As you have probably noticed, a “Fire Ducks’ GM Bob Murray” petition has been making its rounds through the twitterverse lately, fueled by writers over at Anaheim Calling. It recently picked up even more steam when Puck Daddy spotlighted the endeavor. As of the time of this writing, it has gathered over 300 signatures. Because of its rising popularity, I’ve decided to examine the cause a little further and take what is likely to be a very unpopular opinion; Maybe we’re being a little too hasty in calling for Bob’s head.
Before I go any further, I will admit that this article is mostly an exercise in playing devil’s advocate. I’m not a staunch Bob Murray defender, and I wouldn’t lose any sleep were he to be let go tomorrow. However, I have yet to sign the petition, and likely won’t. I’ve had my ups and downs with Murray. In bad times I’ve sympathized with the “fire Bob!” mob, and in good times I’ve sung his praises. Perhaps I’m a bit of a fence-sitter on the issue, which ultimately just may be worse than picking a side and ending up being wrong. So allow me to go out on a limb here and share with you a handful of reasons why maybe we should cut Murray some slack.
Many fans seem to forget the salary cap and contract mess that Bob Murray inherited from Brian Burke. Burke took some huge gambles in building the Ducks’ 2006-07 team, which certainly paid off, but those same gambles would later leave Murray scrambling to pick up the pieces once Burke skipped town and headed to Toronto. It was a situation that would take many seasons to fix no matter who the incoming GM to follow Burke would be.
Many general managers in Murray’s position would probably opt to go into full rebuild mode at the point when he picked up the team. We’ve seen this play out with teams in similar small-market situations after their Cup wins, like Tampa Bay or Carolina. One can certainly make the argument that Murray should have gone down the rebuild path, but keep in mind that such rebuilds generally don’t lead to success any faster than Murray’s current direction and, unlike Anaheim, these teams typically don’t remain even remotely competitive while they struggle through their growing pains. You’re often left with situations like Chicago or Pittsburgh in which your team has to suffer through years of miserable seasons until they come close to being competitive again. Anaheim meanwhile, though struggling recently, has been able to find a way to defy expectations and remain playoff contenders (including their third best regular season in franchise history in 2010-11), making the post season in three out of the five seasons that Murray has been at the helm.
By avoiding a full rebuild mode of the team, Murray has been able to convince Teemu Selanne to come back year after year. No fans would argue that this has hindered the Ducks. Selanne has hinted many times that he would not come back to a team that was rebuilding. All the while, despite not rebuilding, Murray has made savvy draft choices that turned the team’s desolate prospect pool into one that is regularly ranked in the top ten of talent pipelines, on the backs of players like Sami Vatanen, Emerson Etem, Kyle Palmieri, and John Gibson.
We have a very bright future ahead of us as Ducks fans, largely due to Murray. No, it hasn’t been easy along the way. But the alternative of a rebuild wouldn’t have been any easier on Ducks fans (or on team owners Samuelis’ finances). Murray’s work is far from over, but for the first season he is completely out from under all of the bad contracts and cap hits that Burke left for Anaheim. This is when we can really start examining Murray and see what he is capable of. This is his year to shine, and so long as the Samuelis allow him a little more leeway in terms of the internal cap they have imposed on him in seasons-past, and the team continues to build upon a dominant stable of prospects, Murray’s work can really start to come to fruition. Changing the captain on a ship that is just starting to right itself under his watch might not be the best course of action to take. Let’s see what Murray can do with his ship, now that Burke’s breached hull has finally been fully repaired.
Jer is ready to be crucified for this post. Follow him on Twitter @JerMeansWell.