The Capitals last week announced the release of their first-ever ‘Best of’ collection of DVDs — a compilation of the 10 best games in team history. We’ll have a review of it for you tomorrow, but Ottawa’s visit to Verizon Center last night presented us an opportunity to try and chat with Senators’ General Manager Bryan Murray, who knows a thing or two about Caps’ history.
From 1981 until January of 1990 Murray guided the Capitals behind the bench, winning 343 games. He became the first Caps’ coach to win 50 games in a season, and in 1984 he earned the Jack Adams award as the league’s best bench boss. Until Bruce Boudreau won the Jack Adams in 2008 Murray was the franchise’s only recipient of the award, and his nearly nine seasons in D.C. remain the most enjoyed by a Caps’ head coach.
Over the course of three consecutive seasons — from 1983-1986 — Murray’s Caps bettered the 100-point mark in the always tough Patrick division. It was under Murray in the spring of 1984 that the Caps won their first playoff series, sweeping the Flyers in three games in a best-of-five Patrick division semifinal.
The release of the Caps’ Best-of DVDs led my blogger colleague Ed Frankovic of Baltimore WNST and I to debate our own 10 best games in Caps’ history; it’s a list markedly different from what was released for the Caps by the NHL last week, and we’ll share that along with our rationale for it tomorrow as well. Ed and I have had great fun the last week researching team history and sharing tales of being seated in Capital Centre with full heads of hair and flat bellies. But with Coach Murray’s visit to Washington this week Ed and I believed we had a terrific opportunity to gain insights from a Capitals’ legend who lived through a lot of the organization’s formative years, including the ‘Save the Caps’ campaign of the early 1980s. You’ve perhaps heard of the affinity for the Caps that Nashville Predators’ General Manager David Poile maintains to this day; I’m here to tell you today that that affection is matched by Coach Murray.
When we caught up with the Ottawa general manager last night we told him about the list we were devising as a point of comparison with the newly released DVD set, and we wondered if he’d react to it and share some his fondest memories of his days in D.C. Would the celebrated coach and GM make time for two hockey bloggers? Did he ever. Murray warmed to the task of telling us about the competitive resolve and passion he had in players from Dale Hunter to Bobby Gould to Lou Franceschetti to Glen Currie to Rod Langway. He told us of his belief to this day that his great Caps’ teams of the early and middle 1980s were just “an inch either way, a bounce this way or that” from making it onto the Stanley Cup stage.
On his blog this morning Frankovic called Murray “one of the classiest and most accommodating people in the NHL,” and I couldn’t agree more. Ed and I joked throughout last night’s game that so long as Murray’s Senators came out on top the more likely it would be that he’d field our post-game queries, but the reality is that Murray might have been been the last person on the Senators’ departing boss before he begged out of reminiscing with us. It was as enjoyable an encounter as I’ve had on the new media beat since OFB began.
Andrew today is editing video of our visit with the coach, and tomorrow we’ll get it published for you, as well as reminisce more about the greatest games in Caps’ history. The Capitals today are thrilling sellout crowds and making hockey fun for tens of thousands of Washingtonians. But way back in the early 1980s Bryan Murray’s Caps did so too, out in Landover, Maryland. We’ll relive that part of team history with you tomorrow.