by Todd Anderson
It's right around now - a little less than a month before training camp starts - when Senators head coach Bryan Murray begins to get excited about the upcoming season. Even after 15 years of coaching in the NHL, the anticipation of what lies ahead in the coming months keeps him on pins and needles.
"A month after the season finishes, there are lots of questions you have about yourself and your staff. You go through the whole exercise of what if.' Thankfully, you get over that. For a while now, we've been looking at what we can do different to be better."
Speaking from his family cottage near his hometown of Shawville, Que., Murray says he was pleased with the work done by GM John Muckler this off-season.
"The core is pretty much what it was. It's always disappointing and sad when you lose people like (Zdeno) Chara, (Martin) Havlat, (Bryan) Smolinski and so on. Especially when you don't achieve what you set out to do. But sports are all about change. We've added quality defence with mobility in (Tom) Preissing and (Joe) Corvo. Up front, I only had Havlat for 18 games so, as a coach, I was not dependent on him. To replace the goals he would have scored, there will be demands on others again like (Antoine) Vermette, (Mike) Fisher and (Patrick) Eaves."
In goal, Muckler also added Martin Gerber to the mix. Murray was the general manager of the Anaheim Ducks when Gerber backed up J.S. Giguère during the Ducks' drive to the Stanley Cup final in 2003. So he knows what to expect from the keeper.
"We're fortunate that John and his staff were able to acquire a top-end goalie like this. When (Gerber) was traded to Carolina, it showed what type of person he was. He took over that team and had an outstanding year. It's not all about his wins and losses either. He's consistently a good performer, he works real hard, technically he's really good and he's been well coached. I think the players will really respect him."
While Murray and his wife, Geri, plan to spend the rest of the summer at the family cottage, there has been plenty of opportunity for travel in the past couple of months. After attending the 2006 NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver in June, the couple visited their two daughters, Heide - along with her daughter Emma - and Brittany in Colorado. Next, they spent three weeks in Florida where they still own a home from Murray's days as general manager of the Florida Panthers. Murray also recently returned from a trip to Toronto where he was filmed for a Hockey Night in Canada segment.