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Thoughts from Bryan Murray on the 2013 season

by Chris Lund / Ottawa Senators

The season wrap-up continues at Scotiabank Place and Sens GM Bryan Murray offered up his thoughts on the season that was and gave some insight into the future of the team going forward on Tuesday afternoon in a press conference that lasted around 25 minutes.

He covered his thoughts on Daniel Alfredsson, potential transactions, young players stepping into the fold in 2013-14, Paul MacLean's coaching and more.

Here's the full rundown of what he had to say...

On if he has spoken to Daniel Alfredsson:

I haven't had a talk with him about that topic. I believe I should, as the manager, allow him to step back for a little bit of time and address that with his family and any concerns he might have about trying to play again and at the right time I know he'll come to me and suggest one way or the other what he is hoping to do.

On if there's a timeline for the decision:

I don't think there's ever a need but obviously it helps if you get to free agent day and you have the information at hand. Part of the thing is last year we waited and we felt it was the right thing to do and I feel likewise again this year.

On the roster going forward:

One of the comments I made to the players yesterday is the only disappointing thing part of the whole year was that we could never find out how good we really were. Last August when we thought we were going to play hockey the normal way in the normal schedule I looked at our team and I was very optimistic that this would be a very good hockey team and then we started late, it was a tight schedule and we had so many injuries that we never really found out how good we were. Our needs? We obviously have to score more goals. We have to find a way to create a little more offence and that may mean trying to find a player out there who will do that. Part of it also will be counting on a couple of the younger players that showed they can play in the league now to step up and do a little more with the puck than maybe they were capable of, or able to, this year.

On if he'd be willing to trade prospects for immediate help:

Sure, I think at this stage of our development we certainly want the growth to continue. We have a good number of young players, first, second year pros, that we think will improve and make our team more competitive as we go forward. Obviously if there's a deal to be made at some point during the summer I have to take a hard look at it and if it means doing a couple of things, whether its trading a young player or two, certainly I have to be open-minded to do that and try to make this team better.

On potential offseason targets:

I haven't gone through everybody's depth chart. We're starting to do that now. We'll have pro meetings over the next couple of weeks and that's part of the project that we'll take upon ourselves is to find out who needs a contract, what team has a cap problem and evaluate what type of player might be available in a trade or free agency so that's something we will look at real hard.

On Sergei Gonchar's future:

I think to be fair to everybody the necessary steps have to be taken. Sergei came here and he played well for us. He played well for us again this year, he helped young players, we put him at times with a younger defenceman, he's a real good person and I think to be fair to him and every other free agent it's proper to talk to him and his agent and decide what we want to do or, at least, what we want to do before I announce it here.

On if he expects to be busy on the first day of free agency:

That's a day that we have to pay attention. We'll certainly talk to somebody on the list, more than one I don't know, but certainly someone and see if they want to come to Ottawa. But again, as I said, I think we have fairly good growth within and it'll be a particular type of player if we do that.

On if they will draft for need vs. best available:

I've talked to Pierre (Dorion) a little bit about that. I think there's certain types of players now that we should address in this organization, not always because of skill or they're the best or whatever it may be, but I think we're at that stage now where if we have a particular need we should address that need if it's a possibility at all.

On size being a priority:

We think we got bigger. We think on the blueline in particular this year we got a little bigger. Obviously every time I talk to our scouts I suggest that maybe big and strong and competitive people are important but you need all types and we have certain people coming that address certain needs but I like a bigger type of player, it gives you a stronger chance in some games, playoff games in particular.

On if they'll spend to the cap in '13-'14:

That's not where we're at right now. Talking to Eugene (Melnyk) on a regular basis I don't think there's ever been a time that I can remember, in the last couple of years in particular, that I've gone to him and said I'd like to enquire about this player and this is probably the cost and he has said, 'No.' At the moment we don't worry about the cap so much, we worry about a budget that we build. That's what we're in the process of doing right now and it's not at the cap.

On if he feels the team is a contender:

I think we're a serious contender any time you can make the playoffs. Mind you, we do understand with the change in alignment that with Detroit coming over in particular the set up will be a little more difficult to make the playoffs. We'll have to be an improved hockey club, that's our objective obviously is to be in the playoffs and, number two, to be in a home ice advantage type of thing if that's at all possible. I think there's a real benefit in that and your matchups are a little different in particular in the first two rounds. I think we saw that finished seventh you get by Montreal and then you have to meet the powerhouse in the East (Pittsburgh). We'd like to get a step higher than that if we possibly could going forward but we're at a stage where we think we can really be a competitive team again next year.

