The first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft is finally over, clocking in at an impressive 4 hours, and I'm about 4 Amsterdam Lagers deep, which is a modest pace when you consider the amount of trades and wild rumours that would drive a lesser man at least six beers in, but as a service to you, I've tried to keep a clear head, if only to be coherent enough to describe the strange spectacle Ottawa assistant GM Tim Murray made as he stomped and sneered all over the stage like he was the direct descendant of the legendarily dour Canucks GM Mike Gillis, and not his genial uncle Bryan Murray.
But before we get too carried away with that, a few items of business for the Senators. You'll read more in-depth analysis on Ottawa's troika of first round picks elsewhere, but my general impression is that the Senators came out of this first round with a future first line fully intact, even if they weren't able to move up and select Gabriel Landeskog or Jonathan Huberdeau.
In essence, they were able to snag the second best Swedish forward available in Mika Zibanejad, who's stock went so high and wild that some were even speculating he would go fourth to the Devils (who absolutely stole Adam Larsson with that pick). TSN compared Zibanejad to Bobby Holik, another big centre who was a vital component of two Stanley Cup winning teams in Jersey. Zibanejad already has NHL size but is expected to stay one more year in Sweden competing against men in what is considered the second best hockey league in the world. In other words, this guy is a blue-chipper, and should fit in well on an Ottawa team that is going in a distinctly Swedish direction.
Bryan Murray and his staff also did well to get forwards Stefan Noesen (already getting Corey Perry comparisons) at 21st overall and Matt Puempel, who got the rare Brett Hull name-check from Pierre McGuire who also said he is the purest goal-scorer in the draft. Nobody's buying that kind of guff, but it was fun to listen to regardless.
But no, what fascinated me was the strange behaviour of Senators assistant GM Tim Murray, who looked like the pressure of draft week had finally snapped something crucial in his mind.
Not normally a pleasant fellow, Murray strode the stage for the first pick and without any pleasantries that is the norm for these things, went right ahead and picked Zibanejad in as few syllables possible. No congratulating Boston. No thanking the fans in Ottawa or Minnesota. No smiling.
Fair enough. Murray is all business all the time and as Dean Brown said on the Team 1200 the other day, he doesn't feed reporters crap and he doesn't take any either. God bless him. We can all appreciate a man like that, because they're so completely rare as to seem like aliens.
Then he was back at the microphone to pick Noesen but he could barely bring himself to spit out the words before pulling away from the microphone and scowling all the way back over to the line of scouts waiting for the kid to make his way from the stands.It was a bravura performance, borderline disrespectful, and completely dismissive of the demands of television. I've been watching NHL drafts since at least 1992 and I've never seen someone so pissed off and curmudgeonly, and I've watched the all-time greats like Bobby Clarke and Harry Sinden mumble their way through many a pick, mangling names and grinding their teeth.
Somebody must have talked to Tim before the Senators third pick, maybe his media savvy uncle, because when he went to the microphone to pick Puempel, he was like Mr. Rogers all of a sudden, thanking everybody in sight, smiling and generally acting like Alan Thicke at a banquet.
I will say this: Tim Murray is a hell of a hockey department guy. He's just as responsible as his uncle for rebuilding the Senators farm team and watching them win an AHL championship. But you can see why he's going to have some limitations if he wants to be a GM in the NHL. There's just no Hollywood in him.
You have to wonder why the Senators would send him out to represent the team on television. It's a bit like being the Gambino crime family but instead of the "Dapper Don" John Gotti meeting the press, you send out Sammy "The Bull" Gravano and inevitably a cameraman gets tossed to the pavement and stomped on, with bystanders screaming "Stop it...he's already dead!"
But maybe that's just the way with those hardcore scouts. They've had too much shitty coffee from shitty canteens in shitty arenas in shitty towns to be able to smile like an actor when put on camera. They're tougher than any goon who fought their way to the NHL.
Somehow I have the feeling that those weird stories we've heard about a certain NHL team interviewing prospects at the draft combine turning out all the lights in the room and then shining a spotlight in the kids faces to see if they sweat may very well be traced back to Tim Murray if any reporter had the steely resolve to follow the trail of tears. But we all know what happened to people who tried to dig up dirt on Sammy "The Bull". They got a nice pair of concrete shoes for their troubles.
There's probably no truth to the rumours that Tim has a cute little plaque in his office that reads "Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead." No truth to that whatsoever.
Anyways, that was the draft.