Somewhere between the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals and Saturday's Dany Heatley trade, the Senators lost nearly everything that made them perennial contenders for half a dozen years.
Last season, a streak of twelve consecutive playoff seasons came to an end. Building towards a championship ended, expectations changed, and the term 'rebuilding' somehow entered fans' vocabularies.
Victim of circumstance?
No matter what you think of his philosophy, or skills as a manager, you must admit that Bryan Murray has been in an unenviable situation. It seems that every trade he's made since 2007-08 has not been in order to make the Sens better, but rather, to minimize the damage of some impending catastrophe.
And the free agency has only made things worse:
Joe Corvo - File under: demanded trade, locker-room poison
Andre Meszaros - File under: impending free agent
Dany Heatley - File under: demanded trade, locker-room poison
Ray Emery - File under: locker-room poison
Tom Preissing - File under: left as free agent (maybe for the better, that one)
Wade Redden - File under: bad at hockey
...and let's not even get into Chara and Havlat--failures of past administrations.
Only rarely has Murray been to make a move to to improve the team (Vermette for Leclaire is the only one I can think of at the moment). Free agency, in fact, has been a boon, rather than a detriment, to the Senators for the first time in recent memory (see: Alex Kovalev, forget: Martin Gerber). Except for Kovalev and Pascal Leclaire, Murray has always been reactive, rather than proactive.
Turning assets like Heatley or Emery into returns for the team has not been easy, and in many ways (such as wins!) Murray has failed conclusively. For Corvo: Nothing. For Emery: Nothing. For Heatley... give it a season, but his record is not good.
As the image illustrates, little remains of the team that entered the 2007-08 season, and no one is more responsible for the success or failure of the team--especially in the upcoming season--more than Bryan Murray. He took an excellent team and made it into a mediocre one--receiving little in return for the bounty of talent he was handed. Now his task is to make that mediocre team good again.
He has molded the team in his image, there can now be no doubt of that. If this year, the team is a success, then the corner truly has been turned. If the team is a failure, then bring me Murray's head on a platter--I think he's done enough damage already.