Murray happy about hitting post

Bryan Murray replaced long-time Senators coach Jacques Martin in June 2004. (Ottawa Sun File/Sean...

Bryan Murray replaced long-time Senators coach Jacques Martin in June 2004. (Ottawa Sun File/Sean Kilpatrick)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

Bryan Murray came home to win a Stanley Cup with the Senators. Now, he's going to get his chance.

It seems like an eternity since the 62-year-old Shawville native replaced the fired Jacques Martin on June 9, 2004.

Now, after shuffling papers around his office for more than a year, Murray will finally step onto the Corel Centre ice some time Wednesday morning and lead troops that are used to a different man behind the whistle.

Martin, who spent almost nine seasons behind the Senators' bench, wasn't sent packing because he wasn't a good coach. In fact, he compiled a 341-235-96 W-L-T record before the organization relieved him of his duties after yet another playoff series loss to the Maple Leafs.

"I've spoken with (Martin) about this and I understand what happened here," Murray told the Sun in a pre-training camp interview last week. "I was in Washington for nine years and then I got fired. It just happens.

"Things aren't going to be much different than what's happened here in the past. Mostly, I'm going to bring a different voice, a different attitude and I'm going to be competitive. I'm not coming here thinking that I'm able to reinvent the wheel. You can tell that things had gotten pretty routine for the players who were here. Nothing much changed.

"My practices are going to be about spending a lot of time focusing on skills and we're going to do a lot of time of offensive drills. Of course, it's important to play good defence. This is just going to be a different approach and there might be a bit of different attitude."

There have been plenty of changes to the Senators since Murray left his post as GM of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and became coach of the Senators -- agreeing with GM John Muckler on a three-year deal.

Goalie Patrick Lalime (St. Louis), centre Radek Bonk (Montreal) and winger Marian Hossa (Atlanta) have been moved elsewhere. Goalie Dominik Hasek, who won a Stanley Cup ring with Detroit in 2002, signed with the club as a free agent, while Dany Heatley was acquired from the Thrashers last month for Hossa.

Core players like Daniel Alfredsson, Zdeno Chara, Martin Havlat, Jason Spezza, Wade Redden, Chris Phillips, Vaclav Varada, Peter Schaefer and Chris Neil will be back, but the off-season changes were enough to make the Senators a 6-1 favourite to win the Cup, according to LasVegas.com.

"The guys who are here might feel that with somebody new here there may be some things they want to say and they may have suggestions on how this team can be successful," said Murray.

"These suggestions might not be anything new, but I want guys to be able to feel like they can come in and talk to me. I want them to come every day prepared to work hard and I believe we've got a good group here and we're going to have some success."

There won't be much time in camp to evaluate, so Murray, along with assistants Greg Carvel, John Paddock and goalie coach Ron Low, are going to have to work quick to find out where everybody is at. The Senators open the pre-season next Sunday in Toronto.

The competition is going to be stiff for one job on the blue line where top prospect Andrej Meszaros, Lance Ward and Binghamton's Christoph Schubert will all get a chance to battle it out. Redden, Chara, Phillips, Volchenkov and Brian Pothier are all guaranteed spots.

Up front, there are decisions to be made as well. Who is going to play where and how is ice time going to be divided? Is Havlat going to be on the left side or will Heatley play there? Does Patrick Eaves, the Senators' No. 1 pick in 2003, have what it takes to play at this level? Can Spezza handle being the team's No. 1 centre?

"Every team is going to go through a few changes every year and this team is no different. There's going to be some good battles on defence. We have four established defencemen and we have some decisions to make up front," said Murray.

"We're probably only going to carry one extra player during the season and I don't know whether that's going to be a defenceman or a forward. There are going to be people who are going to get opportunities. I want to see where a guy like Brian McGrattan could fit in on this team."

Before training camp, Murray would like to sit down and chat with Hasek. In the past, the 40-year-old netminder saw most of the action, but Murray isn't sure how much time Hasek will see in the net.

"I'm a guy who likes to have a plan," said Murray. "Is he going to play 40, 50 or 60 games? Does he want to play more? These are all things that I have to discuss with him."

For the first time in more than a year, Murray is thrilled about going to the office.

"It seems like it has been a long time ... We're all excited about getting back on the ice," said Murray. "The game is what this is all about. This is the exciting part of the job."


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