Bob Murray’s offseason decisions have been questionable to some fans. Do they make sense for the Anaheim Ducks?
At the risk of sounding like a Bob Murray stan, it is only fair to play devil’s advocate, and try to sympathize with recent offseason moves. While a large chunk of fans have called for a complete rebuild, especially considering the assuredly altered upcoming season, Murray has made some eyebrow-raising decisions for his Anaheim Ducks.
When a team is in a position that the Ducks are in right now, it has become customary for the fan-base to call for a complete teardown. This leaves the organization in disarray for at least a season, likely more. The goal here is to acquire draft capital and bank on your ability to draft the future of your franchise.
Well, to put it simply, the Anaheim Ducks will not purposely enter into a rebuild now, and likely won’t ever, under Murray’s tutelage. Sure, there are die-hard fans that yearn for the potential payoff of a rebuild (see Chicago heading into the 2010s, or Pittsburgh in the early 2000s), and would stick by the team in the bottom-feeding years.
Rebuilding Doesn’t Always Work Out
Anaheim, however, is in a different position where they don’t consistently fill out their stadium. Much of its fan support comes from fans who want to see an effective product on the ice. And contrary to the above examples of rebuilding success, consider the likes of the Buffalo Sabres or the Edmonton Oilers. Purposely bottoming out, and hoping to build back stronger doesn’t always work out.
Both of these teams were able to draft generational talents with the selections of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Jack Eichel. But still, because of the complete teardown, in order to get them in the first place, there hasn’t been nearly enough surrounding talent to support the stars.
At a certain point, any respectable NHL player doesn’t want to compete for a team that doesn’t want you to have success; it’s backward. And it seems every year, after the inevitable elimination from the playoffs, there are rumors swirling that big names want out of their respective black holes.
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With that said, it becomes easier to understand Murray’s hesitation when it comes to initiating a rebuild. There’s no guarantee to future success; the only guarantee comes in the form of dwindling fan support for an indefinite amount of time while the rebuild occurs.
Before we move on to the moves Murray has made this offseason, there’s one more major consideration when it comes to rebuilds. With the assumption being that the team will perform poorly during these down years, owners and fans alike will surely become restless. And it is not uncommon for General Managers to be fired due to this restlessness. Again, there is no guarantee that the next GM will pick up where the last one left off.
Why Did Bob Make These Moves?
So, why does he make the moves he made? Last-ditch effort to stave off a rebuild? A genuine belief that these pieces are the final additions to a contending team? I think it falls somewhere in the middle.
No one is saying that the Anaheim Ducks are now in the upper echelon of teams after a few free-agent signings. With the addition of Kevin Shattenkirk, Murray didn’t straight up say, “Alright, now we’re in this thing for real; 2021 Stanley Cup is in the bag.”
What he’s banking on, is his ability to continue to draft well and to develop his prospects. He tells Shattenkirk the same thing he’s probably telling other prospective free agents now, “We will have a real ability to compete soon if you sign with us”.
Jamie Drysdale, Jacob Perreault, Trevor Zegras, and a host of other names have real chances to become impact players within the same time frame that our current pieces will maintain effectiveness. So, instead of getting rid of players like Josh Manson, Jakob Silfverberg, Rickard Rakell, Ryan Getzlaf, Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, and more, you keep them, assuming they will play roles on the truly competitive team in 2-3 years.
I think this notion is fair. Also, it seems much more preferable to watch a slightly competitive team now, with the hopes of contending down the line, instead of your only semblance of hope being that an 18-year-old can somehow propel you up the standings.
So, when Bob Murray signs Kevin Shattenkirk and Derek Grant, and probably keeps many other “non-young” players on his roster, it is a decision made with more foresight than we probably realize. The debate will predictably rage on. Let’s hope that Bob’s strategy pays off, and we forget about this dilemma altogether. More wins in the short-term, and more wins in the long-term have always been the goal.
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