Doing it Murray's way

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

The shrill whistle split the air and Bryan Murray burst into action as Senators practice came to stop in the middle of a drill yesterday at the Bell Sensplex.

He had his right glove tucked under his arm and his right index finger stabbed the air.

"Attack the net all the time!" he yelled into the chilly air.

A week into training camp and Murray is keeping his thumb pressed firmly on his new team.

As he gets used to the team and the team gets used to him, Murray's philosophy and approach become more evident.

He is demanding.

He is frank in his assessments.

Players will not wonder where they stand.

"We did drills. Eight guys went and the ninth didn't know what he was doing. That's not very bright ... really," he said yesterday as an example of what he's seen in the first week of camp.

HE'S FUNNY

"It's about paying attention ... and you wonder why some guys don't make it."

Ouch. But he is also funny.

When somebody mentioned yesterday the Senators should have the horses to do well this year, Murray replied: "I hope we do, although I watched the Islanders (Tuesday) night and they have some horses, too ... and the Montreal Canadiens. That (Guillaume) Latendresse. Why didn't we draft that kid?" he asked slyly.

(Latendresse had two goals and an assist in the Habs' exhibition win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.)

When asked about the absence of winger Martin Havlat, Murray dead panned: "We've been going 20 days in a row and it's in his contract that he's not allowed to practice more than five times a week."

The levity is appreciated in what was the mostly humourless vacuum of the Jacques Martin era.

The comparisons will be inevitable, though the true test will come in the spring. Murray has been brought here for one reason only and that is to push this team over the playoff hurdle Martin could not.

TENSION IN THE AIR

"I'm just trying to get a little different area improved," said Murray. "Jacques always had a very disciplined, hard team to play against. We're just trying to open it up a little bit, maybe take a few more chances. The opportunity comes partly because of the rules, too. We knew we were going to try and do a lot of this stuff, but now I think the players are going to find there's a little more fun having the puck."

Murray will surely push, and hard, because that's why he was brought in here.

On the ice, there's a bit more tension in the air, but that comes with any team that makes a coaching change.

"I think for everyone it's a new outlook," said Senators centre Mike Fisher, who's been one of the best players in camp. "We've got new rules and a new coaching staff and everyone is trying to impress ... (Murray) hasn't coached any of us before. The guys want to show their best and gain his trust right away. They want to show they deserve the ice time they're being given.

"He's got a different philosophy. It looks the same at practice and we do a lot of the same drills, but as far as on the bench, there's a different feel, for sure. He's pushing us to be a tougher team, to stand up for our teammates. It starts with him on the bench. He's intense and right into the game. That's what we need here. We haven't met our goals, so we've got to be motivated. That's what he's going to do, for sure."

After his career in teaching and coaching the likes of Steve Yzerman, Scott Stevens and Sergei Fedorov, Murray said the best players in the game want to be pushed.

"Good students, good athletes, they always want help to get better," he said. "They want to be told, they want to be corrected in the right way. I have never had a good player who didn't want to be pushed to get better. They'll mutter and they'll bitch, but they want to get there and they'll take players along with them quite often.

"The more you push them, if they get to the next level, they appreciate it."


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