Bob Murray officially took over as General Manager of the Anaheim Ducks on November 12th, 2008. Previous to being appointed to this position he had spent 3 seasons as the franchise’s Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, as well as being the General Manager for the Portland Pirates (Anaheim’s AHL Affiliate at the time). Prior to joining the Ducks organisation in 2005, he had spent 5 seasons as a professional scout for the Vancouver Canucks and had spent 25 seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. The years with the Blackhawks included 4 seasons as the Director of Player Personnel [ 1991-1995], 2 seasons as Assistant General Manager [1995-1997], and 2 seasons as the General Manager [1997-1999]. Notably, as a player, he was the 4th player in Blackhawk history to reach the 1000 game mark, and the first defenceman to reach 100 postseason games, for the club.
Repeating his biography may seem irrelevant to his role with the Ducks, but I believe that it shed’s light on his decisions as a retrospect. So please bear with me, as the links may become clear as we go on.
While the 2008-2009 season may only partially be counted as part of his results - after all new management shouldn't be criticised until its had time to take effect - the coming season will mark his 11 year anniversary as the man in charge, and 10th full season at the helm. Time enough to reflect on what has been, and to make some back of the napkin snap decisions on whether he should see out this coming season. To begin that evaluation, firstly and perhaps most importantly, the Ducks results each season.
How the Ducks are Ranked
The chart below depicts the Ducks ranking at the end of each regular season over the past 10 seasons. It should be noted that Murray took over during the second month of the 2008-2009 season, and thus the results of that season cannot be completely attributed to him.
As depicted, the first few seasons under Murrays tenure where quite rocky with relatively poor results. Given the (at the time) recent cup victory, this could have been seen as a disappointment to many fans. However, from the 2013 lockout season, the Ducks have been a powerhouse in the league. 5 consecutive Pacific Division titles. 6 Stanley Cup playoff appearances (inc. 2 Conference Final appearances). The 6th team in NHL history to record 5 consecutive 100 point regular seasons.
In June of 2014, following the 2013-2104 season, Murray was named the NHL GM of the Year. A year in which unironically the Ducks have had their highest goals per game totals, and indeed led the league in that metric. The very same year they ranked 9th for goals against. Both statistics propelling them to their second consecutive Division Title, and a 2nd in the league ranking come seasons end.
The above chart doesn't appear to show any clear trends between rate scoring for, and against, and the Ducks regular season standings position over the 10 year period. There are some trends that may have dictated his coaching changes, with goal scoring declining in the seasons prior to Randy Carlyle and Bruce Boudreau being let go. Interestingly, at time of writing, this suggests Randy Carlyle (2.0) may be safe in his current role as head coach, with goal scoring showing a clear improvement despite the injuries sustained by key offensive players in the 2017-2018 season. It should also be noted that for the most part, under Bob Murrays stewardship, the Ducks offence and defence have trended (by chart) in the same direction at nearly all times. That is to say, he hasn't been able to improve the offence and the defence (or vice versa) without a negative impact on the inverse.
Interestingly, Murray’s Ducks have been a mixed bag defensively and offensively over his tenure. In 5 of 10 seasons, the Ducks have been a top 15, and a bottom 15 side for goal scoring and prevention. Following the 2013-2014 season, many fans decreed that the Ducks needed more defensive ability and could sacrifice some offence to achieve that. As such, the Ducks team offence has trended downwards compared to their peers in each season since that time; Going from 1st in 2013-2014, to 11th, to 17th, and 18th overall in the past two seasons. Despite the generally improving defensive trend (2014-2015 being an aberration), the Ducks regular season standing has slipped over this same time frame from 2nd overall, to 3rd, to 6th, and this season finishing in 9th position.
These results may reflect a league wide trend. As a general rule, since the LA Kings won their last cup, the league has begun to generate a trend in which higher scoring teams produce better results than those that do not. Defensive ability is still highly valued, and can prevent a team from being poor, but it doesn't allow the team to be “good.” This appears to be where the Ducks are currently sitting. Their defensive ability is such that they are unlikely to be a bottom team in their division, however their offence has stagnated to the extent that they may no longer be able to hold their own against the better teams in the league. As an example, only two Western Conference teams (the Vancouver Canucks, and the Arizona Coyotes) had their top 6 forwards produce less total points or primary points, than the Ducks top two lines. No playoff team in the league, scored less goals.
The chart above shows just how fine a line there is between a finalist and non-finalist in todays NHL, and the table below presents the importance of a teams top 6 producing primary points. Scoring from all sources is important, and indeed the relationship between total points produced and regular season standings, is r = .85. However, more often than not this requires the top 6 to produce, and produce regularly.
