Sports Hockey

Dorion takes over from Murray as Sens GM

By Bruce Garrioch, Ottawa Sun

It wasn’t long ago, during a break in the schedule in Philadelphia, that Bryan Murray talked about the flame still burning inside him.

Sunday, though, the Senators GM decided it was best to pass the torch.

As Postmedia was first to report, Murray, 73, confirmed Sunday morning he has decided to move into a role of senior adviser as assistant Pierre Dorion was promoted to become the eighth GM in club history during a press conference at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Less than 24 hours after the Senators completed their season with a 6-1 victory over the Boston Bruins and missed the playoffs for the second time in three years, Murray, who is battling Stage 4 colon cancer, determined it was best he step aside to let the 43-year-old Dorion guide the Senators.

“It’s time to step aside and have a different role with the organization. I say this — every day in the NHL has been a challenge and it has been great. It has taken some time to come to the decision, but it’s time for my family,” Murray said.

He’s leaving behind a team that needs to be re-tooled, not completely rebuilt.

Dorion, who has spent more than 20 years working in the league as a scout and player personnel director before being elevated to the role as assistant GM with Randy Lee on Jan. 13, 2014, is excited about the challenge that lays ahead with owner Eugene Melnyk determined to get back to the playoffs.

Though many GM’s arrive on the job and talk about the fact they have to overhaul the roster, Dorion does believe Murray has put a lot of good pieces in place. He didn’t indicate the status quo would remain by any sense of the imagination — which means coach Dave Cameron is in huge trouble.

The goal for the Senators is simple: Return to being a playoff contender.

“The No. 1 priority is definitely to get back to our winning ways,” said Dorion, an Ottawa native. “We have to be more consistent as a team. At times we look like we can beat any team in the league. There are nights we look like we have no chance to win. Consistency is definitely something we’re going to look at.

“It hasn’t been a long while that I’ve known I’m going to have this job. A plan will be put in place, a plan will be executed. I’d like (meet with Lee) to talk about his responsibilities now and after that I’ll probably be bugging Bryan more often than he wants to hear from me. I think we have to play better. We have to be better. I think the players have to be better and they all know that.”

The Senators didn’t miss the playoffs because of a lack of talent, the club was plagued by a group that underachieved, was terrible in its own end and suffered key injuries to the likes of Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur.

“Things haven’t gone according to plan this past season, but for me, it’s just a (bump) on the road,” Dorion said. “I do we feel we have a good hockey team, but we haven’t achieved the level of success that is expected. I don’t think there’s much sense in dwelling on the past, but we need to learn lessons from this past season and never repeat them.

“There are many positives with this team. We have a great nucleus of players and I really think through Bryan’s work, we’re on the right path on getting to the Cup.”

Though Dorion has promised he’s going to make adjustments, he wasn’t making any commitments to where he might turn on his first day on the job. He’ll meet with the players during the exit meetings Monday and let them know the organization isn’t happy at all.

“I wanted to have the chance to talk to each player to let them know my commitment to this team and to them and in the same way we’re going to ask them to make a huge commitment to us by having a big summer so we’re better next year,” Dorion said in his opening statement. “There will be hard conversations (Monday) as the product on the ice has to be better.”

Anybody who thinks Dorion is a greenhorn and isn’t prepared for the job couldn’t be more wrong. Under Murray, Dorion has been given an expanded role — including playing a key role in negotiating contracts and making trades.

He has promised there will be new faces next season but he won’t hurry.

“There’s an evaluation process,” said Dorion. “Sometimes we’re quick to judge. There will be changes but we have to do the proper changes and we have to take our time doing it and make sure every change we make is the right one.”

This is only the first of many changes for the Senators.

TOUGH DECISION

Not long after the team picture last Wednesday at the Canadian Tire Centre, Bryan Murray sat down for a chat with owner Eugene Melnyk and decided one of the biggest changes as the off-season began would come in the GM’s chair.

The time has come for Murray to step to the side. It was a tough decision, but with assistant Pierre Dorion ready to take on the job the move was easier.

“I’ve been struggling with it for the last month in particular. I thought about it, I met with Eugene,” Murray said Sunday. “We had a long discussion about where we’re going, what we’re doing and I just felt at the time and I suggested ahead of time in all likelihood it would be the right time.

“I think having Pierre in position to do to the job and take it over and be a strong general manager was important. There really wasn’t any other consideration. Knowing that and how I feel and how much time I’ve taken away from my family. Tolerant is an underused word, but putting up with me wanting to be the young man still in hockey I just felt after much discussion it was time to pull the plug.”

Of course, Murray would have liked to have left on a better note.

“Leaving after a disappointing year, that’s maybe the hardest part. You always want to try and leave on the up and that wasn’t to be this year, but I really feel good about the talent level that is on the ice in the future,” Murray said. “I was adamant that when I stepped aside to let someone else take over, that we all feel good about the future here. I think it is a very bright future.”

BIG SHOES TO FILL

Pierre Dorion is the eighth general manager in Senators history. Here’s the seven people who have been in the seat before him.

Mel Bridgman (1992-93): Owner Rod Bryden asked him to go for breakfast the day after the club went 10-70-2 and gave him his walking papers.

Randy Sexton (1993-96): Led team through a rocky stretch. His decision to fire inaugural coach Rick Bowness and replace him with Dave Allison didn’t work.

Pierre Gauthier (1996-98): He got the club to the playoffs, but after leaving to spend more time with his family he ended up as GM of the Anaheim Ducks.

Rick Dudley (1998-99): He decided he wanted to work for his buddies who bought the Lightning. Was dealt to Tampa for forward Rob Zamuner and cash.

Marshall Johnston (1999-2002): Made the best trade in club history in June, 2000 by dealing Alexei Yashin to the Isles in a deal that included Zdeno Chara.

John Muckler (2002-07): Is the only GM to get this team to the Stanley Cup final but gave up a lot of assets to get there. The cupboard was bare when he left.

Bryan Murray (2007-16): A solid hockey man and better person, the club didn’t have the success he wanted. He can leave with his head held high.



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