Not a typo: Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk gives GM Bryan Murray three year contract extension

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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.

Video: Johansen, Fisher join in Predators’ conference title celebration

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After reaching their first ever Western Conference Final, the Nashville Predators topped that in a big way, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

There were a lot of firsts and rarities along the way.

In ousting the Anaheim Ducks with a 6-3 victory in Game 6, GM David Poile’s team advanced to the championship round for the first time in his lengthy time as an executive.

Peter Laviolette also became the fourth coach in NHL history to bring three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. The Predators are also the first 16th seed to make it this far.

Yep, that’s a long list of milestones (and not a comprehensive one). And, to think, the Predators haven’t even been on the brink of elimination during the postseason yet.

It’s special stuff, so don’t be surprised by the boisterous celebration you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

P.K. Subban: No city in the NHL ‘has anything on Nashville’

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If there’s one thing we can agree upon about the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s that these months have really cemented just how hockey-mad Nashville has become for its Predators.

(Yes, you can call it “Smashville” if you’d like.)

The scene at Bridgestone Arena was as boisterous as ever in the Predators’ 6-3 Game 6 win against the Anaheim Ducks, with legions of fans packing and surrounding the building.

Sights like these have becoming resoundingly normal for a hockey market that was once questioned by media and other fan bases:

Yeah, wow.

As the Predators advanced to their first-ever Stanley Cup Final, plenty of people were making jokes at the expense of the Montreal Canadiens for trading P.K. Subban. Of course, Subban wouldn’t take a shot at the Habs during such a great moment, but his praise for puck-nutty Predators fans says a lot in itself.

“I played in an A+ market my whole career,” Subban said, via Jeremy K. Gover of the Nashville Predators Radio Network. “There’s not a city in the league that has anything on Nashville.”

Whether their opponent is the Pittsburgh Penguins or Ottawa Senators, we already know that Nashville will begin the Stanley Cup Final on the road. That’s OK … Predators fans might need some time to get their voices back and recover from celebrating, so waiting until Games 3 and 4 might be a blessing in disguise.

Ducks’ Cogliano just doesn’t think Predators were the better team

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The Anaheim Ducks battled their way to Game 6 of the Western Conference Final, but Colton Sissons and the Nashville Predators ended their season on Monday.

The Ducks are processing that disappointment – being just two wins away from a trip to the championship round – and some of their reactions might spark a little controversy.

Specifically, it sounds a bit like Bruce Boudreau believing that his Minnesota Wild were superior to the St. Louis Blues despite falling in that series.

Andrew Cogliano, it must be noted, was spurned by Pekka Rinne on some early chances in Game 6. He likely feels as frustrated as any Ducks player right now.

Sisson’s hat-trick goal, making it 4-3 before two empty-netters cemented the 6-3 finish, was the dagger that finally put the hard-working Ducks down.

One can understand some of those feelings from Anaheim, especially considering the frustration of a) getting over Jonathan Bernier‘s early struggles to make a very real game of this and b) occasionally carrying the play in a dramatic way, including in Game 6.

Still, the Predators got the right combination of great stretches of play from Rinne and strong work from the expected and the unexpected, such as Sissons.

For an aging star like Ryan Getzlaf – a player who produced some of his best work late in the season and during the playoffs – you have to wonder how many chances remain.

Predators eliminate Ducks, reach first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history

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Colton Sissons made a serious argument that the Nashville Predators do, indeed, still have a No. 1 center.

At least, he certainly played that way on Monday, generating a hat trick as the Predators eliminated the Anaheim Ducks via a 6-3 win, taking the series 4-2.

In doing so, the Predators advanced to their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

That 6-3 score is very misleading. While Nashville managed 2-0 and 3-1 leads, there was plenty of drama in this one, as the Ducks did not go down easily. Cam Fowler tied it up 3-3 in the third period, briefly stunning a rowdy crowd in Nashville.

Sissons was up to the task, however, settling down a bouncing puck on an otherwise stupendous Calle Jarnkrok pass to score the game-winner, notching a hat trick in the process. Sissons continues to be an unlikely hero for a Predators team dealing with the absence of Ryan Johansen (not to mention Mike Fisher, Craig Smith, and others).

Two empty-netters inflated the score, and they also sapped drama from the closing moments, which must have been quite the relief considering how much resolve Anaheim showed.

Peter Laviolette distinguishes himself as one of the NHL’s most underrated bench bosses, becoming just the fourth coach in league history to take three different teams to a Stanley Cup Final. He couldn’t win it all with the Philadelphia Flyers, but he does have a ring thanks to his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. Perhaps he’ll take another one this spring?

It’s quite the moment for GM David Poile, too, after trading Shea Weber for P.K. Subban and Seth Jones for Johansen, among other pivotal moves.

The Ducks might wonder what could have been if John Gibson played instead of Jonathan Bernier. Bernier struggled early, allowing two goals on the first three shots he faced and generally having a tough Game 6. Pekka Rinne, meanwhile, maintained his mostly great run in the playoffs; he protected a Predators lead even when the Ducks dominated long stretches of play.

Now the Predators get a nice rest, as the Eastern Conference Final continues with a Game 6 on Tuesday (and possibly a Game 7 on Thursday).

They’ll limp a bit toward that final round, but the Predators seem to be embracing new territory. And sometimes new heroes.