On the Pittsburgh series as a lesson:

Well it was a lesson and it sure showed the level of team that it takes to be in the finals. Whether you win a Cup or not you have to get by some pretty good hockey teams. I don't know whether I liked the lesson in the last two games the way we got it but they were very good. If there was anything that bothered me in the end it was just the last two games that we gave up the type of goals we gave up, we helped them score on too many occasions. I thought the turnovers at the end of the game and them being able to control it the way they did but beyond that there was no quit in this group. I thought nightly we were competitive. I was real proud of this group, I thought the fans really got on board with us. I thought the tag of Pesky Sens was exactly what this group was but, as I said to them and I say to you, now the next step is to be a little better, a little more consistent, a little stronger on the puck and hopefully score a little better.

On if Alfie's future makes winning now a bigger priority:

A whole bunch of us want to win now and very definitely, I would think, one of the conversations I'll have with Alfie is are we going to be better next year. I think that will answer some questions for him as well.

On Paul MacLean's contract status:

One of the topics I've got on my agenda going forward is the coaching staff... I haven't asked him what he wants. I'd like to tell him what he's getting. I'm sure he's going to have part of the conversation but it's a conversation we have to have for sure and good for him. I think that staff has done a real fine job for us. Meeting with the players yesterday the conversations I had with them was real good feedback, a lot of the younger players in particular but some of the veterans as well, and that's why a guy like Sergei Gonchar and them indicated that they're interested in staying here if they could is they were all treated first class by the organization, they were treated very well by the coaching staff and allowed them to be competitive almost every game and they had a little bit of fun doing it as well. Those are the issues players want to hear and they want to be part of.

On if he's worried about his own contract:

Not at this point I'm not. Let me have a conversation with my wife first, I don't have any kids at home that I worry about any more but we'll see about that. That's not a topic I'm interested in going to at this point in time.

On MacLean's greatest strengths as a coach:

I think his willingness to work -- it was an obligation at times because of injuries -- to work with young players. The teaching part of it was really good. I thought the game planning was, I don't know if it was better than the year before, but it was good most nights. I watched what he did on the bench, how he was able to identify a guy that was going better on a given night, he got more ice time. He wasn't afraid or averse to sitting a guy down if he wasn't going on a particular night so I think as a coach, if you can identify things like that, your players work hard for you every night, they buy into what you're doing. The other thing I think Paul is really good at doing is bringing guys like Alfie and Phillips and Gonchar and Neil into the office and getting suggestions and being so open-minded to put those into working order whether it be for practice or a game. To me he's a veteran coach so I don't know that you'll see a big change year-to-year but you see consistency and a willingness to allow players to be the best they can be. As a manager you want to see that with your organization.

On if money will be an issue if Alfie returns:

I can't imagine. I don't know that, I haven't heard that, but I can't imagine that'll be an issue with us or him.

On other players with injury concerns beyond Jason Spezza:

The only other guy that has an issue is Milan Michalek and Milan is going to have his knee checked out further and see if there's something that has to be done to make him more comfortable in his play. Jason, as you know, had a little problem working out, getting ready to come back and Milan's had a problem, he had the scope done a while ago but it's still not 100 per cent and he wants to be able to rehab properly but to do that he may need further treatment.

On young players who will get a shot next season:

I think there's a number of guys. Mike Hoffman, I think is going to come in, healthy this guy made some huge strides this year. (Matt) Puempel, just talked to his agent this morning, a year ago it was an older teenager turning into a man and improved so much this year. (Stefan) Noesen had a great year. Mark Stone obviously we like a lot. Go down the list. (Mark) Borowiecki at the end of the year Luke (Richardson) was just raving about him, how he played down there, how gritty he is. I said to Mark, 'You just have to do puck skills this summer. Work with the puck. You don't have to hit people during the summer but you do have to do lots of things with the puck.' Those are the types of young guys coming that'll play games for sure next year. How many? That'll be up to them.

On the number of players competing for spots:

I think the one thing, again, it's an opportunity for a lot of people. With the injuries this year some guys came up, some of them were ready to play, some of them weren't ready to play. Some of them played a lot of games, some of them played five or eight games, whatever it may be. I think that exposure only speaks well for what's going forward. We're very simple people, we just want the players playing here. So, they determine that. We don't have pre-conceived ideas -- of course we do -- but if they come in to training camp and show us they're ahead of somebody else they'll be the people starting here. Then we'll have to make a judgment call. Ben Bishop, to me, was an example. He couldn't play here because we felt that Robin (Lehner) was ahead of him, we move him and try to get an asset in return. Are you ready to make a judgment to package a couple of guys to get a different type of player? That's our job to make those types of decisions.

On Andre Benoit's future:

Wasn't he a great guy? He was a depth guy to start with, he played lots of games for us, he played well for us. Andre's like a couple of guys that I have to talk to, talk to his agent over the course of time here and make a decision whether we're bringing him back but I certainly like what brought to the organization.

