The 2011-2012 season was a surprisingly successful one for the Ottawa Senators, and a lot of that success can be attributed to the team's general manager. Bryan Murray made a number of key moves during and prior to the regular season that put the club on the path to an unanticipated playoff spot. Not all of Murray's moves paid off as well as fans might have hoped (see: Filatov, Nikita), but he certainly had more hits than misses. Here are three of his best moves:
3) Acquiring Ben Bishop
The Ottawa Senators were right in the middle of the playoff hunt when Craig Anderson injured his hand while cooking, leaving the Senators with the underperforming Alex Auld and young Robin Lehner as the only two viable options. Murray decided he wasn't comfortable with either, and shored up Ottawa's goaltending depth by acquiring Ben Bishop of the St. Louis Blues for a second-round pick. Bishop came in and got wins in his first two games, and provided steady goaltending that solidified Ottawa's playoff position. Best of all, Ottawa now has two young goaltenders in their system in Bishop and Lehner that both project to be capable NHL goalies. That's something that has been missing in this organization for far too long.
2) The Kyle Turris trade
Ottawa's second-line centre role was supposed to be filled by Peter Regin or Mika Zibanejad. Instead, Regin went on the injured reserve list and Zibanejad went back to Sweden, leaving Ottawa scrambling to fill a large void in the middle of its lineup. Murray made a bold play in December to get Turris out of Phoenix by moving David Rundblad and a second-round pick. This was a gutsy move by Murray that resulted in a decidedly mixed reaction, as Turris hadn't lived up to expectations in the desert and the Senators organization had spent the previous offseason hyping Rundblad to no end. Nevertheless, the move paid off, as Turris thrived in Ottawa and has become one of the team's best young players.
1) Hiring Paul MacLean
Bryan Murray's coach-hiring history with the Senators has been about as successful as M. Night Shyamalan's recent movie history, so there was plenty of pressure on him to get this pick right. He couldn't have done much better than the affable MacLean, who came in and immediately changed the culture in Ottawa. His wit kept press conferences lighter and more entertaining. He emphasized communication and incorporated his few remaining veterans into guiding the team. He better utilized his star players, helping Jason Spezza finish fourth in the league in points and landing Erik Karlsson a Norris Trophy nomination. Most importantly, he led the team back into the playoffs far earlier than anyone would have expected.