It's been a tough weekend. We could all use a little levity.
Over the past couple months, we've beat two subjects to death: Bobby Ryan and Bob Murray. Of the latter, I have allowed very biased, all negative posts. I put the kibosh on running anything else with an anti-Bob Murray message until we got an opinion from someone that supports what Bob Murray is doing. (I thought this would take years to find.)
This brings me to today's debate! It's somewhat of an experiment. I posed five topics to Kevin who is pro-Bob Murray and Daniel who is (clearly) anti-Murray. The catch is that both guys don't know what the other guy's argument is. I wouldn't let them see each others answers. I was curious to see if they'd use the same situations to prove their point. Enjoy!
1) His success at the draft - because of him or in-spite of him?
Daniel (Anti-Murray): The draft is uniquely on the shoulders of the scouting team. The GM has to heavily rely on them to give him accurate information because he isn't watching these kids play all the time; he's supposed to be taking care of the NHL club. It's undeniable that drafting has been the best front office function performed by Murray during his tenure. In the context of what it means to his job, I think there's a fundamental question that needs to be asked: Can we continue to draft well if Murray is fired? I think the answer to that question is 'yes'.
The new GM can keep the scouting staff that Murray has put into place and it should yield similar results. There's an argument to be made that Murray has a good history as a scout (something that hasn't translated to his NHL trades); therefore, the final decisions might not be as good. Yet, I think you'll have a GM getting the same reliable information, capable of making at least equally good decisions, especially if he can get a couple of top talents to fall into his lap.
Kevin (Pro-Murray): It's one of the main reasons we should keep him. I don't think anyone doubts that he is good at drafting, but lets put just how good he is into perspective.
After being left a pretty barren prospect pool by Brian Burke, Murray has led the Ducks to having the 5th best prospects according to Hockey Futures. What's even more impressive is that unlike most of the teams around us in the rankings, we have not had a Top-5 pick during the time Murray has been GM AND this doesn't include this year's draft pick. Let that sink in. Murray has assembled some of the best young talent in the game right now, and the team didn't have to tank in order to acquire them. I'm not sure if people realize this, but we basically just went through a rebuild, and we were still competitive every season while we did it.
Critics of Murray argue his draft record by saying its his scouts that deserve the praise and not him. That the same team of scouts could do the same with whoever the new GM is. First off, Murray makes all the final decisions, so he is very much a part of the success. Scouts give him the information and he makes the final call. Who is to say another GM wouldn't come in here and just go with his gut rather than the staffs? The idea of the majority of his draft team staying intact is silly. New GM's bring in their own people for every department. There would be some layover, sure, but there is a reason Burke's draft record was so bad in comparison to Murray's. There's no guarantee that this drafting would continue under another GM, so yes a majority of the credit has to go to Murray for assembling and retaining this excellent group of scouts.
2) Murray's trading record - is he usually on the 'winning end' or the 'losing end'?
Kevin (Pro-Murray): Okay, this is probably the one point we are going to agree on. Murray is not the best trader, he's not a Burke or a Peter Chiarelli. Hell, he's not even a league average trader. He constantly undervalues his assets or waits too long to deal them. The amount of times he actually gets fair value in a trade are few and far between. Everyone has a weakness and this is no doubt Murray's kryptonite (well this and Brian Burke).
If I have to defend his trade record, I will say he does a fairly good job at recognizing the team's needs. Still, its better than nothing.
Daniel (Anti-Murray): The thing that should stand out about Bob Murray's trades is that they don't result in long term solutions. Chris Pronger is the only trade that has yielded positive assets that will have a long term impact on our team. Chris Kunitz and Eric Tangradi got turned into two bad seasons of Ryan Whitney. At least that turned into good season and average season of Lubomir Visnovsky. Lubo was then turned into a second round pick. Sammy Pahlsson devolved into James Wisniewski and then a third round pick. Drew Miller became Evgeny Artyukhin. Murray was robbed in the Francois Beauchemin trade.
His trades have resulted in a rotation of spare parts and no permanent solutions for our roster, outside of Luca Sbisa. That's one guy in how many trades? Murray even traded for a guy who didn't want to sign in Anaheim as a free agent in Brad Winchester. Murray's trades have not had a lasting positive impact on the franchise. The players he acquires sometimes help out for awhile, but he gives up assets and keeps getting smaller and smaller returns until the original value is either gone or unrecognizable.
3) Like clockwork, each season when the Ducks hit a rough patch, he publicly threatens to trade everyone (except for Koivu and Selanne). Is this just a tactic to light a fire or is he compensating for under-equipping his team to win consistently?
Kevin (Pro-Murray): It's hard for me to believe that Murray is "under-equipping" this team when they prove every season that they can win and dominate games. Every season, we see these second half tears and always wonder "man, imagine if we started the season this way..."
I think the real problem seems to be motivation, or possibly even poor conditioning. While it's easy to blame the individual players for that, I personally believe the blame falls on the coaching staff. To have this happen consistently year in and year out - with different players every year - proves to me that the staff wasn't pressing the right buttons and wasn't getting the most out of the roster at the beginning of the season.
