Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Bringing Bryan home

The Ottawa Senators have turned to a famous hockey family of the Ottawa area to lead them into the 2004-05 season (should there be one). Bryan Murray was introduced today as the new head coach of the team that tears up the regular season, but gets ripped open in the playoffs.

Murray leaves his post in Anaheim as Senior Vice President and General Manager, where he oversaw the rebuilding of the Ducks franchise. The Ducks are a team that last year challenged for the Stanley Cup, but this year fell fast down the standings. Though possibly not all on their own, an unstable ownership situation in Anaheim hampered personnel decisions all year. Murray, the 61 year old, veteran of 23 seasons, pursued the Ottawa opening diligently, describing it as probably his best chance yet to win a Stanley Cup.

And that may be the two sided coin that will line up Sens fans on one side of the hiring or the other. Murray a fixture in the NHL coaching ranks for 14 years, has the distinction of being the winningest coach to never win a Stanley Cup. With stops in Washington, Detroit, Florida and Anaheim, Murray has never been able to get his teams past the second round of a playoff series. A statistic that will give the Senator fan base something to chew on all the way until next June.

Some Sens fans will be wondering what the likes of Joel Quenneville, Keith Acton and Bobby Francis did to discount their candidacy, they being the three other rumored finalists in the quest for a coach.

For owner Eugene Melnyk and GM John Muckler, it was the passion to win a Stanley Cup that Murray presented that won them over. The fact that Murray was willing to step down from a high executive position, to become the lead general at the bench spoke volumes to the two.

When the Senators compared his beliefs and ideas to the other candidates, they decided that his age would not be a detriment; rather the experience gained in his 23 years could be strength. Feeling that with the roster they have and his ability at handling veterans and rookies he would be the right guy for the job.

Muckler hinted when he let Jacques Martin go, that there may be a problem in the dressing room. Something that Murray was quick to address, stating that in all his years he’s never had a problem in the room. He said he’s not afraid to make changes if the mix isn’t right or if he notices a problem that can’t be taken care of.

It’s a chance for Murray to return to his hockey roots, he and his brothers are legendary citizens of the Shawville area, a small community on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River. Martin too was a local boy, who had a good run but eventually couldn’t take the team over the hill. The Sens now turn to another local to take that next step, Murray will quickly find out if you really can go home again.

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