Bryan Murray, one of Shawville's finest, has been the general manager (with a brief sabbatical as coach) of the Ottawa Senators since 2007 and was re-signed again this year for two more years. There seems to be mixed opinions of Mr. Murray, especially since he's had a few blunders: the Ben Bishop trade, signing Alexei Kovalev, and letting Daniel Alfredsson walk (which I believe wasn't necessarily Murray's fault). Yes, he's not perfect, but Murray has had some flashes of brilliance too: trading for Kyle Turris, signing Clarke MacArthur, and drafting well. It's this latter point that gives me optimism, especially with the 2014 NHL Entry Draft quickly approaching.
Love him or hate him, you can't deny the fact that Murray has a history of drafting well. Some of the most notable names that Murray has drafted are Erik Karlsson, Mika Zibanejad, Cody Ceci, and the most highly touted young prospect around these parts, Curtis Lazar. When he was with the Anaheim Ducks, he also drafted Ryan Getzlaf and traded his second round picks to draft Corey Perry in the first round. I hear they're pretty good too. All of these players, however, were selected in the first round where talent assessment might be a little easier.
I would assume that drafting in the subsequent rounds becomes a little tougher. This is where the GM and his staff have to do their dirty work and scour rinks for that hidden gem - that Doug Gilmour at 134th, Luc Robitaille at 171st, or Henrik Lundqvist at 200th. Here is where Murray and Co. shine. Yes, Tim Murray was an important piece of that puzzle, but he wasn't the only piece. Here's a list of some notable players that Murray has drafted over the years (for a full list, click here):
- Curtis Lazar, 17th
- Cody Ceci, 15th
- Mika Zibanejad, 6th
- Matt Puempel, 24th
- Jean-Gabriel Pageau, 96th
- Frederik Claesson, 126th
- Mark Stone, 178th
- Erik Karlsson, 15th
- Patrick Wiercioch, 42nd
- Zack Smith, 79th
- Derek Grant, 119th
- Mark Borowiecki, 139th
Looking at that list, Murray and his colleagues have certainly drafted some hidden talent over the years. In fact, the Senators have drafted so well in recent history that the 2010-2011 Binghamton Senators, comprised of many current Ottawa Senators players and prospects, won the Calder Cup. Now, Tim Murray was technically their GM, but it was the drafting of the elder Murray and his team that brought in many of the integral pieces that helped Binghamton win the AHL's highest honour. This year, Bingo was first in the AHL's East as well, with many players drafted by Murray (or signed by him out of college). Bingo's success is important to the Ottawa Senators, moreover, for the obvious fact that these are the up-and-comers for the big club. Given that the Sens are a budget team, the team needs to draft skillfully to be able to stock its cupboards with homegrown talent instead of trying to sign big name UFAs or trade for expensive, high-profiled players.
What about Jim O'Brien? Let's remember that Murray only took over the job from Muckler six days before the NHL Entry Draft in 2007 and undoubtedly had to make picks based on Muckler's assessments. Furthermore, there are not many known names that came out of that draft past the mid-first round aside from P.K. Subban and Wayne Simmonds.
The point that I'm trying to drive home is that Murray, Dorion, and Lee are strong at assessing young talent. I mean, we're talking about the guys who drafted Erik Karlsson! No doubt Murray's playing and coaching background help - he has an eye for the game and he can pinpoint skills and potential in players that perhaps others don't see. As of now, we don't have a first-rounder, but that might change closer to the date, especially with the upcoming Jason Spezza trade. I have faith that Murray and his team will, once again, surprise us by finding that young diamond in the rough. He's done it before and I believe Murray will do it again.