It is not very often in this wonderful world of ours that a 71-year-old man gets a promotion, but as rare as such an occurrence may be, there is nothing odd about the Ottawa Senators locking up hockey mastermind Bryan Murray for two more years. Along with the extended solidification of his managerial services, Murray was promoted to president of hockey operations.
Bryan Murray’s catalogue of work is worthy of praise. He’s been a major influencer for several NHL organizations over the last few decades, and in most cases his work has produced success, or assisted in the construction of teams that enjoyed success within a few years of his departure.
Quick Bryan Murray history lesson:
Served as general manager of the Detroit Red Wings from 1990 to 1994. During his time in Hockey Town, Murray employed head coach Scotty Bowman; good move. Murray inevitably left his stamp on a young Wings team that would later – as you already know – win three Stanley Cups in a six year window spanning 1997-2002, and then win another in 2008.
1994: Bryan Murray was named general manager of the expansion Florida Panthers. He did an excellent job sifting through the leftovers available in the expansion draft and was able to construct a roster that competed for a Stanley Cup title only two years into existence. The magical 1996 Cup run of the Florida Panthers is best remembered for this rubber rat infestation. Murray’s Swamp Cats lost the 1996 Stanley Cup final to the newly relocated Colorado Avalanche. Quite truthfully, the Panthers organization enjoyed its most prosperity under Bryan Murray’s reign.
Between 2002-2004 Bryan Murray played GM for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, where he once again, wouldn’t you know, helped assemble a team that made the Stanley Cup finals. In 2003, the Anaheim Ducks – backstopped by eventual Conn Smythe winner J. S. Giguere – upset the defending champion Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. Fuelled by momentum and total team buy-in achieved by then prodigious head coach, Mike Babcock, the Mighty Ducks imposed their work ethic on opponent after opponent, until landing all the way in the Stanley Cup finals. The ’03 Ducks suffered a heartbreaking 4-3 (in games) finals loss to the New Jersey Devils.
Twice, Murray’s teams had made the Stanley Cup finals, and twice they’d lost; quite the accomplishment nonetheless. Notice a trend? Bryan Murray’s teams get results. If you’re looking to make the Stanley Cup finals, hire Bryan Murray. And then fire him.
In 2007 Bryan Murray became the Ottawa Senators GM, a station he still enjoys to this day, and in light of today’s news, will continue to enjoy for two more turns of the calendar.
In typical fashion, Bryan Murray’s Senators made the 2007 Stanley Cup final. Unfortunately for Murray, once again his team was on the losing end of the championship round. To make matters worse, his Sens lost to his former club – the team he helped build – the Anaheim Ducks.
Shortly after falling in the finals, the Senators regressed, causing Murray to make some difficult decisions about players. When faced with the dilemma; the decision to blow up a struggling team that had recently played in a Stanley Cup final; one can only imagine the doubt that must’ve crept into Murray’s thoughts. However, with the luxury of 20/20 hindsight, it’s apparent he made the right call on cutting ties with the core that brought him to the final round of the postseason in ’07. He made the right call trading Dany Heatley – who has struggled to produce offensively in recent years. He made the right call not re-signing UFA Wade Redden – who joined the New York Rangers prior to the 2008-09 NHL season. Redden survived two seasons with the Blueshirts’ big club before being demoted to the AHL where he remained until 2012-13. Last week Wade Redden announced his NHL retirement.
Back to present times.
Bryan Murray’s extension and promotion come less than a week after his nephew, Tim Murray, was hired as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres. If the Sens were grooming Tim to succeed his uncle Bryan… when that ship sailed, re-signing Bryan must’ve seemed a logical choice.
Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has always shown public support for Murray throughout his tenure in Ottawa. Melnyk had some pleasant things to say about Murray today:
“Without question, Bryan stands among the best general managers in the National Hockey League.”
In a statement released by the Ottawa Senators, Melnyk said of Bryan Murray:
“Our drafting success and the emergence of so many young, dynamic players within our organization is a testament to Bryan’s leadership and wealth of hockey knowledge.”
The ultimate storybook ending for Bryan Murray would be to finally general manage a Stanley Cup champion. Sure, the Sens don’t seem poised to take a good stab at Lord Stanley’s chalice, however, you never know what may happen over the next two seasons. The Eastern Conference isn’t exactly wide open, but, if the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins should falter in the same playoff year, a door may open for the Senators. And if the Sens do make the finals within the next two years, just maybe they can upset one of the hungry Western Conference juggernauts that will await them in round four. Or maybe not.