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) /
3 of 5
Anaheim Ducks
Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Pro Acquisitions and Trades

Following on from prospects, we should look at the trades Murray has made in recent times and the NHL players he’s brought into the team. What profile do we see from these alone?

For the most part, Murray’s trades have been largely inconsequential at first glance. He hasn’t blown up the team as many (myself included) may have wanted him to do and he hasn’t brought in any particularly big-name players to try and win now.

The big-name players who have been linked to the Anaheim Ducks were each under 23-years-of-age. In and of itself, that age-related acquisition profile suggests that Murray is looking at the long game, but perhaps that’s not all there is angling towards that end.

In the past 12 months, Murray has brought in Sonny Milano, Danton Heinen and Christian Djoos who are all in their prime hockey years. These players, should they stick, could each be potential long-term players for the Ducks, even when the new wave of prospects hits the NHL. Perhaps more importantly, they are young enough to produce at a solid level and be flipped for further assets down the track.

Djoos has unfortunately left the team, yet Milano was brought in for a song thus should he succeed or fail the outlay was minimal. Heinen, almost like a younger version of Silfverberg, needs only to somewhat replicate his success in Boston to be given the opportunity to stay in Ducks color,s else he’ll be shifted for younger draft assets. He, in particular, of all the acquisitions provides the Anaheim Ducks with flexibility and options. These acquisitions play into the future growth of the team.

The other players acquired, including David Backes, Kevin Shattenkirk and for the 20th time, Derek Grant. These older players would seemingly not fit into the profile at first blush, however, I don’t necessarily think that’s true either.

Backes was part of a larger trade that allowed the Ducks to develop their prospect pool. Perrault is now playing in San Diego and fits the timeline alongside Zegras, Tracey, and Dostal. He’s part of a critical mass of players coming into the team at the same time, which is a crucial component to a teams championship success. His salary comes off the books next season at a time when the prospects will likely be pushing into the team.

While the prospects won’t eat up that money, it affords the Ducks the opportunity to push hard for a star free agent, either as a UFA or, heaven forbid, an offer sheet. He provides the Anaheim Ducks with options right when they need them.

Shattenkirk is really a very cheap top-4 defenceman that can either be traded easily for assets, exposed in the expansion draft, or kept for the duration of his deal (2 years after this one). He’s another who provides the Anaheim Ducks options and protection when they need to find those options.

Grant is the odd one out, but he does provide a hell of a penalty-killing presence and ensures that the kids coming into the team won’t be tasked with ridiculous things, like attempting to score from the 4th line. Even young teams need wily veterans to guide them and who better than the Elite 1C, Derek Grant?

On a current team perspective, I believe it’s worth noting that some of Eakins’ most vocal commentary has revolved around not being a fan of drills, and not running morning skates. These decisions are, of course, individual to different groups and in many cases could be considered smart coaching.

In other cases, they would be considered the opposite of that. The Ducks, specifically, have looked unorganised and chaotic in both the defensive zone and pushing forward on offence. Last season, they did get better as games went on.

This improvement may be attributed to a training effect that can be gained by playing the game. Thus, as the players got more comfortable with the schemes and where other players would be, they then became more comfortable skating to the areas they needed to go to, and make passes to open ice where a fellow player would skate into.

There are some issues with this style of play in younger players, who typically require more repetitions than a veteran, to master a particular skill or play. For example, and these are completely arbitrary numbers, someone like Jakob Silfverberg may have run a 2-1-2 scheme 400 times in his career to date, whereas Sam Steel may not have run it at the pro level at all.

Silf, in this instance, will require fewer repetitions to get up to speed as he’s already mastered the plays that come off of that setup. We saw with the Anaheim Ducks last season, many of the veteran players presented excellent numbers that exceeded their projections. They mastered the new system early. The younger players (eg Jacob Larsson) took longer to do so.

Thus, Murray has put together this roster to somewhat take advantage of Eakins coaching style, as it were. A veteran roster is more likely to pick up his teachings than a youthful squad, and as such the majority of the roster is made up of veteran players. 1/6 of the defence and 1/3 of the forward group is under 25 years old. In essence, it was never a roster built to win games, but prior to the Djoos loss, could easily be considered a roster build not to lose games.

It really was a strong defence. Losing Djoos and Josh Manson put a big hit on the depth of that defensive roster. While it’s been a boon for someone like Jani Hakanpaa, he’s probably not going to sway anyone to believe he’s a night-in, night-out top 4 defenceman. Certainly not a top pairing guy.

From there, the Anaheim Ducks went from being a defensive team with an incredibly strong top-5 group of defencemen to a top-3 and a couple of guys who are punching out of their weight class. Injuries happen of course, and the Ducks cap situation is that they weren’t going to be able to bring in big-name defencemen to cover the loss. For a team that was built almost entirely around defensive hockey and not losing by significant margins, those losses are just a little too much to handle.

While I do truly think Murray wanted this team to be competitive, creating a veteran roster has perhaps an underrated effect of keeping the youth in San Diego developing together. As stated above, this move may be the best for their long-term future.

Taken together, I believe that while the trades and acquisitions haven’t necessarily pushed the team to become a “contender” or even a strong playoff team, they have provided the Ducks with flexibility leading into the Kraken expansion draft and moving forward as the Anaheim Ducks future steadily move into the team. In a lot of ways, it appears more that these moves have been made with that future in mind and only the hope that the current team would be entertaining.