Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ryan Murray: The Saskatchewan Stickler or the Murr-Man?

Ryan Murray is an 18 year old Defenceman for the Everett Silvertips. He is big enough at 6'1" and roughly 200 lbs. He's fast- no doubt we heard muppets Pierre McGuire and Craig Button tell us that he's the best skater in this year's draft. He's a leader who has been the captain of his own Rick Nash type situation in Everett, where the Silvertips have been playing sub-.500 hockey during his tenure there. He speaks almost too well for his age. Ryan is a young man who was born to do one thing: play defense in the NHL.

The first time I learned about him, he was a17 year old trying to crack the 2011 Canadian World Juniors squad as a defenseman. This is no easy feat, but Murray was playing positionally sound, intelligent hockey against guys who were older, bigger, stronger and more talented than he was, and he was making a big impression. His play wasn't flashy. No big hits, no insane slapshots, no puck wizardry. But he made a big impression on the coaches that year and put himself on the radar of many NHL scouts. His career with Hockey Canada was somewhat unspectacular, earning a silver medal with the U-20 group and failing to medal with the U-18s. So, not exactly Mike Richards when it comes to being on good teams, but we can forgive that. His performance in the gold medal game this past year was particularly unlucky, as he was on the ice for four Russian goals against, three of which went in directly off of Murray.

Ryan murray is under there. And so is the puck.

As an Everett Silvertip, Murray was still seen as a polished young defender who excelled in all areas but especially making intelligent plays with the puck and not making many mistakes. He has been compared to Lidstrom and Niedermayer (although these comparisons always come with disclaimers) due to his excellent skating, solid positioning and ability to make difficult plays look easy. He played in all situations- PK, PP, Even Strength, Critical minutes and meaningless minutes. Although he isn't generally touted as an offensive defenseman, he was able to amass 20G and 84 A for 104 Pts over the course of 168 games with a pretty awful Silvertips team.

If you're reading this post, you have probably read all the stuff about him being a solid, steady defender with good decision making skills but nothing too flashy. His off-ice demeanor was second to none in this draft class. He behaves like a professional in interviews, being courteous to reporters and answering as many questions as he can without sounding like a typical hockey moron. He prepares well and trains as hard as anyone, if not harder. With his addition, the CBJ culture change seems to keep gaining momentum. We hope that soon the wave that's been growing ever since the wiz came to town may turn into a tsunami, sweeping the lazy, careless identity of this team so far into shore it might never return. Ryan Murray could be a big part of that.

For all of the positive things that have been written about Murray, one has to wonder why he hasn't won much of anything yet. I watched the WJC Gold medal game in 2012 and Murray looked like anything but a leader in that one. The goals that went in off of him, or through him may not have been totally his fault and he didn't do anything stupid during the game. He didn't seem to get overly emotional and it almost made him look detached. This was the biggest stage for him and he kind of just seemed to participate at times. The Silvertips are another team that hasn't done well and he's been their captain. Granted, as I look up and down their roster I don't see any big names from the WHL and Everett may be one of those CHL franchises that can't get enough momentum or money to attract other star players, but I would have liked to see a better performance from Murray's team.

With Murray ready to step into the NHL and a full roster at defense, one has to wonder if Columbus will be the best place for him next season. The other option would be sending him down to Everett to continue munching big minutes, develop his leadership skills and maybe take them on a deep playoff run. He might get traded in what would likely be his last year of eligibility and be able to make a Memorial Cup run with a more stacked team. Demoting him would also allow him another crack at the WJC. Keeping him in the NHL could be the right move if he's definitely ready for the challenge and it could afford a guy like John Moore a chance to continue honing his game with Springfield instead of playing bottom-pair minutes up here in Ohio.

Regarding the choice of Murray over any other picks (I know many CBJ fans were unhappy about Howson passing on Gally), I think this signals a change in the scouting department as much as anything. Murray was a guy you didn't need scouts to pick. Of the top 5 guys, Murray was the only guaranteed guy who will stick in the NHL for a decade or longer without injury concerns or flight risk. His ceiling may not be the ceiling of Drew Doughty or Galchenyuk, but he's a damn safe bet. The following two CBJ picks were essentially the same thing, drafting for need of goaltending with the highest ranked goalie left and then drafting the next highest ranked goalie. Maybe we shouldn't have been surprised when much of the scouting staff was let go following the draft. Howson, probably from now on, will play it as safe as humanly possible with high picks in the draft. I think the pick of Ryan Murray was evidence of that.

So with that, I have one question for fellow CBJ fans: What should Ryan Murray's nickname be? I have one front runner I'd like to propose: the Murr-man.

I actually have to give credit to HFboards commenter Misfit for coming up with this. 

The Edmonton fans started an entire HFboard thread regarding this.

Hit me up on twitter @gris_ducktrance

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