Silver Seven 2015 Report Cards: Management

The final article in a four-part series of 2014-15 Ottawa Senators report cards. This post takes a look the performances of Senators management.

Nine staff members assigned letter grades for each of the Senators players and management including the playoffs. We've done the players, now here are the aggregate final grades for the team’s management.

Paul Maclean: D

This season: 11-11-5

Last season: 37-31-14

Paul Maclean had a tumultuous tenure in Ottawa. In the summer of 2011he was named as Cory Clouston's replacement and became the 9th head coach in Ottawa’s history. He was nominated for the Jack Adams in 2012 and won the award the following season earning him a three year extension.

In the press conference that followed Maclean’s firing, Bryan Murray cited two main issues which led to Maclean being let go. The first was the team’s play in our own end. Murray stated "We continue to be a big turnover team in our zone…The chances against our team are, some nights, atrocious."

Murray would go on to imply that defensive positioning was a major problem for this team and that there had been "no changes" or improvements in that area despite numerous conversations about the need for that issue to be addressed.

The second issue was Paul Maclean’s relationship with the players and his impact on the dressing room. Murray spoke about an uneasiness in the dressing room that had developed recently and explained that a number of players felt that they were being singled out too often. It has also been suggested that Maclean may have had a hard time relating to and getting the most out of the the team’s younger players. This was something management was lauding Dave Cameron’s ability to do well in contrast.

Something that wasn’t addressed by Murray in the press conference but was a major source of ire and disillusion among members and staff on this site, was Maclean’s usage of players. Personally, I lost a small piece of my innocence every time Chris Neil jumped over the boards as the team’s extra skater. As many coaches in this league do, Maclean seemed to rely very heavily on grittier veteran players. In many cases Maclean seemed to do this in the face of poor results time and time again.

Mark Stone who had been playing well (though not as well as he did under Cameron) had the lowest even strength ice time per game of any Senator before Dec 8th. Zibanejad had less 5v5 TOI per game than Michalek and barely more than Zack Smith.

Chris Phillips trailed only Erik Karlsson in even strength TOI per game. Phillips’ average put him higher than players like Giordano, Letang, and Ekman-Larsson to name just a few.

All of these factors culminated in an 11-11-5 start, which after an underwhelming 2013-2014 season, was enough for Maclean to be cut loose just 18 months after winning coach of the year on his second nomination.

Paul Maclean had one of the biggest voting gaps through this whole project and it makes sense that the staff were split on his performance. He was dealing with a tough situation. He wasn’t responsible for putting this team together. He didn’t extend players like Phillips, Neil and Smith. He also didn’t have a lot of options in terms of who to pair with Karlsson with Methot out (though Karlsson’s 36% GF and 46% CF with Phillips contrasted against his 56% GF and 59% CF with Wiercioch under Maclean last year suggests that there may have been a shockingly obvious better option to fill Methot’s shoes) and he was dealing with the league’s lowest payroll at the time. All of that needs to be taken into account as well.

Highest Grade: C

Lowest Grade: F

Dave Cameron: A-

This season: 32-15-8

Dave Cameron had been an assistant coach with Ottawa for a number of years before he was brought in to Coach this team. In all honesty, I was upset when he was picked for the job despite knowing basically nothing about the man. I had the sense that Murray’s arm was being twisted by Melnyk and I wouldn’t say I have the greatest faith in the idea of Melnyk making unilateral hockey management decisions.

I was pleasantly surprised by Cameron. It would be hard to argue that things weren’t better for the Senators after Cameron took over. Ross summed it up perfectly in his weekly question post on May 2nd

"He ended up coaching the Sens to the greatest comeback to make the playoffs in NHL history. He made interesting decisions such as scratching veterans Chris Phillips, David Legwand, and even Chris Neil in the playoffs. Some point out that a lot of his decisions were lucky - injuries not allowing him to play Neil or Zack Smith, a suspension forcing Jared Cowen out of the lineup. Still, he was willing to play the young guys in prominent roles, and the results speak for themselves. Ottawa's improvement both in record and in possession was astounding. Erik Karlsson is a Norris candidate. Mark Stone is a Calder candidate. Mike Hoffman led rookies in goals (despite a confusing late-season demotion to the fourth line)."