Daniel (Anti-Murray): I've never liked that Murray seems to place the blame entirely on his players. I've always appreciated leaders who take responsibility for their team. Every time Murray runs to the media to say the players are underperforming, I want to remind him that he constructed that team. It's as if he's saying he put together a perfect team, and the players are ruining it. How can you ask your players to be accountable, if you won't?
More importantly, it's a bluff. It's been at least two seasons in a row where Murray has said he'll trade everybody, but then he doesn't do it. Murray is the 'GM who cried wolf'. Plenty of GM's get by without having to resort to this method.
4) Are his hands really tied because of an internal budget? What about the money he has/had to spend this off-season (around $25M after Selanne)?
Daniel (Anti-Murray): I don't think the budget has tied his hands as drastically as everyone thinks.The budget generally seems to be in the neighborhood of $54M to $58M. In the past it was believed to dropped as low as $52M. I say this frequently, but it's really all about how you spend the money. Andrew Cogliano is overpaid. Sheldon Souray's contract was named one of the five worst of the summer by THN.
Murray's bargain hunting has gotten in the way of his acquiring good players. Sometimes it's better to get a $4M guy and $1M guy than a pair of $2.5M guys. I don't think Murray spends wisely and that makes the budget seem worse than it is. The Stars had the second lowest cap number in the league and they still outperformed us. The Blues, Panthers, and Coyotes all had lower cap hits than we did. Yes, that's not indicative of the cash spent, but I doubt those teams drastically outspent us. Teams can be productive while on a budget, they just have to spend wisely. Murray hasn't done that.
Kevin (Pro-Murray): I'm going to say his hands are absolutely, 100% tied by internal budget. Samueli's have said they're posting double-digit, million dollar loses. It began around the time the owners were suspended from the NHL for lying to the SEC. While under their suspension the Ducks traded Pronger and began to shed salary. Clearly the Ducks are not a big market team making big money, so yes I truly believe that his hands are tied..to an extent.
Which brings me to this offseason. Murray signed a highly coveted free agent in Bryan Allen, for pennies in comparison to what other people were making. This guy is going to be huge for our team in the coming seasons. Murray then signs another coveted player in Souray. Now you can gripe about the terms of the contract all you want, but the fact is Souray can play in almost any situation and big time minutes. Oh and we signed him below market value as well. Murray also sured up our goaltending depth, by signing yet another coveted player in Viktor Fasth.
He didn't overpay for fan favorites who statistically aren't worth their contract and let George Parros and Sheldon Brookbank walk. He had a great draft that secured the two things we didn't have in our organization already according to Hockey Futures - grit and a Top-4 defenseman. He's even considering moving a fan favorite Bobby Ryan to make the whole team better. This is arguably Murray's best offseason, and you want to fire him now?
5) It could be worse, right?
Kevin (Pro-Murray): It could absolutely be worse. Let me just list of teams with GM's right now (or very recently) I would consider indisputably worse than Murray: Islanders, Montreal, Calgary, Winnipeg, Columbus. These teams have GM's that haven't drafted well, haven't traded well, and haven't signed free agents well. Then there are the teams that had to tank in order to have the glimmer of hope they currently have: Edmonton and Florida. Murray has done their job without finishing last every season and sporting some god awful rosters.
Then there are the teams that I think people will try to dispute are in better shape then us: Dallas, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Phoenix, Nashville [Ed. Note: Written pre-Shea Weber drama], San Jose, and Colorado. I would argue that we are stronger than all of these teams because we have stars on our current roster AND a great prospect pool. Something none of those teams can really boast. Now add in the teams are spending to the cap or have crazy long-term contracts, something I don't believe the Ducks are capable of doing: Vancouver, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Boston, New York, Washington, LA, Chicago and Minnesota. So this leaves the following teams with GM's I would consider either better AND are able to work with our budget: St. Louis, Ottawa, and Detroit. I really dont see us poaching any of those GM's from their respective teams, and even St. Louis could be a reach if they don't prove last season was a fluke.
I think people say "could it be worse?" and think "of course it could"; however, they don't realize how much worse it could get or how likely 'the worst' is going to happen. Everyone thinks it could be better because everyone wants the best, it our nature as fans. But we are not Toronto, or Ottawa, or some other big time/desirable hockey market. In order to survive in the current NHL as a small market team you have to draft well. We have one of the best drafting front offices in the game. We should be praising this guy's work, not calling for his head.
Daniel (Anti-Murray): I've never understood this argument. To me, it's like saying you shouldn't save a drowning person because you might drown, too.
Of course there's a risk that it could be worse, but there's also a chance that it could be better. I don't see how it's more likely that we'll get a worse GM than a better one. While it's possible things will get worse, it's also true that they won't get much better. We are about to witness Murray's all or nothing bid. Murray is this year's David Poile (Nashville). He has to do everything he can to convince the Twins to stay.
Given his track record with trades, that's how it can get worse with Murray at the helm. Murray has done enough to get fired: diminishing returns on trades, a revolving door of Bottom-6 players, alienating a fan favorite, and a general lack of direction exemplified by his "we need more speed...wait we need more size" exploits. I just don't think that fear of a worse situation should prevent someone from getting out of a bad situation.