Howdy from Ottawa where the days are piling up on the transit strike, but the days count down till winterlude! Oh and if any MALE has been to 'Nordic Spa'...how is it? Like for a MALE? I might be dragged into going this weekend.
Ok so how many times have you either heard, read a quote or read an article/blog stating the following...'we need a puck moving defensemen" by Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray? I would take an educated guess of around 70 to 80 times. And while Kuba fits the bill (though he isn’t the world's greatest skater), the Sens still lack those d-men. But it wasn't always like this.
Back in 2006-07 the Senators under coach now GM Bryan Murray had two very solid, if not good puck-moving defensemen in Tom Preissing and Joe Corvo. In Corvo's two seasons in Ottawa he gained 64 pts and was a +21 in 127 games. Pressing's one season in Ottawa had him score 38 pts and a +40 in 80 contests. Combined these two players added a great dimension to the team and almost made it seem like the Sens had 4 forwards on the ice when they were on. Corvo was the quintessential PP QB with a booming shot. He averaged 18+ mins in '06-'07. Preissing on the other hand only got 15 per game, but his +40 in that time can;t be understated at all. It is a phenomenal number that had him tied with Nick Lidstrom for 3rd in the NHL that season.
So after reading the above mentioned paragraph you would think things would be peachy for the two american-born defensemen and on the flip side the Sens would want to sign both of these players. But something funny happened around Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals vs Anaheim. Remember that blow out loss? Corvo and Preissing played a combined 15 mins in that game. And remember how Murray used to use innuendo when referring to how his team got pushed around all series? Well Corvo and Preissing had a combined even rating in the 6 games vs the Ducks.
The summer finally came in Ottawa and the dream was over...however nobody could hang their head on an incredible season. As Tom Preissing headed to free agency after a career year in Ottawa, you would have thought he would have been locked up. But that Game 6 stat line of 7 mins played lingered and the LA Kings signed Preissing to a 4-year, $11 million dollar deal ($2.75 a season). Remember that number.
As for Corvo, he continued to be a solid puck-moving defensemen contributing 27 pts in 51 games for the Sens. Bryan Murray however pulled the trigger on a deal with Carolina that saw him and Patrick Eaves sent for Stillman (now in FLA) and Commodore (now in CLB). Corvo went on to score 21 pts in 23 games with CAR, while Commodore was a -9 with 2 assists in 26 games and Stillman put up great numbers for Ottawa, but was let go anyways at season's end. Keeping the puck-moving defensemen Corvo around would have cost the Sens $2.625 million a season until '09-'10.
This season when Bryan Murray decided not to pay Meszaros and dealt him to Tampa, he acquired defensemen Filip Kuba ($3 million per, UFA at season's end) and Alexandre Picard ($800,000 a year). Murray also added Jason Smith for $2.6 million a year in a deal that has him a Sen until '09-'10. The Sens then spent $1.5 million to bring in Luke Richardson (retired after 2 games), Matt Carkner (has only played 1 game so far) and Brendan Bell (great value yes, but has only 5 pts in 21 games and is a -4...not great numbers for an offensive d-men). I left out Brian Lee (Muckler drafted him), Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov (both signed by Muckler to amazing contracts). Also remember it was Muckler who brought in Corvo at $2.625 a season and Preissing.
So once broken down, going into this season it was fair to say Phillips and Volchenkov were in the top 6. All signs pointed to Brian Lee being a full-time NHLer after his excellent play at the end of last season and into the playoffs...so that's 3 of 6. If Murray had elected to retain Pressing at $2.75 a yr and Corvo at $2.625 a yr, that would make 5 of 6 signed. Then the Sens could have taken the same 3 flyers on Luke, Carkner and Bell to round out the top 6, with Schubert still around for depth at either forward of defense. The top 6 combined salaries would have been $13.15 million. Now under Murray's system, he brings in Kuba, Smith and Picard and subtracts Corvo, Preissing and adds the 3 flyers anyways. If you keep around Phillips, Anton and Lee with Kuba, Picard and Smith you have a cap hit of $13.05 a year. But remember the $1.5 of added weight with Luke, Bell and Matt to fill the 7-9 spots as well as Schubert's $883,333 and you have a more expensive defense. This debunks any notion that cost was a factor in letting Corvo and Preissing go. Smith at $2.6 a yr in borderline insane considering his play this season, Kuba is a great value at $3 mill, but he is a UFA at the end of the year whereas Corvo and Preissing wouldn't have been. Picard is another excellent value from the Tampa trade and full credit goes in adding him.
Bryan Murray wanted a tougher defense, we all know that. He wanted more 'grit'...whatever that is. However looking back at the successful times this franchise had, what was the one constant? It was that perfect first pass out of our zone, that 4th man jumping into the rush or along the end boards in the offensive zone. It was the point shots that got through which either provided offense from the backend or a chance for the forwards to create traffic and add secondary scoring to compliment the Big 3. It was a scary PP, where the points had to be respected and Alfie or Fisher didn't have to man them. It for one season was Corvo and Preissing. And it was thrown away because in my opinion Murray wanted 'his guys' which now in part will cost him his job.
I strongly feel this club would be in the playoffs now and not in taters if for two players...Corvo and Preissing. They would have made THAT much of an impact. If you flip Smith, Picard and Kuba for Corvo, Preissing and Bell you would see a much faster defense that could make the first pass which would mean our team speed would double and be back where it was in early '07. You would see a much improved PP and more secondary scoring. And you would see alot more goals, wins and points. Finally you would see Murray and Hartsburg being hailed instead of on the hot seat this hour.
So remember if you hear these words again from Murray "We need a puck moving defensemen", your reply is 'we had two cheap one's and you gave them away for nothing, then signed Jason Smith to the same deal Corvo had. Our defense now cost's more than our defense with Preissing and Corvo would have. And Mr. GM, you could have dealt Meszaros for a few forwards, a place where we NEEDED the help.'
Colin Jeffrey - [email][email protected]