On the biggest surprise player:

Biggest surprise? You want me to say Pageau... he was. Seriously, for him to come up at the end of the year I had no inkling that he would ever get one game in the league this year. Turris I thought stepped up this year. With Spezza being out and him having to play against the Charas and the top pairing defencemen in the league on other teams I really thought he did fairly well. There were stretches where he couldn't get a point, and he brought that up to me yesterday, but there were stretches where he played really well for us and took that front-and-centre role and did remarkably well for what we expected of him. There are a couple of other guys as well. I thought Marc Methot came in here, I knew him, but until you see the guy play for you, you're not sure what level he'll get to but I thought he played a competitive game for us and was a very important player and a nice, pleasant player for me to have brought on board for sure.

On the Conacher trade:

I think Cory (Conacher) is a first year player in the league so how can it be disappointing. Could I have gotten a second round pick and waited four years? Of course I could have done that. I felt we should try to add a piece to try and send a message to our team that we're bringing in another player here, another guy for the organization. Do I want Cory to be 6-foot-5 in the fall? Of course. He'll be close, I'm sure. But I thought came in and played well and he's a rookie and like all of our rookies I expect next September they'll have made nice strides to come in and contribute more.

On the deep goaltending stable:

I think it goes without saying that Craig (Anderson) had a great year for us. He was a big reason why we ended up where we did and that's positive, not seventh. He really helped us through a lot of hard times. Robin Lehner we think has a chance to be a star. If he continues to grow and play to the level he has played, we think he really has a chance to be a good goaltender in this league. His maturity level has really, really grown a great deal. He looks like he's ready to be a starter. He and Craig will certainly compete in training camp for lots of games, I believe, over the course of the year. I think we're really set up that way and I think our future with a couple of other goaltenders coming is fairly bright as well. The graveyard has disappeared we hope. We hope that over the next number of years we're set at that position, the most important position on a team as well.

On if he'd consider trading Craig Anderson:

I don't have a third goaltender right now ready to play unless I had a goaltender coming back, but that's not the intent. I think finally we've got a guy here that can play, he's got a contract for a couple more years and I think that's what we're looking at continuing with and I'm not sure why I'd even think of trading one of the two goaltenders now.

On if he thinks they're a top-6 forward away from contention:

Yes. As I said at the beginning that was a disappointing part of the year. We thought we were going to be a better hockey team this year by quite a margin than we were a year ago and then all the injuries happened. I think with the health -- you're always going to have some injuries -- but I think if we get these people back, Cowen back to the level he was at a year ago, I think our team is real competitive and we have to look at adding if we possibly can.

On if it'll be easier to acquire players via trade or free agency:

I haven't had a chance to talk to management on another team yet to know that but there are a couple of free agents obviously that we like that we'll have to look at and evaluate. There are some teams that may have a problem financially according to the cap and we may be able to make a deal.

On if he's willing to stand pat over the summer:

We're prepared to do that. With the young guys that are coming in, I think there's going to be an upgrade at a couple of positions at any rate and we can do that for sure. That may get me off the hook for the summer, I'm not sure, but certainly we feel that with the core we have we're a good team. I think we're a good team. Are we as good as Pittsburgh? We know we're not right now. We're not the best two teams in the East but we're going to be a good team.

On potentially adding a veteran presence:

You're talking a 39-year-old or a 35-year-old. I'd be prefer getting a 28 or 29-year-old, maybe a 30-year-old, I don't really plan to go get an older guy than that but if it's available and he's a good player of course I would look at that at the time. My preference is to have a player that if you add, especially in a trade, you have some time with him.

On if there are other future stars in the organization:

Oh I think there's a whole group of them. I'd be shocked if we don't have eight or nine that play in the NHL. They all won't play for Ottawa but I think there's probably eight or nine guys, and I'm just taking it off the top of my head, that will play in the NHL. In Binghamton this year alone we've got three first rounders just coming in now out of junior. They're definitely going to play, they're all going to play in the NHL whether, as I said, they play here or not. We have four or five guys who played in Binghamton this year that very definitely will come up and play games or they'll be moved to other organizations so they get a chance to play. I feel very comfortable that depth here, the potential to grow here, is outstanding.

On Alfie's 'Probably not' comment:

I thought it was real honest. I thought it was a really honest comment. When you look at the games, how we got beat that night, for him to guarantee anything we weren't in that position. I know what he meant, I talked to him a little bit afterwards and I thought he was real honest. That's just what Alfie is. That's Daniel Alfredsson.

On impending UFA decisions:

I've made some decisions but I'll tell them first.

On Latendresse's season:

If he hadn't have gotten hurt he'd have been able to contribute here. He started off, he got hurt right away, he was really concerned about the head but it was more of a neck-related injury but coming off the concussion the previous year he was really concerned and that really set him back. We knew his footspeed wasn't going to be the reason we signed him. We thought around the net, being a front-of-the-net, goals, offensive zone type of guy and it never really got there for him.

You can watch the video version of the above conference here:

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