OTTAWA (CP) - Bryan Murray didn't have to look far to find his successor as head coach of the Ottawa Senators.
Murray promoted Senators assistant John Paddock to the head job Friday, filling the vacancy created when Murray took over as general manager after John Muckler was fired June 18.
"I talked to a number of people, I don't think I have to go through the names . . . people that have experience in the league, guys that were hoping to get to the league at some point in time during their career," Murray said during a news conference at Scotiabank Place. "It all came back to me and I feel very comfortable.
"I think this an important thing for an organization to know the person and know the person well."
Paddock, 53, served as Murray's assistant the past two seasons and before that coached the Senators' AHL affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y.
It's been 12 years, though, since his last NHL head coaching job with the Winnipeg Jets.
He inherits a team that made its first Stanley Cup final appearance this past season, losing in five games to the Anaheim Ducks.
"It's an extremely exciting time when you become a head coach in the National Hockey League again," said Paddock, who becomes the sixth head coach in the team's modern history. "I don't look at it as a difficult transition.
"This hockey team has been successful and has the same solid core of players. We're not looking to re-invent the wheel by any means, we're just looking to continue and have a successful season."
Most of Paddock's head-coaching success has come at the AHL level.
Although he's been a pro head coach for 18 seasons, he lasted less than four years as coach of the Jets. While holding the dual role of coach and GM of the club, he replaced himself as coach in April of the lockout-shortened 1994-'95 season.
Paddock's record was a sub-par 106-138-37 in the regular season in Winnipeg. In the playoffs, the Jets suffered consecutive first-round losses in his first two years, then failed to qualify for the post-season in his last two.
Still, Murray liked Paddock's experience - in addition to being an NHL player and holding head coach, assistant and GM jobs, Paddock's also been an assistant GM with Philadelphia and director of pro scouting with the New York Rangers - as well as his relationship with the Senators players, many of whom he consulted before making the decision.
Randy Cunneyworth, who coached the Buffalo Sabres' AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., last year and was a former Senators captain, was also thought to be seriously being considered.
"I know the players really respect and like him," Murray said of Paddock. "There were some names out there that have experience coaching in the league, but I wasn't sure how they'd fit in with this group of players."
Added Senators defenceman Wade Redden: "He's been around the game a long time and he's done everything. He's a good hockey man, a smart hockey man. Obviously he's going to treat us differently (than when he was an assistant), but he's an honest guy."
With assistant coach Greg Carvel staying on, Paddock will begin the search for another assistant. The Binghamton Senators are also looking for a new head coach.
Paddock said his stoic but intense approach on the bench will differ from that of the more-animated Murray, but little else is expected to change. He, like his GM, would like to see the Senators continue taking steps toward becoming a bigger, tougher, more aggressive team.
"Size matters, I think we found that out in the Stanley Cup final," he said.
Meanwhile, Murray and the Senators have been quiet during the first days of free agency.
Ottawa is one of the few teams yet to have signed any new players and Murray said he intends to eventually add one, likely a veteran forward. However, with the free-agent deals being too rich for his liking, Murray said he's looking at a possible trade and promoting players from within the system.
The Senators are currently shopping goaltender Martin Gerber, who still has two years remaining on the three-year, US $11.1-million deal he signed last summer, to free up salary as they face going to arbitration with No. 1 goalie Ray Emery.
On Thursday, free-agent centre Mike Comrie left Ottawa to sign with the New York Islanders. Earlier in the week, the Senators lost Tom Preissing to the Los Angeles Kings.
"I can't commit contracts to other players that may cost us one of our good people going forward," Murray said.