Strange and interesting times here in Senators Land.
Just take GM Bryan Murray. Only a few short months ago it was assumed he was toast.
His team was in a death spiral to the bottom of the standings, there were rumours he tried to fire his coach but was rebuffed by Eugene Melnyk (a story that has never been confirmed), and pundits were already picking out likely candidates to be his successor, such as Pierre McGuire and others.
Like I said, he was a goner.
Things have changed.
All signs point to Bryan Murray staying on another season.
Just look at the long-term contracts to Chris Phillips and Craig Anderson. The crucial decision to dump core players in their prime such as Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly for draft picks. The fact that Eugene Melnyk has stated he is ecstatic about how the team is playing out the stretch after all the changes.
Then there's this thing they call "The Plan".
Both Murray and Melnyk have talked of this "plan" in mysterious, hushed tones like it was the Caramilk secret.
We don't know the details of the plan but we've seen the initial part play out like a dream so far. The goaltending has been stabilized with Anderson. The young kids are helping this team win games. Even the fans have decided to put out their torches for the time being and calls for Murray's head have recently been far and few between on the call-in shows and the blogs.
So what's Phase 2 of the great plan? Does Murray get shuffled aside?
That is starting to look unlikely because Murray is clearly shaping this team for next season already. Important decisions have already been made which a new GM would be expected to make.
And who says that's such a bad thing?
Murray has been around the game a long time and is a well-respected hockey executive. To be fair to him, when he took over the Senators from John Muckler, there were numerous ticking time bombs on this team ready to detonate. There were big contracts to be worked out with core players, swelling egos in the dressing room due to prolonged periods of success, looming salary cap issues and a bone dry farm system due to poor drafting.
Because of the team's success under Muckler, Murray wasn't about to rip it apart to remake the roster in his own image. In fact, you could say that Murray's role for the first few seasons was as a caretaker.
Who tears apart a team after going to the Stanley Cup final the year before? Who tears apart a team who made it to the final two seasons ago? And on and on… into this season when it became clear that the core needed to be split up.
Basically, now is the first chance for Murray to really mould this team from the core out.
Perhaps Melnyk is willing to give Murray that chance, even though he failed to keep Muckler's team glued and stapled together.
If this was one of those newspaper editorials right before election day when the paper traditionally espouses a certain candidate, then I would be standing behind Bryan Murray for GM next year, if only to see what he can do when he's not trying to sustain a team built by somebody else.
The early signs are good. But who knows what's to come after these last 9 games are played.