The top candidate to be Senators' coach next season may already have the job.
While GM Bryan Murray has insisted he has no plans to return behind the bench next season, two league executives told the Sun yesterday they believe Murray has been asked to "at least consider the possibility" of doing both jobs by owner Eugene Melnyk.
Murray, one executive noted, "is a tremendous coach. He gets the most out of the players."
It wouldn't be the first time Melnyk has asked Murray to serve as GM and coach. The Senators owner wanted Murray to do both jobs after John Muckler was fired as GM last June, but Murray felt that would be too difficult. So Murray became GM and hired John Paddock as coach, only to fire Paddock mid-season and end up doing what Melnyk wanted in the first place.
While Murray hasn't interviewed coaching candidates, the belief is he's made a list and will soon start the interviews.
"Doing both jobs is tough for anybody these days," said a league executive. "You wear both hats and you never stop. Once you finish with practice or games, you've got to turn your attention to contract issues, the salary cap, scouting and about a million other things. I just think that it's difficult for anybody that tries to do it."
STANLEY CUP RUN
Murray has won 620 regular-season games -- sixth all-time in the NHL -- but he was to turn around the Senators after firing Paddock in late February.
Murray was successful, however, behind the bench in 2006-07, when the Senators made their run to the Stanley Cup final.
Before Murray would agree to return in a dual role, he wants to exhaust every possibility of trying to find the right coach -- likely a taskmaster to keep the players in check.
It's believed Murray will speak with former Thrashers coach Bob Hartley, former Leafs coach Pat Quinn and former Devils coach Pat Burns, as well as current coaches John Tortorella (of the Lightning) -- if he gets fired -- Peter DeBoer of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers, and the AHL's Randy Cunneyworth (Rochester Americans) and Kevin Dineen (Portland Pirates).
Canucks coach Alain Vigneault would be a candidate, but he's on the verge of getting an extension. Other possibilities include world junior coach Craig Hartsburg and Sharks coach Ron Wilson, who could get the boot after an early playoff exit.
The latter's a long shot. There's a strong belief Wilson and Murray's personalities would clash.
Murray wants to a coach who will make the likes of Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley accountable -- on and off the ice. Quinn and Burns are the top candidates. In the end, Murray himself could turn out to be the best fit.