Coach: No deal? No problem

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

He is a coach who has no contract for next year, a guy looking for his own playoff success, a man who looks like he is coaching now like there is no tomorrow for him or his team.

Maybe that's the best way to go right now. Maybe that kind of urgency is the thing that has always been missing from the Senators' mix at this time of year.

Contract or no contract for next year, at this point in his 25-year career Bryan Murray is beyond caring.

Not about the contract situation. Not about what's happened in the past. Not about what people think.

He lambasted (his word) his team during the second intermission of Game 4 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, sensing his team was losing grasp of the moment, squandering a chance to take control of the series.

The game was tied, the chance to take a 3-1 series lead there for the taking.

It is not the time to be worried about feelings, egos or what anybody thinks.

"In the early part of your career, you have to worry about all those issues," said Murray. "I've always been of the mind it doesn't matter what people say or even if I ruffle a few feathers among the players.

"You've just got to do it the right way. The right way is always the way you believe is right. It's not what other people think. It's not what the players think. It's got to be what you believe will be successful.

"I try to be a real-honest, up-front guy with the players. I've always tried to talk to them about why they are in certain spots. I don't know if it would be any different if I was back (next year), I really don't know that. I have a comfort in my ability and in my life. How people react is not going to affect me one way or the other, really, I really don't think. That's what experience does for you."

The Senators looked like a different, harder, edgier (that's a playoff word, for our purposes) team in their first-round defeat of the Penguins, but Pittsburgh was a young, inexperienced team.

The Senators were full value for finishing them in five games, but ...

Now we get to see just how far the Senators really have come.

The Devils, the team responsible for the Senators' most devastating moment, will reveal just how much this Senators team really has evolved.

A DIFFERENT TEAM

The Senators are a different team now than the one that lost to the Devils in seven games in the Eastern Conference final in 2003.

They are a different team from last year, from the beginning of this season.

The coach is still learning about this team, but, after two years, said he feels he has now got insight into this group.

With each game, each series and each season, Murray and assistants John Paddock and Greg Carvel have gained more knowledge of the inner workings of their own team.

"I know what guys can do now," said Murray. "I know the level you can expect, where they fit and they, in turn, came to understand better the system that we're trying to play, the checking role we expect of them and the work ethic we expect of them."

With that knowledge, the coaching staff can figure out what matchups work best, what areas they are best equipped to try and exploit on the other side.

Take, for example, the Senators' forecheck against the Penguins.

With all six Penguins defencemen shooting left, the Senators coaching staff wanted, when possible, for the puck to be shot into the Penguins' right-wing corner.

That forced the defencemen on that side to either try to move the puck on his backhand up the boards (not likely a strong play), take a second turning around to get in position to make a forehand pass (giving the forechecker a couple of extra steps) or bump the puck behind the Penguins net (creating a battle on the boards).

All three would, more often than not, help the Senators establish their forecheck.

Helping the Senators' cause further was the fact the more skilful of the Penguins defencemen all played the right side.

Against the Devils, of course, the goal will be to dump the puck in the corners again and keep it away from goaltender Martin Brodeur, the best puck-handling goaltender in the league.

Murray now gets to match wits with Devils GM/coach Lou Lamoriello, who fired coach Claude Julien with two games to go in the regular season.

It's an interesting matchup.

One is a coach with no job for next year, the other a man with a job and no coach.


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