Murray and MacLean spoke to the media Tuesday, wrapping up a roller-coaster season for the Senators. Despite being overwhelmed by injuries to key players Jason Spezza (back), Jared Cowen (hip), Milan Michalek (knee), Erik Karlsson (Achilles) and Craig Anderson (back), the team was able to survive and thrive, making it to the Eastern Conference Semifinals for the first time since 2007.
Despite losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 in their best-of-7 series, MacLean and Murray were enthusiastic about the progress the club has made in such a short span.
"We're tremendously pleased with where we are in the process of becoming [better]. We look forward to next season and next training camp," MacLean said. "We learned a lot about a lot of players this year. We've had tremendous growth, not only in our Ottawa team, but our Binghamton team [in the American Hockey League]. Next year's training camp, we're going to have some decisions to make. That's a good sign."
Right Wing - OTT
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 6 | PTS: 10
SOG: 27 | +/-: 5
For Murray, who will have a major say in those decisions, next season will be about more than just staying competitive. It will be about the team further developing in a League that is about to undergo divisional realignment. Still, he said he thinks his team can take the next step in 2013-14.
"I think we're a serious contender," Murray said. "We do understand with the change in team alignment and Detroit coming over [to the Eastern Conference] the setup will be a bit more difficult, and we'll have to be an improved hockey club. But we think we're at a stage where we can be a really competitive hockey club."
Overseeing a team that finished 27th this season in scoring, Murray admitted to being on the hunt for more offense, ideally a wing to flank his top center, Spezza.
"Obviously, we have to score more goals," Murray said. "We have to find a way to create a little more offense. That might mean trying to find a player out there who can do that. But part of it also will be counting on the younger players who showed that they can play in the League to step up and do a little bit more with the puck than they were able to do this year."
Through the NHL Draft and trades, Murray has managed to compile a youthful core that should lead this club for years to come. But the Ottawa GM did not rule out the possibility of packaging some of that talent in a trade should the right offer come along.
"If there's a deal to be made this summer, I have to take a hard look at it," Murray said. "Whether it's trading a young player or two, I have to be open-minded to do that."
Murray also addressed comments made by Daniel Alfredsson after Ottawa's humbling 7-3 loss in Game 4 against Pittsburgh. The captain caught fire when asked if the Senators, down 3-1 in the series, could come back to win. Alfredsson's "probably not" response left some questioning the Swede's leadership.
"I thought it was [really] honest," Murray said. "When you look at the games and how we got beat that night … we weren’t in that position [to come back]. I know what he meant. I talked to him a little bit afterward about it. That's just Daniel Alfredsson."
The 40-year-old forward said Monday he has yet to give any thought to returning for an 18th season with the Senators. Murray said he believed it was only fair to give Ottawa's captain of 12 years some time to contemplate his decision.
"I haven't had a talk with [Alfredsson] about that topic," Murray said. "I believe I should, as the general manager, allow him to step back for a little bit and address that with his family. At the right time, I know he'll come to me and suggest one way or the other what he’s hoping to do. Last year we waited, and we felt it was the right thing to do. I feel likewise again this year."
MacLean seemed supremely confident about his captain returning for another season. Asked how confident he was Alfredsson would be back, the Senators coach responded with one word: "Very."
“He was our leading scorer in the playoffs [with 10 points in 10 games]. I thought he had a very competitive year. But again, it's up to him." MacLean said. "Whatever decision he makes, I'm happy with. Are we ready for [his retirement]? I don’t know if any team is ready for that. But we know whatever decision he makes is going to be the right one for him. And in some capacity, he'll be available to us [in another position with the club], so that gives us some comfort."