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Response to Article 'In Defense of Bob Murray'

We still talking about Bobbo?! Didn't Selanne buy him any cover?
We still talking about Bobbo?! Didn't Selanne buy him any cover?

I know everyone is tired of the Murray talks, so I'll try to make this quick.

Recently, Jared Dobias of Ducks Daily Blog wrote a defense of Murray. I will point out that Jared claims to be operating primarily as a Devil's Advocate; however, I believe there are two flaws in his defense. Normally, I wouldn't get caught up in something like this, but I believe there is a faulty premise in the Bob Murray defense that has been a recurring theme. The claim is that Murray inherited a team that was in financial peril will be laid to rest, once and for all.

The NHL cap was $56.7 million in the 2008-09 season. The average salary - not cap hit - for the Ducks that season, according to Capgeek, was approximately $1.74M. By my math, $1.74M multiplied by a 23 man roster is around $40.1 million dollars. That number seems a little low to me, but the only information I could access on Capgeek were the averages. However, I seem to remember salary discussions around this time being closer to the $46-47 million range, so that's the number I'm going to work with. I just slanted my evidence in favor of Murray. [Ed. Note: Keep an eye out for the Four Horsemen.]

The Ducks finished Murray's first partial season at the helm some $10M under budget and under the cap. That does not include expiring contracts because the number is based on the average over the season. The major contracts that Murray moved that season were: Chris Kunitz's $3.6 million, Samuel Pahlsson's $1.4 million, and Travis Moen's $925K. He also took on Ryan Whitney's $3 million and James Wisniewski's $900K. That's a net savings of $2.025 million. If we add that $2.025M to the $46-47M, we have the total of Murray's inherited salary at approximately $48-49.025M. Based on all the information available to us, that gave Murray a budget cushion of about $5-7 million to work with during the summer. I have to conclude that the cap/contract mess he inherited was actually some combination of unmanageable contracts.

The following table outlines the major contracts that Murray inherited when he took over as GM. I've included Scott Niedermayer's next contract to provide Murray as much cover as possible. The only contract Murray moved during the 2008-09 season that wasn't expiring was Kunitz. His $3M contract was swapped for Whitney's $3M. Expiring contract are rarely considered burdensome.

Name Cap Hit Years Left
J.S. Giguere 6.0 2
Corey Perry 5.325 4
Ryan Getzlaf 5.325 4
Ryan Whitney 4.0 4
Chris Pronger 6.25 1
Teemu Selanne 2.625 1
Scott Niedermayer 6.0 1

Murray chose the Whitney contract when he moved Kunitz. I think we can all agree that Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are good core players on good contracts (signed under Burke); therefore they can't be included as part of any contract mess either. That leaves the Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Chris Pronger, Teemu Selanne, and Niedermayer contracts. I'd hardly call three future hall of fame players with one year left on their deal a problem. Any of them could be unloaded, and, of course, Pronger was.

That leaves Giguere. He had two years left at $6 million. That's a problem. Jonas Hiller would cost $1.3 million during the next season. That means Murray could have an EXPENSIVE backup, but still spend the same on goaltending as when he inherited the team. Still, I'd hardly call 2 years of Giguere an albatross. Theoretically, Murray could have not traded Jiggy for a year, spent $500K more on goaltending than he did the year before, and then unloaded the contract the next summer. I'm willing to concede this was a tough contract to inherit.

Murray inherited one bad contract from Burke. One bad contract is not a mess. There were free agents to think of, but I've never known an expiring contract to be considered a hindrance in terms of a team's contract situation. I think it's safe to say that Murray didn't save the team from some major salary cap mess. He inherited very manageable or movable contracts, except for the one.

This brings me to Jared's second point: Murray was able to stay competitive while simultaneously rebuilding the team. I don't really understand the argument here. Jared offers this statement

Many general managers in Murray’s position would probably opt to go into full rebuild mode at the point when he picked up the team.

I don't understand this conclusion. As was just demonstrated, Murray didn't inherit a contract mess. Even if the cash numbers are rough, I believe I have demonstrated that Murray inherited good players on movable contracts. The most compelling question is: why did he have to rebuild at all? Look at that core. There's an argument to be made for shipping Pronger out before he went UFA and left for nothing, but what about those pieces says we need to rebuild the team? I do believe that Murray needed to restock the cupboard, but that's very different from a full rebuild.

That roster does call for a plan for the inevitable retirement/departure of its hall of fame defensemen, but so does Detroit's and no one is calling for them to do a full rebuild. If the rebuild isn't necessary, then Murray can't get credit for keeping the team competitive while rebuilding. Murray restocked the prospect pool; however, doing that doesn't always involve rebuilding.

The next question I have is this: If he didn't need to rebuild, what was his competitive responsibility during his tenure? That's an individual answer for each fan to decide. I believe we should have been competitive for the Cup, not simply fighting for a playoff spot. There are other factors that impact that result, but Murray has to be considered a key component, because he chooses the majority of the key personnel.

This isn't a knock on Jared, his writing or his staff. I simply disagreed with the arguments he made and wanted to get something out there in response. As I said in my introduction, the belief that Murray inherited some sort of contract disaster has long been a contention and I wanted to put a more focused perspective on that argument.

Finally, I will once again ask for everyone to sign the petition. Murray has gone in circles throughout his tenure in Anaheim. We need a general manager who can give this team direction and put our good core to use.