There are a number of factors that make it difficult to compare Cameron’s year to Maclean’s, even though it was the same season and basically the same roster.

It seems like almost every positive comes with some sort of caveat.

The team’s improvement under Cameron coincides with a number of key injuries and the return of Marc Methot. While Methot can’t be given sole credit for turning this team around, removing Phillips from Karlsson and the line-up itself was a big deal. If Karlsson is ice-cream, Phillips is a pair of chopsticks to Methot’s spoon. Solidifying the top pairing allowed Cameron to give cushier deployment to the other defensemen.

Basically, it’s not Maclean’s fault that Methot was out of the line-up and his return was likely a considerable factor in the team’s turnaround.

Cameron has to get some credit for putting together some outstanding lines. If we can find a way to keep the top three lines from the end of the season in tact (with Hoffman in the top 6), I’ll be a very happy fan. He brought Wiercioch back into the lineup and even Legwand and Chiasson started putting up really nice possession numbers under Cameron.

I still don’t understand or like that Hoffman spent time on the fourth line. I’m also uneasy about Cameron not getting the most out of Bobby Ryan if he isn’t injured. Cameron also benefitted from other-worldly play from Andrew Hammond. He also seemed to put a system in place which allowed us to move from 8th worst in scoring chance% on December 8th to 7th best for the rest of the season.

Nice work Dave, and congratulations on winning a majority Parliament.

Highest Grade A

Lowest Grade B+

Bryan Murray: C+

This season: 43-26-13
Last season: 37-31-14
Bryan Murray has had a hell of a year and it's been about more than just hockey. Murray has been remarkably courageous and open about his battle with cancer. The impact of his honesty and candour on the subject can't be overstated. He's been an inspiration and a wake up call for countless people and I know we all have nothing but respect and admiration for how he's handled himself through all of this.

There were a lot of things to like about Bryan Murray’s year. A number of good players were locked up for the foreseeable future. Anderson, Lehner, Methot, MacArthur, and Ryan stand out as key signings that should benefit this team moving forward. While the Ryan signing and the dollar figure that comes with it is was the most controversial of the three, it’s also the one that best represented a vindication for many Ottawa fans. It was a huge relief for those of us who are tired of seeing so many of our high profile players walk out the door and hearing the talking heads reiterate incessantly that Ottawa isn’t a place that players want to go or stay. I think Murray managed to send a message this year, and while it’s yet to be seen how these signings play out in the long term, I like that message.

One place in which I personally struggled in assessing Murray’s year was in determining how much value to put on the current impact of his past work and decisions. Do you fault Murray this year on the Smith, Neil, Phillips, Greening and Cowen signings of the past? Do you give him credit for helping draft and sign guys like Turris, Karlsson, Hoffman and Stone who had outstanding years and played way above their pay grade?

More immediately, the Spezza trade wasn’t what we thought it would be and Chiasson didn’t have the impact many of us thought he would. I take the less popular stance that Chiasson and Legwand quietly had pretty solid second halves of the season but I don’t think either of them did anything that wouldn’t have been pretty replaceable by guys from Bingo.
Murray didn’t do anything at the deadline. In retrospect that looks like a pretty great move. He also was apparently one unreturned phone call away from trading Patrick Wiercioch and spent most of the season trying to move Condra. I don’t like that, Bryan.

Murray is cash-strapped as a GM and he shares some of the blame for that. A lot of money this year went to guys who were either scratched very often or should have been. My biggest fear moving forward is that the run the team had this year will serve as Melnyk's vindication, his podium from which he speaks louder and with more conviction about his ideas which the rest of the numbers don't necessarily support.

Highest Grade B+

Lowest Grade C-

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