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Murray narrowing coach search

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Bryan Murray isn’t in a hurry but he’s getting closer to the finish line.

In a radio interview with the Team 1200 today, the Ottawa Senators general manager indicated he has narrowed his search for a new coach down to “four or five candidates” – one of whom he is certain will direct the team’s fortunes in the 2008-09 season.

Murray confirmed reports that he has conducted interviews with Hawkesbury native Bob Hartley, a former Atlanta Thrashers and Colorado Avalanche coach; and Craig Hartsburg, the current coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, who also has two world junior hockey championship gold medals on his resume.

A third candidate – Kitchener Rangers coach Peter DeBoer – will be interviewed Wednesday, Murray added.

“I’ll probably bring one or two people back next week and try to have a second go-around with them and then make a decision,” he said. “It’s not a hurry-up process by any means – it’s not intended to be. I just want to make sure I get the right guy for this team.”

Murray said he isn’t necessarily looking for someone with previous National Hockey League coaching experience, though Hartley and Hartsburg – a former head coach in Anaheim and Chicago – both happen to own some.

“There are some benefits to that,” he said. “When I hired Mike Babcock (in Anaheim), he had none. He’d been in the minors for a year or so and been a very successful junior coach.

“It was just a personality thing with him and a relationship that I could see would work with the players. I hired him and I think it’s turned out that he’s one of the top coaches in the league at this point in time (with the Detroit Red Wings). I think there are people coaching at whatever level.… they just seem to be a fit. If that’s the case (here), then that’s the person I’d hire.”

With the July 1 free-agency deadline approaching, Murray is also busy dealing with a number of expiring player contracts. There’s nothing definite yet to report on that front but he indicated “some changes will take place” in terms of player personnel over the summer months.

Combine the right coaching hire with the right mix of players, though, and Murray is convinced a good off-season of work can produce another Senators contender next season. At the top of his agenda: Restoring a certain level of discipline that Murray believes went missing over the course of the 2007-08 season.

“It has to do with a little change in the makeup of our hockey team to go along with a coaching change,” said Murray. “I really think somebody has to come in and provide structure and discipline and be a hard-nosed hockey guy… If we get the right group of players together and we have the right (coach) mixing it up, then our team should be real good again this year.

“(Last season) slipped mainly because of discipline more than anything. I’ve never been around a team, a group of guys – and these are mostly good people – that didn’t want structure, didn’t want discipline, didn’t want to be reprimanded if they didn’t do the right thing. And in turn, they want to be recognized when they do something good. That’s the kind of person I’m looking for, someone who’s not afraid to pat a guy on the back occasionally but maybe kick him in the rear when it has to be done as well.”

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