.
June 25, 2011 – traded their 3rd round pick (3-67 T. J. Tynan) to Columbus for Nikita Filatov. Filatov wanted out of Columbus, but there wasn’t much interest in the NHL.  I liked the gamble, but Filatov was unable to stick in the NHL line-up and returned to Russia.  The Sens have retained his rights, but assessing the deal will depend on Tynan‘s development.

Waivers

February 24, 2011 – picked up Marek Svatos from Nashville on the waiver wire.  Desperately in need of NHL bodies, Svatos didn’t achieve much before being concussed by Jay Rosehill.  There was never any intention of keeping him and he did not play last season.
February 28, 2011 – picked up Curtis McElhinney from Tampa on the waiver wire.  McElhinney allowed Robin Lehner to stay in the minors and he was decent as the season wound down.  There was never any serious consideration of keeping him and played for Portland in the AHL last year (he’s since signed a two-way deal with Columbus).

2011 Draft

The draft lacked the high-end talent of previous years, but was considered to have good depth.  Because of Ottawa’s trades they had a plethora of picks to re-stock the organisation.

1-6 Mika Zibanejad (SEL) – big forward played 9 games for the Sens before being loaned back to Djurgarden; this season he’ll play in Ottawa or Binghamton
1-21 Stefan Noesen (OHL) – power forward enjoyed a strong year in the OHL; expected to return for his final year of junior
1-24 Matt Puempel (OHL) – sniper suffered from suspension and concussion problems; expected to return for his final year of junior
2-61 Shane Prince (OHL) – undersized skilled forward has been signed by the Sens and is expected to play for Binghamton or Elmira
4-96 Jean-Gabriel Pageau (QMJHL) – undersized skilled forward is signed by the Sens and will likely be returned to junior
5-126 Fredrik Claesson (SEL) – defensive defenseman spent the year in Sweden, but is now signed and will play in Binghamton
6-156 Darren Kramer (WHL) – brawler finished his junior career and will play in Binghamton
6-171 Max McCormick (USHL) – gritty forward had a solid rookie season in the NCAA
7-186 Jordan Fransoo (WHL) – big blueliner showed improvement, but is still a long way away; he’ll play another year in junior
7-204 Ryan Dzingel (USHL) – skilled forward enjoyed a solid rookie season in the NCAA

2011-12 Contracts

March 21 – Craig Anderson – 4 years/3.1875; far too much term for my liking, but Anderson was good enough this past season
May 19 – Zack Smith – 2 years/0.7; enjoyed a strong first full season in the NHL
May 19 – Colin Greening – 3 years/0.816,667; excellent rookie season for the NCAA grad
July 1 – Alex Auld – 1 year/1.0; was even more terrible than expected; his NHL career is likely over (signed in Austria)
July 5 – Zenon Konopka – 1 year/0.7; the popular forward didn’t play much and signed with Minnesota this summer
July 6 – Erik Condra – 2 years/0.625; had a solid rookie campaign, although he suffered through a terrible dry spell in the second half
July 14 – Bobby Butler – 2 years/1.05; was awful in his first full NHL campaign and was subsequently bought out

2011-12 Trades

December 17 – Traded David Rundblad and their 2nd round pick to Phoenix (subsequently moved to Philadelphia, who picked Anthony Stolarz) for Kyle Turris.  The Sens were desperate for a second-line center and Turris was demanding out of Phoenix.  This trade has to be measured against both Rundblad and Tarasenko, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out, but it really does address an organisational need (assuming Turris develops as expected).
February 26 – Traded their 2013 2nd round pick to St. Louis for Ben Bishop.  At the time Craig Anderson was hurt and the team was desperate to add goaltending depth as Robin Lehner was having an off-season.  Time will tell on the trade, but it’s clear that Bishop will be given the opportunity to back-up Anderson this upcoming season.
February 27 – Traded Brian Lee to Tampa Bay for Matt Gilroy.  Two players who were failing in their respective organisations, given that the Lightning have re-signed Lee and Gilroy was allowed to walk, this is a loss for Murray.
July 1 – Traded Nick Foligno to Columbus for Marc MethotFoligno was an RFA and clearly the Sens were not sure that he would ever become a full time top-six forward, so they exchanged him for a defensive defenseman.  I haven’t seen Methot play enough to judge the trade, so I’m taking a wait and see attitude, but I would not have signed Foligno to the deal the Blue Jackets gave him (3 years/3.083)

2012 Draft

Thought to be a weak draft, the Sens made seven selections with no second round pick for the third year in a row; none of the prospects are expected to crack the lineup this upcoming season (for full scouting reports for each player go here).

1-15 Cody Ceci (OHL) – offensive defenseman helps fill an organisational need after the departure of Rundblad
3-76 Chris Driedger (WHL) – one of two goaltenders added to the organisation
3-82 Jarrod Maidens (OHL) – skilled forward coming off a serious concussion, as a pick he’s a swing for the fences
4-106 Timothy Boyle (USHS) – an off the radar selection who is expected to spend four years in college
5-136 Robbie Baillargeon (USHL) – a talented forward expected to spend four years in the NCAA
6-166 Francois Brassard (QMJHL) – the second goaltender taken in the draft by the Sens
7-196 Mikael Wikstrand (Allsvenskan) – defensive defenseman is expected to spend a couple of years in Sweden

