Anaheim Ducks: It Could Always Be Worse Than Bob Murray

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 05: Head coach Bob Murray of the Anaheim Ducks looks on from the bench during third period action against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on March 5, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 05: Head coach Bob Murray of the Anaheim Ducks looks on from the bench during third period action against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on March 5, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Bob Murray seems to be on the outs with Anaheim Ducks fans. However, with the available candidates, keeping Murray around could be the better option.

Times have been tough at the Pond the past couple of years. The teams’ results have plummeted. The previously much-vaunted prospects haven’t arrived as superstars ready to take the mantle from Ryan Getzlaf and former Anaheim Ducks have been lighting up the playoffs. A few of them look set for Conference Final berths, and one has looked… well Mark Stone of the Golden Knights perhaps said it best:

"“Shea Theodore is obviously turning into a Norris-caliber defenseman.” -Mark Stone"

I know we only were able to move him so we could keep Sami Vatanen in the fold, and because Brandan Montour was just as good, if not better. However… No… Wait… It still hurts. It hurts pretty bad in fact.

The past few years have made the Ducks seem like the Persian empire assaulting the hot gates. “Those behind cry “FORWARD!” Those in front cry “BACK!”” Alas, much like the movie suggested, the Anaheim Ducks mimicking the Persian hordes were crushed by the 300 taking the place of the 30 opposing NHL teams.

Thus, like the giant wolf, sniffing and savoring the scent of meal to come, Anaheim Ducks fans are circling the architect of the Ducks plight. In over a decade at the helm of the Anaheim Ducks, Bob Murray has scarcely faced higher criticism than he does today.

It’s hard to say he hasn’t deserved it, at least to some degree. Instead of building around the strengths of a young Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan, Murray went out chasing old bad defencemen with injury histories. Instead of looking for second-line centers, he went looking for more wings. Instead of keeping players who would score, he traded them because they would score too much.

Of course, a GM standing up to the media and saying he traded a player because they would score too prolifically, was exactly the right move to show Ducks fans that he was Teflon and that he would be in charge for as long as he wanted to be. No person in charge should be able to justify a decision to remove someone with the rationale that they would be too good if they stayed.

With that said Murray has made some good moves as well. Moving on from Luca Sbisa was a masterstroke, even if it took further assets to make the move. Acquiring Mathieu Perreault for essentially nothing (though he then gave him away for nothing. Easy come, easy go). There are probably other nice moves he’s made along the way.

None of that, however, changes that in a decade in charge, the Ducks have yet to taste the ultimate success. None of that, however, changes that the Anaheim Ducks have been amongst the leagues worst teams for two years running. Thus, come the calls for Bob Murray’s head.

Searching For New Management: The Internal Applicants

Hypothetically speaking, what would happen if the Anaheim Ducks moved on from Bob Murray?

There are a couple of ways it could go. Firstly, they could hire internally, and promote one of the Ducks’ current executives to take the lead. In a lot of cases, internally promoting candidates is the prefered method.

In the case of the Ducks, lists the following as significant members of staff who could potentially be tapped on the shoulder:

  • Tim Ryan: Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer. He’s been with Anaheim for 15 years.
  • David McNabb: Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations (Formerly Assistant General Manager). He’s been with Anaheim for 27 years. Notably, his current role oversees player development.
  • Martin Madden: Assistant General Manager. He’s been with the Ducks for 12 years in amateur scouting based roles.
  • David Nonis: Assistant General Manager. He’s been with the team in two separate stints for a total of 6 years. It’s notable that he worked with Bob Murray in Vancouver prior to the Ducks.

While it’s certainly possible another could be promoted, it seems most likely that it would be one of these men, with the experience leaning towards Dave Nonis. While most would know of his tenure in charge of the Toronto Maple Leafs, his work with the Ducks has largely gone under the radar. It’s hard to assess what he has actually achieved since his return to the Anaheim Ducks.

