Sens GM Bryan Murray spoke to the media on Monday after the team announced its opening night roster. Here's what he had to say...
On the decision to keep Curtis Lazar:
It was easy, he made it easy. I thought his effort each and every game was outstanding. For a young player he showed he can play a two-way game, he's very responsible, Paul had him killing penalties at various times. I can only see a player like him expanding his role as we go forward.
On keeping him for a longer look vs. staying long term:
Right now he'll have to play himself out of the lineup I think with the way he played in training camp. Like every junior player there is that nine game limit where after nine we have to make another decision. I'm envisioning him having a real good chance to stay.
On getting Lazar enough minutes to warrant staying:
He has to play. That will be the decision. How much? How many minutes a game? I wouldn't even pretend to know. Being around the players and practicing every day with the NHL guys is good for his development but he's got to get on the ice in games and handle pressure and do things required of an NHL player. If we find he's not getting enough minutes that will be part of the decision.
On Lazar being a special player:
He's enthusiastic, very ambitious, very confident, comes to work every day. For a young player he's really a professional at this point. Where he came from obviously had a big influence on who he is as a person as well as a player. As I said, I can't find a fault with him right now as far as the work ethic and the determination to be a good player. The ability in particular to play the defensive zone as well as he does.
Mike Hoffman's last two games against Montreal were really good. He's quick, he scored, he made plays, he drew penalties, he helped us win the game Friday night by his speed drawing a penalty in overtime and getting us to the win. It would be really unfair for us to not give him an awfully good look going forward. He's a guy who paid his price somewhat in the minors but was very productive player. Now let's find out if he can do it every night in the NHL.
On his impressions of camp:
I thought overall the work ethic in camp was real good, much different than a year ago. We have some candidates that can come up and play games, we know that and if we have to do something a couple of them can play regularly. Buddy Robinson, Matt Puempel, Pageau — Pageau was the one guy today I felt really bad about because I thought he was really good in every game he played and to have to send him down — he'll be back, there's no question he has a chance to be a regular NHL player.
I talked to Gerry Townend this morning, they've shut him down to get him healthy. I guess Marc started to get a better and then he overdid it and hurt himself — not hurt himself, he didn't help himself. He probably is a little ways away.
On Methot negotiations:
There's no news, they turned us on the offer I made. There's no further offer at this point.
On if they'll try to make room for Pageau if he plays well in the AHL:
Yeah, there's no question. Contracts come into play big time and I told him that this morning. One-way contracts vs. two-way contracts make a difference. We make commitments to players and then somebody steps in and does a better job. For now he has to go down, play well and be star down there, which he should be. It's up to us then to give him a chance to play.
On carrying 14 forwards becoming a problem:
It's only a problem if the guys make it a problem. If we have guys that are not playing up to par and don't make a change then it becomes an issue. The players sitting out understand that. For now I think when you start the year with 14 guys up front, it's not a bad thing. There's an opportunity to try a couple of different looks and I think we're in a position to do that with the youth of our group overall.
On if he likes the team as it stands:
I like our team. I said to Mr. Melnyk yesterday that maybe we should have a marketing theme that the Pesky Sens are back. That's what it looked to me the last three or four games we played. The work ethic, the come from behind ability, the four lines being able to contribute, the goaltending was good. I like the effort. It's going to take that almost every night. We know we don't have the star quality individual that wins you a game by himself but I really feel we have a group that has the ability to roll four lines, play 6-8 defencemen. The coaches have some options now and I think we're one of those teams that'll make the opponent every night.
On players who were cut:
Well Puempel, all he does is score. He shoots the puck and it goes in the net for him. All I said to him was it's early for him, he needs to start at Binghamton, he needs to be a high level player for them and put pucks in the net because goal scoring is always a need in this league. He'll go down and Matt has really made great strides. I mentioned Pageau already but Buddy Robinson is the next guy to me that, when I saw him last year I thought he chance, he could be a role player. I wasn't sure that he'd be a regular NHL player but he sure looked like it to me. He made great strides, he's fast, he's on the puck, he finishes checks, he handles the puck really well. Paul had him killing penalties. It looks to me like a guy that has a real chance to get games in the NHL, maybe as early as this year. Freddy Claesson he was, for me, the other big surprise. At the beginning of last year he was a very competitive guy but very average in the American League and made great strides. He was impressive in camp, he competes, he's a brave guy, he moves the puck decent and defends real well. His work ethic is just going to allow him to be better and better. He'll be a real good depth guy for us this year and I believe a future NHLer. After that there's David Dziurzynski — David was disappointed I think and we weren't disappointed at all. He's a role guy that isn't going to score a lot of goals but he can play a role and skates real well. He's a big, strong kid and has to play. Those to me are the real top guys we have coming. We have Johnson and Grant that are veteran guys and could play games if we needed them to. For me right now those are the players most likely to get games here.
On if he likes the group or will look to make a move:
Right now I'm not really looking to make a move. If there's something that's out there that's obvious I would do it but I like our group. I think with every team you want to be better, you want to add if you can possibly add. It definitely looks like a competitive group to me. I think we've got enough talent with the work ethic. There's some checkers there. I think Paul has more options for penalty killers and defensive role players. We have to prove we can score goals. Will we do that consistently? I don't think any team will in this League, it hasn't been a high scoring league recently and you have to learn to win games 3-2, 2-1 and we might have to do that more often than we did in the past.
On fighters becoming less common:
I think there's a need at some points in the year against particular teams but I think you're right. We're putting facemasks on everybody and I remember saying at a GM meeting, "why would anyone want to fight anybody with a mask on?" It doesn't make any sense. I think that is encouraging, the fact fighting is going down. There's no question. I think there will be occasional ones but I don't think you can have a guy who can only do that, you need to have players now. If they can do a little bit of the tough stuff as well they're more apt to be able to play and get in the lineup on a regular basis.
On the defensive group:
Our defence has to be better than it was last year. I really thought that last year we had a group that were young but would play better. We fumbled the puck around a lot, we didn't defend very well. I think it was part of the focus. Adding Jason Smith to the coaching staff and being part of developing the young guys, his experience as a player will help. The focus on making them better will help. I really believe we have a core that can develop nicely but they have to show they're ready to make the step and defend better than we did in the past.
On the roster when Methot returns:
We have to move a forward or defenceman out. We have a little bit of time with Marc being hurt, there's no question, but we'll see when he's going to come back, then we'll have to make a decision at that time.
On plans for more meetings with Methot's agents:
No at this point. I thought me made a nice offer, a good offer. I've tried to say all along that we all have different versions and opinions on players and what value there is. We've tried to do comparables, good comparables. They have different comparables. That's where we sit right now. I was just trying to do a year in advance for Marc in case of injury, security, not having to move — good legitimate reasons to allow us to make the offers that we made and that wasn't acceptable. That's fine. When you negotiate it's difficult. We'll leave it as it is for the moment.