The Senators signed GM Bryan Murray to a three-year contract extension today to give Murray the ability to control and oversee the rebuild in Ottawa.
Murray has been GM of the team since June 2007 and in the four years under his tenure, the Senators have made the playoffs twice, losing in the first round both times. In the two seasons where Ottawa missed the playoffs, they did so in glorious burn-the-house-down fashion. With the Sens alternating years between making the playoffs and colossal season-long failure, things are looking up for next season but only because they’ve been so awful this year.
Speculation has swirled around the position for the entire second half of the season as the Senators had some curious moves and decisions to make. Acquiring Craig Anderson from Colorado for Brian Elliott and then re-signing him to a lucrative four year extension while rookie phenom Robin Lehner waits in the wings in the AHL stood out as a particularly curious move especially with Murray’s future as yet unknown. Now the two will be linked together for the next three seasons to see where exactly they can lead the Senators in the future.
Making the Senators rebuild all the more fascinating to watch is how things broke down this year. They’ve cleared out guys like Chris Kelly, Chris Campoli, Alexei Kovalev, Jarkko Ruutu, and star forward Mike Fisher in an effort to shake things up and start from the ground up once again all while captain Daniel Alfredsson plays it year to year trying to lead what’s now a very young team through the rough stages of growing up. Alfredsson’s season is over this year but he’ll be back next year.
One guy that might not be back next year is coach Cory Clouston. Clouston was able to juggle injuries and goalies last season to get Ottawa to finish fifth in the Eastern Conference. His luck ran out this year as injuries and poor play in goal sunk the Senators before they could put it together before acquiring Anderson. Is poor goaltending of that magnitude and horrible luck with injuries the fault of a coach? That’s up to Murray to decide before the offseason begins in earnest and the suspicion is that Clouston will be out after the season is over. Then again, we thought Murray was toast too so who knows.
With Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Chris Phillips all back next year with a group of hard working rookies like Bobby Butler and Colin Greening joining up promising players like Peter Regin the Senators future is murky and a lot of how things go for them as time goes on hinges upon this year’s draft.
The Senators will have five picks through the first two rounds, including two first round selections. They’ll get what should be a stud player with what should be a top five pick and then see what shakes loose later on, but for Murray the pressure to make this year’s draft a very successful one is huge. Another draft with poor choices dooms Ottawa’s future and with free agents not clamoring to get to Ottawa, the road to rebuild could turn into a road to ruin fast.
Bummed out on this holiday? Look on the bright side: at least you’re not as sore as Florida Panthers defenseman Alex Petrovic likely is right now.
Not long after suffering three defeats at the hands/fists of Evander Kane, Petrovic likely lost another bout to Nashville Predators tough guy Anthony Bitetto.
(Note: some might consider this more of a draw, for what it’s worth. You can watch that latest fight in the video above.)
Hey, at least Bitetto didn’t taunt Petrovic after their fight …
It was a rough night for the Panthers overall, as they suffered a gruesome injury or two and fell to the Predators by a score of 5-0.
Love is in the air on Valentine’s Day, and so are rumors about hockey fans bundling up for outdoor games next season.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman went over two possible outdoor matchups coming for 2016-17 during Saturday’s Headlines segment.
A smart move for a potential game in Winnipeg: Imagine the Jets hosting a game in Winnipeg in February? Ilya Bryzgalov almost turned off his TV in protest.
Instead, Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports that the Jets are likely to host the Edmonton Oilers in October. That would be a smart logistical move, as long as it isn’t too hot.
(Also, playing it then would hopefully increase the odds of the mainstream sporting public seeing Connor McDavid in an outdoor game.)
Toronto’s turn: Friedman reports that the Toronto Maple Leafs are likely to host the Detroit Red Wings in the 2017 Winter Classic (or at least an outdoor game), almost certainly on New Year’s Day 2017.
The two teams combined for a great Winter Classic at Ann Arbor in 2014, so that could be a fun time.
Keep in mind these are reports (and well-placed ones at that) rather than official announcements for the NHL. These things could always change.
Related: Could the Penguins host the Flyers outdoors next season, too?
“Costly victories” may have been one of the themes of Saturday night, as some teams paired impressive wins with worrisome injuries.
The good news is that, in each case, it appears that the early word is optimistic about those players (Tyler Seguin got stitched up in the Stars’ win, for example).
The Anaheim Ducks are reportedly readying to recall Anton Khudobin on Sunday after John Gibson suffered an upper-body injury during a collision with Chicago Blackhawks forward Richard Panik.
Again, so far the hope/expectation is that this might not be a major issue:
The pessimistic take would be to wonder “Uh oh, is the Ducks goalie carousel starting again?”
Frederik Andersen has seen some runs as Anaheim’s No. 1 guy, so maybe this issue is a reminder that the Ducks may be better off keeping both Gibson and Andersen around … at least while they can.
For two periods, the Dallas Stars seemed to say, “Are you sure the Washington Capitals are the best team in the NHL?”
They chased Braden Holtby and built a 4-0 lead through those first 40 minutes, and that was enough … but barely. The Stars beat the Capitals 4-3 on Saturday, which accomplished the following:
- Dallas ended Washington’s winning streak at five games. The Stars have now won three straight.
- This win slides the Stars ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the highly competitive Central Division. While both teams sit at 77 standings points, Dallas holds three games in hand.
- By passing Chicago, the Stars now lead the Western Conference as a whole.
Impressive stuff. Some might even call it a statement game, although others may hold that nail-biting ending against them (possibly arguing that the Stars’ flaws may come back to haunt them in the playoffs).
Dallas’ biggest concern likely has little to do with doubters. Instead, they must monitor the statuses of forwards Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin.
Long story short, the Stars are red-hot, yet bigger challenges likely lie ahead.