2012-13 Contracts

May 4 – Peter Regin – 1 year/0.8; coming off an injury-plagued year the Sens rolled the dice on him staying healthy
June 19 – Erik Karlsson – 7 years/6.5; the Norris Trophy winner signed a cap-friendly, long-term deal with the club which serves both well so long as he can stay healthy
July 1 – Mike Lundin – 1 year/1.15; the injury-prone, offensively limited blueliner is a questionmark going into next season
July 1 – Guillaume Latendresse – 1 year/2.0; injury-prone and with conditioning issues, he’s a gamble
July 11 – Chris Neil – 3 years/1.9; a good deal for both sides
July 18 – Jim O’Brien – 2 years/0.637; a solid deal that fills out the bottom of the lineup
July 23 – Kaspars Daugavins – 1 year/0.635; similar to O’Brien‘s, but with less commitment

Buyouts

This summer saw the end of the road for highly touted college free agent Bobby Butler.  Despite ample opportunities he struggled badly enough that no other team would take a chance on him at his current salary.  It’s hard to criticise Murray for giving him the deal, but with all the prospects in the wings there was no room for Butler.  He joins a now lengthy list of free agents signed out of college post-lockout who have failed in the NHL (Gilroy, Hanson, Wellman, etc), making me wonder just how much talent is really hidden there.

Overall

As it stands, that is the complete record for Bryan Murray.  He has been the GM for five years during which he’s made the playoffs three times (losing in the first round each time), hired four coaches, and seen the core of the 2007 Stanley Cup final wither away.  So, by category, here’s how I assess him:

The Draft: A, excellent.  The cupboard was bare when Murray took over and now it is starting to overflow.  The 2008, 2009, and 2011 drafts were considered excellent, while 2010 is largely disappointing.  The pump is primed and the Senators should have successive waves of quality players filtering into the organisation for years to come.
Contracts: C, mediocre.  I have his score at 12-15-14 (with the third column representing either results that are yet to be determined or that were neither good nor bad).  Murray has made poor decsions with contracts for older, veteran players, although as the team rebuilds he’s stepped away from that.
Trades: B, average.  I have his score at 13-7-9 (very few are draws, most in the third column are unknowns).  Murray’s deadline deals for players in his lineup are the most frequent failures.
Coaches: D, below average.  Three failed coaches haven’t yet been made up for with one good hire.
Overall: B, average.  Murray has been improving in all categories, although I think it will be hard to repeat the achievements from this past season.

Senators News: December 17th

-The Ottawa Senators have traded David Rundblad and a second-round pick to Phoenix for Kyle Turris (link). The Ottawa Sun‘s Bruce Garrioch had reported earlier that the Sens “don’t mind giving up a roster player, but indications are they don’t want to part with the pick Coyotes GM Don Maloney wants“, but apparently they were willing to part with a pick.  I have to admit that I’m shocked the Sens gave up on Rundblad in such a short period of time, although I agree with Ian Mendes (link) that the offensive emergence of Jared Cowen is what made him expendable.  This is going to leave the media in something of a bind–Filatov is gone, Rundblad is gone, both Gonchar and Kuba are playing better–who is the new whipping boy?

-Bruce Garrioch Tweets (link) that both Filip Kuba and Sergei Gonchar are fully participating in practice today

The Ottawa Citizen‘s Wayne Scalan writes about Paul MacLean coaching Dan Bylsma when he played for him in Anaheim (link), with Bylsma saying, “One of the things I do remember about Paul [MacLean] the coaching staff there (in Anaheim) is that they had a good interaction with the players. Mike Babcock’s a demanding coach, and certainly has a great ability to set a foundation on how a team plays, but they also had a willingness to talk wth the players.”

-Joy Lindsay Tweets (link) that Brian Stewart has been recalled from Elmira due to Robin Lehner‘s injury/illness

-Joy has also Tweeted the Filatov was returning to Binghamton but Bruce Garrioch corrects that by saying it’s simply paperwork saying he’s been assigned there (link)

Can the Senators Afford to Trade Filip Kuba?

Over the past week Ottawa Sun reporter Bruce Garrioch has talked about the Senators trying to move veteran defenceman Filip Kuba (www.ottawasun.com/2011/08/13/cap-puts-sens-on-defensive and on The Team 1200 today, August 19, www.team1200.com/ default.asp), saying one of the problems is the team would need to take salary back in order to stay about the Cap floor (48.3 million, http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=566916).  I thought it was worth examining if his claim is true–not the team’s desire to trade Kuba, but the cap problems implied.

Speculation over who will be on Ottawa’s roster is up for debate, but I think it’s reasonable to conclude that (with Kuba) it will consist of all one-way contracts plus Erik Karlsson, Nikita Filatov and David Rundblad.  These salaries (plus buyouts) produce a cap hit of 50,520,833 (via www.capgeek.com’s calculator).  Removing Kuba takes the Senators below the cap floor (46,820,833).  As I see it, there are numerous alternatives to taking back a player/salary to avoid the floor:

1. Add Mika Zibanejad to the roster (his salary puts them over the floor, 48,595,833)

2. Add Jared Cowen (48,085,833) and any other player from the minors to the roster

3. Add Stephane Da Costa (48,145,833) and any other player from the minors to the roster

4. Etcetera; virtually any combination of two prospects makes up the roughly 1.5 million Ottawa would be short without Kuba

Therefore, the Senators can move Kuba without taking a player back.  I’m not suggesting this is the most probably outcome to such a trade, but it does mean Ottawa is not obliged to take on another team’s problem.