Last night in Vegas Ducks' General Manager Bob Murray became the fifth recipient of the NHL's GM of the year award. Despite the inherent flaws of the award and the violently differing opinions among the Ducks' fan base regarding Murray, he's come a long way in nearly six years on the job and set up the Ducks to be one of the top teams in the league with a very highly regarded prospect pool. So I'd have to say it's a well-deserved honor.
As a season ticket holder, I had the chance last week to hear him, as well as Hart Trophy runner up Ryan Getzlaf and Ducks' Executive Vice President and COO Tim Ryan, speak at Honda Center on a wide ranging set of topics. Here are some of the highlights.
[Note: since my recording wasn't very clear, most of this is paraphrased, but the most important parts are directly quoted. My comments are in italics.]
Let's start with some building enhancement news and business stuff from COO Tim Ryan:
Ryan announced a million dollar renovation to the upper concourse to improve the concessions and a Wahoo's franchise on the lower level.
Fun fact: Honda Center has the largest upper bowl in the NHL and the smallest lower bowl.
On the Wild Wing statue that used to be located on the South side of the Arena: It's in storage and will eventually be re-installed, but they are saving space for other potential statues etc. that may be going up in the future (he referenced the next 20 years, so nothing specific).
On a new scoreboard: It's about a year and a half process to reconfigure the steel in the rafters to support a new scoreboard, eventually we will have one. The Samuelis have put 71 Million into the arena over the last five years.
While Ryan didn't say it directly, the implication that I took from it was that a new board is one of the next additions to the building but it may take a few years to actually see it in place due to finances and logistics.
On visiting fans: There were only 2100 Kings fans at Honda Center during the playoffs. Hated hearing that it was ‘about 50/50. Season ticket holders need to "get pissed off" and not allow a vocal minority to out yell the vast majority of Ducks fans.
One suggestion from the crowd on a way to engage the home fans was to bring back the organ. This got a mixed response and Ryan would only let on that it is a topic of discussion, but very difficult to please such a diverse audience with in arena music.
Not so Fun Fact: The Ducks were 23rd in the league in revenue this season, up from 27th last year.
Thank you Stadium Series and throwback merchandise!
Ryan Getzlaf was on the panel this year, in place of Head Coach Bruce Boudreau and did a good job of adding some humor to the proceedings. For example, when Murray was asked if the Ducks would ever spend to the Cap again, he jumped in to clarify that it's not Bob's money. Or when Murray brought up the Ducks propensity to fall behind, asking "how the heck did you get down 4-0 in the first place?!" he quickly responded "That's the goalie's fault."
But Getzy's best answers came when he was asked adorable questions by adorable kids, such as...
How you stay motivated when not playing your best? That's the easy part, because you have things to correct and get angry about, rather than getting complacent with long stretches of success
How many days a week did you practice as a kid? Probably about four, but he also considered it very important to try other sports and activities throughout the year so he didn't get burned out and he could continue to enjoy playing as much as he did.
And most importantly, now that Teemu is gone, who is going to throw the pucks over the glass to the kids? As the captain he'll assign that job to someone this year.
The real meat of the night was Bob Murray's comments on everything from Draft Philosophy to honoring Teemu Selanne.
Elaborating on exit interview comments: There are holes in the lineup. We haven't had a second line center since Andy McDonald. "Being a former defenseman, I'm not happy with our defense as a whole, but I'm not sure how much I can affect that at this point in time."
That last quote may be a little concerning, but with eight defensemen under contract (including Sheldon Souray, more on him later) and Sami Vatanen still to sign as an RFA, it makes sense. In order to affect change on a personnel level, trades are going to be necessary and he simply can't talk about what that might be to an assembly of fans.
He did indicate that he wasn't happy with the structure of the defense and that the hiring of a new defensive assistant coach in the wake of Bob Woods' departure (Now known to be former Norfolk Admirals head coach Trent Yawney) is the first step in rectifying that.
On Goaltending: He took his time with some difficult decisions in that area this past year. As a result will have Frederik Andersen and John Gibson battling for the starting position in Anaheim this year.
Not a huge surprise, considering Gibson's usage in the playoffs, but he'll begin the season as a Duck, pending something going wrong (magumbo alert) and we won't see a veteran backup brought in to ease the transition.
On Faceoffs: Getzlaf gave a long answer about how they're continually trying to get better, and they have, as well as working as a group to win faceoffs, it's been a big focus of his game etc. before Murray broke in and said "We sucked at faceoffs." He then went on to explain that it's not just a matter of losing the facoeffs, but how much Bruce is forced to use certain players at certain times because of the faceoffs.
