Changes from 'A' to 'Z'

Head coach Bryan Murray of Ottawa Senators talks to media following practice at the Scotiabank...

Head coach Bryan Murray of Ottawa Senators talks to media following practice at the Scotiabank Place on Monday, April 24, 2006. (SUN/Sean Kilpatrick)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

These won't be your same old Senators ... and that suits coach Bryan Murray just fine.

Murray is convinced all those experts who picked the club to win the Stanley Cup are going to back off this year.

"I hope nobody picks us to win," said Murray with a smile in a pre-training camp interview with the Sun last week in his Scotiabank Place office. "I'm really excited. I'm really excited to see how the changes we've made are going to make us look this year.

"I have some ideas of where I want to put people and we're going to try some things in camp. This should be interesting."

As GM John Muckler enters his fifth season with the club, and Murray his second, this is the biggest makeover of the Senators in a decade.

With those thoughts in mind, here's a look at training camp, which will open Thursday with medicals:

THE COACHING STAFF: Coach: Bryan Murray. Assistant coaches: John Paddock, Greg Carvel, Randy Lee and Tim Pattyson (video).

DEARLY DEPARTED: C Tyler Arnason (Colorado), D Zdeno Chara (Boston), RW Martin Havlat (Chicago), G Dominik Hasek (Detroit), D Brian Pothier (Washington), G Mike Morrison (Phoenix), LW Vaclav Varada (Switzerland), C Bryan Smolinski (Chicago).

WELCOME ABOARD: G Martin Gerber (Carolina), C Dean McAmmond (St. Louis), D Joe Corvo (Los Angeles), D Tom Preissing (San Jose), C Josh Hennessy (Cleveland, IHL), D Jamie Allison (Nashville).

A QUICK LOOK: After yet another post-season debacle -- this past spring at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres -- Senators management knew changes had to be made. The word around the NHL is owner Eugene Melnyk has demanded that president Roy Mlakar, Muckler and Murray find a way to win a Stanley Cup. Melnyk isn't happy with the string of poor playoff performances and he made it clear in a letter to the public in the off-season he wants a championship -- nothing less. "What we're undergoing here is pretty much a major overhaul," said Murray. "With the salary cap, we weren't going to be able to keep everybody and there were changes we had to make to improve this team. We had to take it in a different direction. We're going to be a different team. There's no question about that."

GOALTENDING: The Senators were left with little choice but to dump Hasek. After suffering an adductor muscle injury at the Olympics, which kept Hasek out of the lineup for the rest of the season and inevitably crushed the hopes of many Senators fans, the netminder would have been a tough sell for both the players and team's supporters, alike. "The guys need to have confidence in the goaltender," said Murray. "Yes, he played well for us last year and he was strong when he was in the net, but you can't have guys wondering what might happen. They have to have confidence. Ray Emery played strong for us in the playoffs, but goaltending was an issue at the end. I just don't think for everybody involved we could have brought Dominik Hasek back here this year." That's why Muckler had to let go of his dream of having Hasek bring Ottawa a Cup and sign Gerber as an unrestricted free agent. Gerber and Murray have a strong relationship from the past. They were together with the Ducks and Gerber could have gone other places, but he liked the option of playing for Murray again. "He's a guy who can get the job done and as you get to know this guy you'll realize just what a great guy he is," said Murray. "He's going to work well with Ray Emery and I think that Gerber is going to make Ray Emery a better goalie. Gerber doesn't want special treatment. He's a strong goalie and the guys can have confidence that he's going to be there every night."

THE BLUE LINE: While the loss of Chara, who signed a five-year, $37.5-million (all terms US) free-agent contract with the Bruins, was a big blow to the Senators, they knew it was unlikely he'd re-sign in Ottawa. With Chara gone, the Senators have decided to build a defence that should be more mobile. Getting D Wade Redden re-signed to a two-year, $13-million contract in the off-season was huge. He moves the puck well and eats up important minutes, many of which Chara used to get. The loss of Pothier is going to hurt, but the club has gained Preissing (trade), Allison (free agent) and Corvo (free agent). Murray is hoping that Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov take on bigger roles. "We need the guys we have to play a bigger role with Chara gone. Look, Phillips is a strong defensive defenceman who has played a big role for this team. We expect him to step up," said Murray. The coaching staff hasn't yet decided whether D Christoph Schubert is going to play on the blue line or up front. Binghamton D Andy Hedlund is going to get a chance to earn a spot.

UP FRONT: There could be big changes here. Winger Dany Heatley has expressed an interest in playing on the right side and Murray is going to try it in training camp with Jason Spezza as Heatley's centre. "I get the feeling that Dany is more comfortable on the right side," said Murray. "He likes to be able to take the big shot of his from the circle and get the one-timer going. I don't think that Jason will have a problem getting him the puck." Who plays the left side? Well, that's a good question. The club is going to try different people there. Centre Antoine Vermette is an obvious choice, so is McAmmond, and Chris Kelly might get a shot, too. Ideally, the Senators would like to have two scoring lines. The club is going to give rookie Alexei Kaigorodov a chance to be the second-line centre, but Vermette is also going to get a fair shake at earning the spot. One of them will play with captain Daniel Alfredsson and that's going to mean they'll get the chance to score. Vermette could net 30 goals this season if he gets the opportunity. The left side remains a major concern because the Senators don't have much depth beyond Peter Schaefer and McAmmond.

CAMP TIDBITS: The Senators, who will have 47 players in camp, will play nine pre-season games in 11 days. That means Murray won't be splitting camp into Ottawa and Binghamton groups like he did last year. "We're going to give everybody a chance to make this team," said Murray. "The good part of having so many games is that we're going to have a good chance to evaluate everybody. In the end, players decide where they're going to start the year, but we have some guys on Binghamton who are going to have a better shot of making this team."


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