Yet, as examples over his tenure, in his first year as a “scout” (2016-2017), the Ducks made a number of inconsequential trades around minor players and draft picks. They also let players like David Perron, Brandon Pirri, Chris Stewart and Jamie McGuinn walk in free agency while acquiring the likes of Jared Boll, Antoine Vermette, and former Leaf, Mason Raymond.

His second year saw the trades of Sami Vatanen and Shea Theodore. Adam Henrique is the notable player coming back to the Ducks. No real players of consequence were let go in free agency, but they did pick up Francois Beauchemin and the most elite of first-line centres, Derek Grant.

The past two seasons have seen them trade away Marcus Pettersson, Daniel Sprong, Pontus Aberg, Brandon Montour, Ondrej Kase, Nick Ritchie, and fan favourite Andrew Cogliano. Amongst others. In return, they have acquired Brendan Guhle, Sonny Milano and Danton Heinen.

When combining Nonis’s body of work with what happened in Toronto, it could be easy to see why Anaheim Ducks fans would live in fear of this coming to pass. Not only would there not be fresh ideas coming into the team, but they would come with a pretty underwhelming track record to go along with it.

Searching For New Management: The External Applicants

The external applicant process is perhaps more interesting than hiring from within. It brings the promise of fresh ideas and new perspectives. Fans can really get behind the new guy with optimistic eyes and a wanton lust for the best.

However, Ducks fans only have to look at the hiring process of Bob Murray to have their dreams of optimism crushed. Murray was hired by the Ducks ownership, on the recommendation of the NHL. They asked who might be suitable, and the NHL provided an answer. It’s not abnormal for businesses to farm out recruiting for external vetting and this is what happened back then.

While disappointment may currently run high, it’s hard to argue that the Ducks haven’t had a purple patch in their history over the past decade. Six consecutive playoff appearances and two conference finals is a record many teams, including big market teams like Toronto, would dearly love to have. With that in mind, the Samueli’s might consider going back to the well and seeing who the league may recommend for a second time.

Thus the Ducks fan’s terror begins.

Larry Brooks of the New York Post has suggested that the league has pushed Peter Chiarelli forward as a candidate for nearly every executive opening that has arisen since he was let go by the Edmonton Oilers nearly two years ago. His name has arisen twice in recent history, firstly in relation to the Arizona Coyotes job, and now with a link to the Florida Panthers position.

"Commissioner Gary Bettman wants former Oilers and Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli back working in the NHL. –Toronto Sun, May 16, 2020"

"Slap Shots has been told that Peter Chiarelli, who has been promoted by the NHL for essentially every executive opening that arises, is expected to be among the finalists. –New York Post, August 29, 2020"

With the league pushing Chiarelli so hard, it would seem likely that he would be pushed towards the Ducks as well if they were to ask who was available. Certainly, the Ducks don’t have any Tylers or Taylors to trade for little return, but they can’t really afford to give away what meager talent they have left in the kitty.

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Either way, should it come to pass, the Anaheim Ducks as a franchise should expect virtual rioting in the streets. Not real riots, because life is too comfortable in Orange County. Possibly a strongly worded letter. In the end, fans would not be happy.

Circling Back To Bob

With the likely internal and external applicants at least peripherally determined, it turns out that Bob Murray may actually be the path of least resistance. Sure, he’s an average GM, with average draft results compared to his peers. Sure, he ranks as average when looking at his trade history (about 50/50 hits and misses).

He even looks about average when you weigh up his fabulous RFA signings to his absolutely incomprehensible UFA signings. But you know what? Average is about three flights up from the rock bottom that would be Peter Chiarelli or David Nonis. We can only but sit here and hope that Bob Murray keeps his job. So that’s that. This is our life now. Welcome to the gray shifting land that is purgatory fellow Ducks fans.

Next. Max Domi Could Help Fix The Ducks Identity Crisis. dark

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