Murray, Spezza, Phillips, Neil & Michalek must go!
I understand your approach to maintaining a small budget team in a small market with the objective of winning a championship by scaling up in assets when required.
The only analysis required of the team's season is the statements by your best all-around player and the coach. Ironically, it was the first day of spring. Before the game, MacArthur said in effect: "we are in this situation because we haven't competed all year." After the game, a 5-4 loss to Tampa, the coach said: "It's groundhog day; 6 minors, 13 giveaways, 4 goals scored & we lost".
It is time for a spring cleaning. You have provided the resources & scope to your manager to select, acquire, and dispose of assets, as well as to determine the leadership of the team. The return on investment for this season was well below average.
Going forward, this is a critical juncture, indeed a tipping point for your investments. If the hard decisions, the right decisions are not made now, then the risk is that the downward spiral of the team could accelerate, or level off at a non-elite level, which could result in valuable assets voting with their feet and signing with competitors. In other words, this proposed action will permit the re-allocation of capital to assets entering the peak performance phase of their career from assets that are no longer a value for money proposition (4 players @ $16.3M).
What is required is:
-a realistic strategic assessment of assets (players, coaches, management & staff) to gauge their potential to make the playoffs in the near term.
-a tactical evaluation of players' potential, strengths & weaknesses so that core assets (Ryan) are retained and assets nearing the end of their life-cycle are discarded (Spezza, Phillips, Neil, & Michalek), even at the risk of low returns or contract buy-outs.
-a gap analysis of resources will determine the requirements to rebalance your portfolio by promoting from within (Stone) or by acquiring from competitors (a defensive defence man).
These are the actions you must take immediately:
1. Hire a GM from outside the organization, following the example of Montreal & Tampa. Only an outsider can make the serious changes required to the asset mix, philosophy, & approach of the team; as well as providing the coach with the tools he needs to win. Given Murray's contribution to the team, redeploy him a special advisor.
2. Authorize the GM & coach to hire an assistant defensive coach (a la Larry Robinson).
3. Instruct the GM & coach to acquire the best defensive defence man available.
4. Instruct the GM to source a player from a recent Stanley Cup winner to bring the right attitude & approach to the dressing room.
5. Instruct that MacArthur be named captain to replace a player with obvious liabilities who did not fit the coaches' game plan & consequently could not lead by example.
Maybe then, I'll buy the tickets for next season.