Over the past few years, Murray has moved a number of players who have been in the top echelon of scorers for the Ducks. Bobby Ryan. Mathieu Perreault. Kyle Palmieri. Dustin Penner. In many cases, these scorers have been replaced by depth defencemen or “two-way” forwards. Ryan Kesler was brought on as a defensively-minded second line centre ice-man. While his points totals up until this season were noteworthy, he chewed up many minutes to get them. His high time-on-ice reduced his scoring rates per minute of play, and thus reduced the Ducks team scoring rates overall - a trend that was somewhat arrested this season as the Ducks goal scoring went up on a per game basis. Perhaps coinciding with Kesler’s reduced minutes.
Interestingly, despite removing scorers from the roster, (as the chart below shows) the Ducks have typically improved their positive shooting metrics from the 2010-2011 season, and trended in a positive direction, until the past two seasons. While few of these seasons resulted in a top half of the league ranking, and that it didn’t relate overly well to goals scored, the trend was nonetheless a positive one.
The positive trend in CF, is only partially shown in scoring chances for and high danger chances for, which have mostly improved from the 2008-2009 season and remained stable from the 2011-2012 season. The 2017-2018 season presented a dip in league ranking for scoring chances, despite overall numbers of SCF per game remaining similar to previous seasons. This may reflect the league trend of increased scoring, however after one season it is too soon to judge.
Despite corsi attempts trending upwards, and scoring chances remaining relatively high, the reduction in the number of offensively orientated players presented some challenges for the Ducks. As the chart below shows, shooting percentages took a dive from the 2013-2014 season through to Bruce Boudreau’s firing at the end of the 2015-2016 season. A similar dip in 2011 resulted in then-coach Randy Carlyle’s getting canned.
This shooting data begins to present a trend that Bob Murray may be a reactive GM with respect to his coaching decisions and is basing his changes on a variant that is easily changed by other means. However, further analysis is required for this to be certain.
Similarly to CF attempts, the Ducks league ranking for Corsi against trended in an upward motion until the past two seasons (shown in the chart below).
The 2016-2017 season presented a slight increase in the corsi against attempts against per game, matching it with the 2013 and 2013-2014 seasons. Additionally, the 2017-2018 season saw the Ducks give up the most CA per game in the past 10 seasons, with only the 2010-2011 season coming close.
As expected, with the increase in CA, scoring chances against and high danger scoring chances against also rose. A simultaneous drop in league rankings for this metric was similarly to be expected.
Although the trends in the data show clear differences in the coaches that Bob Murray has hired to coach the Ducks, it should be noted that the relationship between these metrics and the Ducks fortunes are not entirely clear. Certain trends do present themselves, but at this stage are not statistically significant.
Contrary to expectations with corsi attempts, scoring chances, and high danger chances against all climbing, the Ducks save percentage continued to rise over the past 3 seasons. This presents a clear case of John Gibson improving to his current apparently-not-Vezina-worthy self.
However, this does suggest that Murrays coaching decisions may be based more on goal scoring than goal prevention. Given the links between goals scoring and the standings, this has merit. Unfortunately, these decision also seem to be resultant of stripping scorers from the roster, and the vagaries of general inter-season fluctuations in shooting.
Given the above, there is little reason for Murray to have considered a coaching change and the news that Randy Carlyle will be back behind the bench comes as no surprise.
Bob Murray made it clear Randy Carlyle will be back for another season, but he’s also looking for changes in styles of play. Great insight from GMBM, will have a ton in a story later— Mike Coppinger (@MikeCoppinger) April 21, 2018
This news is an anathema to many fans who were looking for a change from the days of the “Big Bad Ducks.” However it should be noted that the Ducks under Murrays stewardship have dramatically reduced the number of penalties they take each season.
This is true under both coaches the Ducks have employed. Thus while reactions to games such as Game 3 of the 2017-2018 Stanley Cup playoffs are justified, they are representative of an increasingly smaller sample.
Bob Murray has made his front office career at the NHL Draft. As mentioned in the introduction, Murray has been a scout for both the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks prior to joining the Ducks organisation. Since joining the Ducks he has made the draft a position of strength, and sold the fans on his ability to draft well. Both Kyle (here) and myself (here) tackled Murrays drafting record earlier in the season, and I don't believe that any more words need to be spent on it at present. Murray is an excellent drafter in the first two rounds, but becomes spotty after that. It’s a credit that he has found excellent players such as Josh Manson late, but it would be remiss to forget that over 10 seasons near every team has found those players. Murray’s early season success in drafting defencemen keeps him in the top third of the league here, but he does need to round out his drafting and start acquiring high scoring forwards.
