In Defense of Ducks' GM Bob Murray

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.

Tags: Anaheim Ducks Bob Murray Brian Burke Emerson Etem General Manager GM John Gibson Kyle Palmieri Sami Vatanen Teemu Selanne

  • JuMowbray

    Murray has had nearly four full seasons of the Big Four star forwards (Getzlaf, Perry, Selanne, Ryan) and he has failed to add to that core. He inherited the aforementioned four, along with two Hall of Fame defensemen (Niedermayer, Pronger), two great Ducks goalies (Giguere, Hiller) and a handful of great role players (Kunitz, Pahlsson, R.Niedermayer, Moen). He has torn down everything Burke built without keeping the Ducks competitive edge. 
    With every missed playoff, and every loss, the Ducks lose fan interest. Southern California is a waning fan-base, reprised upon winning and personality. His plan, albeit a great one (I’m looking forward to the great prospects) couldn’t sustain hockey interest when the Ducks were losing. Additionally, the plan better work since the Kings just won the Cup. Murray failed to architect a serviceable hockey team, and went through bottom-sixers like Selanne does retirement sticks. He’s let go a large chunk of the entire 2007 core, with most recently the man who garners the second most fan interest among players in George Parros. 
    And lastly, he first said the Ducks need to get smaller, now he’s saying the Ducks need to get bigger. Does he have a blueprint, does he have a plan, or is he simply Samueli’s puppet who just keeps contracts to a minimum and overall costs down? Conclusively, he depleted a winning roster to a core, and save for a few players, has failed to add his own footprint into the Anaheim Ducks franchise. For four years of work, what is there really to show? 

  • JaredDobias

     @JuMowbray What is there to show? Three playoff appearances and the third best regular season in franchise history and one of the best prospects pools in the league.
    Bob Murray was able to keep that core, where other GM’s would have had to blow the team up in order to build anew. That is  a huge accomplishment for Murray. Of course we’ve lost players since 2007 - most of them had unmanagable contracts given our situation, and on top of that it’s been 5 years. There’s a lot of turn over in hockey, you have to expect this.  He hasn’t been able to add to the core yet because until just this season he was still saddled with bad contracts. He has finally fixed that, NOW we can see if he’s able to build upon that core that he was surprisingly able to keep. Starting this season we will really be able to see what Murray’s worth. If the team fails to see more success over the next couple of seasons, then the “fire Bob!” knee-jerk cry might have some teeth. But not quite yet.

  • zenn

    Don’t forget he let Beuchamin go without even offering him a contract, then traded a great prospect in Jake Gardiner(whose loss hurts even more with Shultz shunning of the great team Murray is icing) away and Lupul whose scoring could certainly be used in Anaheim.  That is an unforgivable blunder since he just assumed Beuchamin would not resign.

  • spade_in_victorhell

    love the post…we here at agree with you…..first time ive seen this website..gonna check it out from now on

  • SlashSkater

    Hey Jared, as a law clerk your eloquent, though half-hearted defense of Barstool Bob is the best I’ve read to date.
    It is the conventional view that Burke left our Ducks in a cap-challenged mess, we don’t what Burke would have done to resolve it. IE, I can’t imagine Burke trading Pronger, Maybe he would have let Scotty retire if not for Henry “working quietly behind the scenes” Samueli.
    Even though I disagree with ya on Murray, I do like your blog. Will link it from base ops at BackCheck’s Blog. 

  • SlashSkater

    Hey Jared, as a law clerk your eloquent, though half-hearted defense of Barstool Bob is the best I’ve read to date.
    It is the conventional view that Burke left our Ducks in a cap-challenged mess, we don’t know what Burke would have done to resolve it. IE, I can’t imagine Burke trading Pronger, maybe he would have let Scotty retire if not for Henry “working quietly behind the scenes” Samueli.
    Even though I disagree with ya on Murray, I do like your blog. Will link this from base ops at BackCheck’s Blog. 

  • Pingback: Quick hit: In defense of Bob Murray « BackCheck's Blog

  • DamienBoudon

    I agree with you about some points, but i regret Lupul’s trade, I don’t blame him for Justin Schultz because Schultz never wanted to sign with the ducks, but I regret he is unable to sign a 2nd center and a 2nd Left Wing and the weakness of the 3rd and 4th lines…
    But I still believe if the PP (with Souray) going well, if Selanne returns, if he doesn’t trade Ryan and if Hiller is healthy the Ducks could be a contender for the cup….
    PS: We need to congrats him when Hiller was injured because Ducks reached 4th position and playoffs without a number 1 goalie

  • JaredDobias

     @spade_in_victorhell Thanks Spade! I’m a regular reader of BoC and I’m glad to see you found this site.

  • SlashSkater

    Posting this here because the verification app is making me nuts.
    Is there a way to link our respective blogs such that comments about articles linked at BackCheck’s Blog could appear on Ducks Daily and the Ducks Dailoy author’s response would automatically appear on BackCheck’s Blog? IE, cz’s comment @ 

  • JenAnaheimCalling

    Hi Jared :)
    Daniel from my site responded to this post today. . He gives an interesting response to your devil’s advocate argument.
    By the way, it’s my fault for not publishing it right after your post went up. I was working on getting more pro-Murray stances on the site.
    Keep up the great work,
    Jen Neale 
    Anaheim Calling