On getting a stable the first line LW: "I'm getting tired of a search for someone to play in that spot," to which Getz responded, "We're hard to please."
On Dustin Penner's departure: "Sometimes decisions are made not necessarily because of what happens on the ice. Let's leave it at that."
Good News: No regular season Western Conference banner because "our goals are bigger"
Drafting Philosophy: First round strategy is always to pick the best player available but in later rounds picks are made with need in mind.
On Ryan Kesler (kind of): Obviously he couldn't comment directly on another team's player but Kesler questions came up at least three times during the hour of discussion. He did his best to use phrases like "If it was Vancouver" and "That City" and a player that we wanted who didn't end up getting traded at the deadline, which got a few laughs from the crowd. But the takeaways were: 1) it takes two to tango and you can't force a GM into a trade. 2) A lot of things have changed in Vancouver since the deadline so maybe that has an effect on negotiations one way or the other. 3) The fact that we'd be getting any player for fewer games than if they would have traded him at the deadline means the offers get "dialed back." 4) "The press keeps throwing names at you. Don't just assume that that's all that is out there."
Getzlaf had a pretty decent line that summed up the situation with Kesler as well. When one fan asked why Vancouver refused the Murray's best offer, Getz jumped in to say "because they have to beat us."
At the end of the day being a division rival now probably is what will hurt the Ducks' chances of landing Kesler most of all.
On Shea Theodore and Josh Manson: Yawney had only good things to say about them during the Calder cup playoffs and he doesn't want to give up either of them in any potential trades.
On the lack of movement at the deadline, relative to the Kings getting Marian Gaborik: We were looking for a different type of player. We offered much more than what Dean Lombardi gave up to get Gaborik and were turned down. He wouldn't necessarily have fit as well with Getzlaf and Corey Perry as he did with Anze Kopitar. Which Getzlaf explained was Murray's way of saying he and Perry aren't as fast as Kopitar.
On the Power Play: We need to get to the net more and shoot more from the point. We had that but losing Sheldon Souray to injury unexpectedly created that hole in the lineup and we'd love to get him back but "he's finished"
It was Murray's strongest statement of the night by far. So don't expect to see Souray back on the ice any time soon. This is apparently a Chris Pronger situation, where he will remain on LTI until his contract is up to stay off the salary cap and continue to be paid, then officially be able to call it a career. I can't claim to have been the biggest Souray fan ever, but it really sucks to see a guy's career end that way.
On Stephane Robidas: "That was a heart breaker for us, for him and for his family" "I don't know where that stands... he wants to play again, but let's see how that progresses." I will be in contact with him and we'll see how she goes.
That was a huge downer for me. I'd like to think I speak for most Ducks fans when I say I'd love to have him back, but it doesn't sound likely. Certainly not as firm as "he's finished" with Souray, but the implication that I drew from the fact that Murray doesn't know where Robidas is in his rehab at this point leads me to believe that he may not be very far along and even if he does play again it won't necessarily be for the Ducks.
On offer sheets: Certain situations recently in the league have made him give it some thought, but they are rarely effective and require a large commitment of dollars and years, citing the Shea Weber offer sheet from Philadelphia, which the Ducks aren't prepared to commit at this time.
That was a pretty shocking response, considering in past Q&A sessions, I've heard him flat out shoot down the mere mention of offer sheets as an option. At the end of the day, however it is the same result, the Ducks won't be tendering any offer sheets for the foreseeable future. It would be interesting to know who piqued his interest though, maybe Ryan O'Reilly?
Will the Ducks ever spend to the Cap again: We're lucky to have an owner that allows us to spend over the amount of revenue that we bring in, hopefully it gets to a point where we can, but until the revenues rise significantly spending to the cap isn't feasible and "I can't complain"
On new jerseys: "The white jerseys will be the same as our blacks. The old jerseys with the ‘Ducks' [wordmark] are no longer with us. The white jersey which you will next Friday night on the stage with the number 10 pick will be the white jersey that we will wear."
Always fun to see a new jersey, but interesting that he said we will see it with the tenth pick, could that have been a slip that he won't be trading it or just a general note that we'll see the new white jersey at the draft? I guess we'll have to wait till Friday to find out.
On retiring Teemu's Jersey: There will be a special night honoring Teemu in Mid-January, but he couldn't give any more details.
This was a couple of days before the schedule was officially released. Having a look at it now, a good bet would be Jan 11 vs. Winnipeg, even though he never actually played for Jets 2.0.