A list of all of Bob Murrays trades as General Manager can be found here. Any evaluation at this stage becomes subjective and clouded by the writer’s own judgement. Similarly, many trades can be looked at in isolation but the nuances can be lost. For instance trading Bryan Allen may be considered good in isolation, but Murray then needed to spend assets to acquire Eric Brewer only days later due to injuries. Nonetheless, I shall attempt to position all of Murrays trades in the following categories: Good, Bad, So-So, and Irrelevant. What the Ducks give up will be on the left, what they acquire on the right. John Broadbent wrote more on this topic last offseason, and if you wish to compare notes you can find his more expansive piece here.
- David McIntyre for Sheldon Brookbank (2009)
- Nathan McIver for Mike Brown (2009)
- Eric O’Dell for Erik Christensen (2009)
- 1st round pick (#21) for 1st round pick (#26) & 2nd round pick (#37)
- 4th round pick for Kyle Chipchura (2009)
- Nick Boynton for future considerations (2010)
- Ryan Whitney & 6th round pick for Lubomir Visnovsky (2010)
- Rob Bordson & Danny Syvret for David Laliberte & Patrick Maroon (2010)
- 6th round pick for Jarkku Ruutu (2011)
- 3rd round pick for Brad Winchester (2011)
- First round pick (#22) for First round pick (#30) & 2nd round pick (#39) (2011)
- 2nd round pick for Andrew Cogliano (2011)
- 2014 5th round pick for Ben Lovejoy (2013)
- John Mitchell & 4th round pick for Mathieu Perreault (2013)
- 6th round pick for Tim Jackman (2013)
- Conditional 4th round pick for Stephane Robidas (2014)
- Viktor Fasth for 3rd round pick & 5th round pick (2014)
- 1st round pick, Luca Sbisa, Nick Bonino & 3rd round pick for Ryan Kesler & 3rd round pick (2014)
- Ben Lovejoy for Simon Despres (2015)
- Emerson Etem & 2nd round pick for Carl Hagelin, 2nd round pick & 6th round pick (2015)
- Carl Hagelin for David Perron & Adam Clendening (2016)
- 3rd round pick for Jamie McGinn (2016)
- 6th round pick for Brandon Pirri (2016)
- Frederik Andersen for 1st round pick & 2nd round pick (2016)
- Conditional pick for Jonathon Bernier (2016)
- Michael Sgarbossa for Logan Shaw (2016)
- 7th round pick for Jonas Enroth (2017)
- Shea Theodore for expansion draft considerations (2017)
- Brad May for a conditional 6th round pick (condition not met - no return) (2009)
- Chris Kunitz & Eric Tangradi for Ryan Whitney (2009)
- Drew Miller & 3rd round pick for Evgeny Artyukhin (2009)
- Jean-Sebastien Giguere for Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala (2010)
- Mike Brown for 5th round pick (2010)
- Ryan Carter for Stephane Chaput & Matt Kennedy (2010)
- Paul Mara for 5th round pick (2011)
- Lubomir Visnovsky for 2nd round pick (2012)
- Brandon McMillan for Matthew Lombardi (2013)
- Dustin Penner for 4th round pick (2014)
- Rene Bourque, William Karlsson & 2nd round pick for James Wisniewski & 3rd round pick (2015) - bad at the time because of Wiz, bad now because of Karlsson. Ouch.
- Kyle Palmieri for 2nd round pick & 3rd round pick (2015)
- 2nd round pick for Kevin Bieksa (2015)
- Patrick Maroon for Martin Gernat & 4th round pick (2016)
- Chris Wagner for Jason Chimera (2018)
- Brian Sutherby for a conditional 6th round pick (2008)
- Kent Huskins & Travis Moen for Nick Bonino, Timo Pielmeier & a conditional 4th round pick (2009)
- Samuel Pahlsson, Logan Stephanson & future considerations for Petri Kontiola & James Wisniewski (2009)
- Steve Montador for Petteri Nokelainen (2009)
- Ryan Dingle & Chris Pronger for Luca Sbisa, Joffrey Lupul, 1st round pick, 1st round pick & conditional 3rd round pick (not received) (2009)
- Justin Pogge & 4th round pick for Aaron Ward (2010)
- Vesa Toskala for Curtis McElhinney (2010)
- Steve Eminger for Ryan Hillier & Aaron Voros (2010)
- James Wisniewski for 3rd round pick (2010)
- Maxim Lapierre for Brett Festerling & 5th round pick (2010)
- Trevor Smith for Nate Guenin (2011)
- Jake Gardiner, Joffrey Lupul & a conditional 4th round pick for Francois Beauchemin (2011)
- Aaron Voros for a conditional 7th round pick (not exercised) (2011)
- Curtis McElhinney for Dan Ellis (2011)
- Maxim Lapierre & MacGregor Sharp for Joel Perrault & 3rd round pick
- Andy Sutton for Kurtis Foster (2011)
- Bryan Rodney for Ryan O`Marra (2012)
- Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers for future considerations (2013)
