Anaheim Ducks: Firing Bob Murray isn’t the Answer

General manager and interim head coach Bob Murray (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
General manager and interim head coach Bob Murray (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Anaheim Ducks
Trevor Zegras #9 of the United States (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images) /

Prospect Pool

Firstly, let’s talk about the Anaheim Ducks prospect pool. Following on the most recent entry-level draft, the Ducks prospect pool ranking has climbed from the bottom third of the league into the top third. They now boast potential difference-makers at every position.

Lukas Dostal is one of the hottest netminders not in the NHL. Jamie Drysdale provides a focal point on the blue line. Jacob Perreault is as close to a pure shooter you can find on the wing. Brayden Tracey is the do-everything utility type who provides a foil for his linemates on the opposite wing. Trevor Zegras is the potential superstar heir to Ryan Getzlaf that Ducks fans are craving.

Perhaps most interestingly, all of them can skate, and I mean they can skate lights out fast. I mention this only as a reference point for future planning. The Anaheim Ducks have clearly recruited for highly skilled fast skating future. One that reminds perhaps just a little, of the current Colorado Avalanche lineup.

Fans naturally want to see that now. They hunger to see their most prized youngsters play with the big team. Yet, and for all the potential short-term benefit there may be, he plays alongside every other prospect mentioned above, together, in the AHL. From a managerial perspective, there are incredible boons to be gained from this.


These players are all able to gain chemistry together. This occurs both on the ice and off it. We’re talking primarily about teenagers and what they do off the ice makes a world of difference to their lives.

I’m pretty old, but I assume young kids still get together and talk about magic the gathering cards and whatnot. I find it hard to imagine these 17 and 18-year-old kids have a great deal to talk to a grandpa like Ryan Getzlaf about.

Sure Getz comes off as a frat boy, but there is a massive age gap. Someone like Zegras can build a real friendship with his peers when they’re all going through the same things at the same time.

New Skills in a No Pressure Environment

It’s notoriously difficult to learn new skills in a “win-now” environment. Even losing NHL teams are primarily about doing simple things and keeping risks down. The best tanking teams want to lose (at a managerial level), but they want to do it with style and in close hard-fought games that keep the fans engaged.

This environment typically frowns upon no-look back-passes that have as much of a chance of springing the opposition breakaway as they do finding the weave for a player to slip into and score. The risk-to-reward is extremely high and even fans will turn on the player quickly should they fail.

Yet practising these types of skills are what leads to mastery of the skills, and from there, the eventually regular and successful execution of those skills. It’s not as easy as suggesting that players simply perform them in practice. Practice time is limited at the pro level and most often is dedicated to the “big rocks” that make up success. The focus is always on the biggest things that can create team success, not the sexy small things that can turn the individual into a star.

Leaving the kids outside of the public eye (for the most part) in a system that is largely built for the development of NHL athletes, may lend itself for future success by raising the prospects ceiling, or rather allowing them to get closer to it.

Proper Development

It’s worth noting that rushing prospects ahead doesn’t necessarily work out in the teams best interests. The Edmonton Oilers is a classic example of a team with all the draft talent in the world and an utterly abysmal on-ice product. Have the Buffalo Sabres ever amounted to anything despite the talent they accrued early?

The Anaheim Ducks, more recently, made perhaps a similar error bringing in Troy Terry for games in order to burn the first year of his contract. Leaving Trevor Zegras and company to develop for longer is highly likely to result in him becoming a better professional. This may involve simple things like learning how to maintain a financial budget or cook dinner.

We’ve all been 18- or 19-years-old, and I’m willing to go out on a limb and suggest that not many of us had it together enough to create for ourselves the routine required to be the best of the best. Adding to that the pressures of the NHL lifestyle, I think there is a lot to be said for allowing the youngsters the chance to make their mistakes behind closed doors… or at least not on national TV in the public eye.

There are numerous examples of players brought into the NHL too early, yet very few who have had negative effects of playing in the AHL for longer than fans think is important. In an already short season, the Ducks can afford to be patient and ensure that they take a route that is not the well-worn path to sustained mediocrity.

It kicks the salary cap can down the road a little, but that shouldn’t be the primary concern of a franchise. Developing talent and selling tickets should be. A supremely talented, physically robust, and professionally orientated Trevor Zegras and his friends could be the drawcard that sells out Honda centre for a decade or more.

The Right Coach

A fourth reason may be the Anaheim Ducks current head coach. The Ducks brought on Dallas Eakins, in part at least, because of his management of the younger players in San Diego during his stint there. There are some rumours about that suggest that Eakins was brought on behest of the Ducks owners who presumably confused him with David Tennant after watching one too many episodes of “Good Omens.” However, whether that rumour is true or not, that doesn’t necessarily alter how Murray has handled the team around him today.

The illusion that Eakins is a strong development coach was nixed last season when all of the forwards under 25 years of age took significant steps backwards in terms of their scoring output. When considering that very few of the Ducks prospects over the past four seasons have been developed particularly well (and nearly all have succeeded in their new homes), the question needs to be asked whether Eakins is truly the development coach that he was brought in to be.

Bob Murray seemingly does not think that this is the case. None of those young players has really been touched by Eakins, and even very young players like Isac Lundestrom have only had sporadic game time with the Anaheim Ducks senior team. In his case, it may be attempting to evaluate him prior to the Seattle Kraken entry draft next season.

I strongly suspect if it was not the case, he may be left to develop further in the AHL alongside the other future prospects. Nonetheless, if Zegras and company are to be the Ducks future, they’re possibly best able to learn under an experienced developer of players.

Eakins may not be that person, and yet perhaps the coaching group in the AHL is. After all, Kevin Dineen was one of the coaches who moulded Bobby Ryan into the four times 30-goal scorer he was for the Ducks back in his Portland Pirates days.

Taken together, I believe that Murray has done the right thing with the future of the Ducks. He does need to exercise patience, however, having all of the future Anaheim Ducks developing together in a development league is fortuitous happenstance that can only lead to positive results.

That Murray has had the nous to recognise his coaches weaknesses further suggests he’s not failing in this area. There are some questions as to whether he’s doing the right thing, though that flows into a slightly different conversation.