With the Ottawa Senators winning 14 of their last 15 games and taking the lead in the Northeast Division, it's time to hand out some credit.
Certainly some of that has to go to the person who put many of the parts in place, general manager Bryan Murray, and he was rewarded Friday with a one-year contract extension.
"Bryan has proven that he is the right man to lead this team," Senators owner Eugene Melnyk said. "Our team is now in a position to not only be competitive each season, but also to contend for the Stanley Cup. Bryan and his staff have worked hard to build an organization that now has the depth at the National Hockey League level and in our farm system that should allow us to be competitive for many years to come."
Murray has been GM of the Senators since June 2007, following three years of coaching the team. In the last three seasons, the Senators have gone 113-88-23. Thursday's 6-5 defeat of the Washington Capitals gave them 74 points, one more than the Buffalo Sabres, and pushed them to third in the Eastern Conference.
The Senators finished 11th in the Eastern Conference last season, and suffered through a tumultuous offseason that featured the drawn-out trade demands of star forward Dany Heatley. The Senators entered the 2009-10 season with low expectations, but with the deft touch and strong leadership from coach Cory Clouston -- hired Feb. 2, 2009, to replace Craig Hartsburg -- the Senators have thrived despite playing long stretches without captain Daniel Alfredsson, top center Jason Spezza and No. 1 goalie Pascal Leclaire.
In their absences, center Mike Fisher has 19 goals and 43 points, and is on pace for a career season; Milan Michalek, who came over from the Sharks in the Heatley deal, has a team-best 20 goals; and goaltender Brian Elliott has emerged as a star.
"My goal from the time I was appointed to this position was to continue the proud and winning history of this organization and to make it one of the top-tier organizations in the NHL," Murray said. "I feel that we have moved this franchise into a strong position where we can challenge for the Stanley Cup each season, while at the same time we're continuing to draft and develop top prospects who will help this team in the years to come. I look forward to the challenge in front of us, which is to bring a championship to the fans of Ottawa."