Ottawa Senators head coach Bryan Murray watches the action Wednesday. (CP PHOTO/Paul Chiasson)
After Anaheim defeated Ottawa 6-2 to close out the championship series Wednesday night, Ducks GM Brian Burke explained while standing in a corner of his team's champagne-soaked dressing room how Murray helped make it all possible.
Burke was hired to fill the vacancy in 2005 after Murray decided to return to coaching and took the Ottawa job. One of the first moves by the former league executive and Vancouver GM was to sign all-star defenceman Scott Niedermayer when he became a free agent two years ago.
After the Ducks got to the Western Conference final last spring, losing to Edmonton, Burke gathered his staff and analyzed the team to arrive at a consensus on what was needed to get it to the top. They were looking for the missing piece of the championship puzzle.
"We felt that if we could get one more elite defenceman that we could get there, and thanks to Bryan Murray, we had the depth to do that," said Burke.
Murray had drafted Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry for the Ducks.
Chris Pronger, a former Norris Trophy winner like Niedermayer, had helped the Oilers knock off the Ducks in 2006. He then advised the Oilers he wanted to be traded back to an American team.
"We didn't know if we'd be able to get him but as soon as we knew Chris Pronger was available we turned over every stone to get him," said Burke.
He swung a big trade with the Oilers to land Pronger.
"If we didn't have Corey Perry, we don't trade Joffrey Lupul," said Burke. "It's as simple as that.
"Bryan gave us the depth to do it. I don't think any other team could have made that deal for Chris Pronger, but we could thanks to Bryan Murray."
Murray's name wasn't in the headlines Thursday despite his role in building the Ducks.
"Cup-Lifting Experience!" topped the front page of the Orange County Register.
"Ducks get last laugh - and the Cup to show for it," proclaimed the Los Angeles Times atop a front-page story.
Both papers carried a front-page photo of Niedermayer holding the Stanley Cup high above his head.
"This group doesn't quit," Burke said in describing the character of his players. "They're big, they're physical and there's no quit in them."
Burke also lauded the new financial system in place in the NHL since settlement of the lockout that wiped out the 2004-2005 season. The salary cap has evened the playing field.
"We were in the old system in Vancouver," he said. "To put this in perspective, we were playing teams with double our payroll."
He recalled a Canucks-Avalanche playoff series.
"We had $22 million (US) dressed," said Burke. "Their first power-play unit was double that.
"So it was really different in the old system. Now, in this system, everybody has roughly the same money and it comes down to your coach and players getting it done. I thought we could get there. Once we got to the conference final, we knew were close. We had the character and skill to do it. We just needed one more player, and his name was Chris."
It is a shame Ducks coach Randy Carlyle is not a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, Burke added.
"This is not a knock on the three guys who are nominated," he said. "They're all quality coaches but the fact Randy Carlyle isn't going to be standing up there as one of the coach-of-the-year candidates is very disappointing.
"He's done a wonderful job."
Nobody was happier to raise the Stanley Cup than Burke.
"This is what we work for and dream about," he said. "This is the pinnacle of what we do.
"It's what we get paid for, what we slave for. It's awesome to get there."