- Bobby Ryan for Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen & 1st round pick
- Peter Holland & Brad Staubitz for Jesse Blacker, 3rd round pick & 7th round pick (2013)
- 5th round pick for Louis Lebanc (2014)
- 4th round pick & 7th round pick for Nate Thompson (2014)
- Bryan Allen for Rene Borque (2014)
- Conditional pick for Colby Robak (2014)
- Devante Smith-Pelly for Jiri Sekac (2015)
- Dany Heatley & 3rd round pick for Tomas Fleischmann (2015)
- Eric Brewer & 5th round pick for Korbin Holzer (2015)
- James Wisniewski for Anton Khudobin (2015)
- Max Friberg for Dustin Tokarski (2016)
- Jiri Sekac for Ryan Garbutt (2016)
- 1st round pick (conditional) for Patrick Eaves (2017)
- Dustin Tokarski for future considerations (2017)
- Joakim Lindstrom for Logan Stephanson (2008)
- Jason Bailey for Shawn Weller (2009)
- Steve McCarthy for future considerations (2009)
- Evgeny Artyukhin for Nathan Oystrick & conditional 4th round pick (not received) (2010)
- The rights to Steven Kampfer for conditional 4th round pick (2010)
- 7th round pick for Joey MacDonald (2010)
- Petteri Nokelainen for 6th round pick (2010)
- 6th round pick for Justin Pogge
- Mattias Modig for 6th round pick (2010)
- Logan MacMillan & 7th round pick for Jason Jaffray & 7th round pick (2010)
- Matt McCue for Tomas Zaborsky (2010)
- Stu Bickel for Nigel Williams (2010)
- Stephane Chaput & David Laliberte for Brian McGrattan & Sean Zimmerman (2011)
- 6th round pick for 6th round pick (2011)
- Jake Newton & conditional pick for Kyle Cumiskey (2011)
- Kurtis Foster & Timo Pielmeier for 7th round pick, Mark Fraser & Rod Pelley (2011)
- Nicolas Deschamps for Luca Caputi (2012)
- Maxime Macenauer for Riley Holzapfel (2012)
- Mark Fraser for Dale Mitchell (2012)
- Andrew Gordon for Sebastien Erixon (2012)
- Dan Sexton for Kyle Wilson (2013)
- Jay Rosehill for Harry Zolnierczyk (2013)
- Harry Zolnierczyk for Alex Grant (2013)
- Alex Grant for Andre Pettersson (2014)
- Mat Clark for Michael Sgarbossa (2015)
- Tim Jackman & 7th round pick for Corey Tropp (2016)
- Andrew O’Brien for Max Gortz (2017)
- Kenton Helgesen & 7th round pick for Sam Carrick & Spencer Abbott (2017)
*Special Category: The Best. Better than the Zohan [Editor’s Note: Ugh ok fine I’ll let him and Daniel have this one it’s not like it could get any worse-CJ]
- Ryan Lasch & 7th round pick for David Steckel (2013)
*Special Category: Awful beyond words - fire everyone [Editor’s Note: OH GOD NO WHY-CJ]
- Sami Vatanen & conditional 3rd round pick for Adam Henrique, Joseph Blandisi & 3rd round pick (2018)
Bob Murray has made a lot of trades in his tenure with the Ducks. As with most GMs he has numbers across all categories, although it should be noted that Murray has on most occassions refrained from bringing in big name players, with Ryan Kesler being the exception. That said, the majority of his trades fall into the “meh” category, or more specifically so-so to irrelevant. Thus it’s impossible to say that he’s a good trader, but with so few actively bad trades, he’s not a complete detriment - although this is based on trades made in isolation, and not as part of a bigger whole. Should greater context be applied, the knowledge of having only 3 pieces (Julius Nattinen, Nick Ritchie & Jakob Silfverberg) remaining from trades (and subsequent trades including any return from those trades) including the outgoing Bobby Ryan, Kyle Palmieri & William Karlsson, may reflect more poorly upon Murray’s ability here.
While this piece has refrained from examining Bob Murray’s free agent and restricted free agent signings, there is enough here to suggest that he should probably be returning at the helm of the Ducks next season. It is hard to imagine that Murray is the best General Manager available, but he is a safe General Manager. He drafts ok, he trades ok, and despite having an old boys of hockey front office and coaching staff, has produced very good results in terms of the standings.
Whether or not Bob Murray is the man to oversee a change in style and system of the Ducks, and whether he is able to bring the Ducks into a new era, is a question that should be up for debate. Nonetheless, it seems likely that he’ll be here as long as he desires. Despite trends that may be alarming to some, there simply isn't a strong enough argument available to fire him at this stage.