After the Anaheim Ducks extended their franchise-record losing streak to 11 games after falling in overtime to the Winnipeg Jets, General Manager Bob Murray issued this statement:
A statement from Executive Vice President and General Manager Bob Murray. pic.twitter.com/UyocDVbmjJ— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) January 14, 2019
Immediately after the statement was released, Ducks social media exploded in anger.
This statement does many things. It deflects blame from himself, like he always has. It deflects blame from the coach, like he always has. It implies that Murray would like to make the playoffs and that his team should be playing better, but there’s no admission that the roster is his own doing.
What this statement does, more than anything else, is insult the fans. It assumes that they are not capable of understanding how a hockey team works.
Yes, it’s true that the fans are not professionals with access to all the tools and data the team has. Yes, it’s true that we at Anaheim Calling are not either.
But what matters right now are optics. The fans are not dumb enough to think that everything is fine with the team. They’re on an 11-game losing streak. We are far past this being a “rough patch”.
So, one of three scenarios are likely at play following this statement:
- Murray believes some kind of roster shakeup will spur the Ducks back into the win column.
- Murray does not care about winning and is gunning for a high draft pick.
- Murray’s lying to the fanbase and is indeed looking for a new coach.
Number one is problematic, because the core contracts that take up the most salary make truly franchise-alerting moves extremely difficult, if not impossible. It’s leading the fans to believe that trading Fowler or Montour or Silfverberg is going to right the ship. And most fans know the issues run deeper than that.
Number two is problematic, because he won’t be honest with the fanbase, even with a PR spin. He obviously wouldn’t come right out and say “Yo we suck. We’re gonna #LoseForHughes or #PlayCraapoForKaapo”. But something along the lines of: “It has been a difficult season, and we believe that, in order to be competitive in the near future, we must re-tool the team”. Again, insulting the fanbase.
Number three is problematic, because then the issued statement is a straight up lie. The thing is, this type of situation has quite a precedent in the NHL.
The Flyers released a statement earlier this season saying they were not going to fire head coach Dave Hakstol. Hakstol was fired hours later.
During the 2016 Entry Draft, Montreal Canadiens Marc Bergevin defended then-head coach Michel Therrien, indicating that he would remain with the team for the duration of the following season.
Therrien was fired by mid-Februay that season and was replaced with Claude Julien.
In a non-head coaching example, Bergevin famously stated that he was not shopping P.K. Subban.
He traded Subban to the Nashville Predators six days later.
Regardless of the precedent, however, this is still a blatant lie to the fanbase.
We all know that something needs to change; this isn’t a new thought. Murray himself admitted that the team as currently constructed is not a Stanley Cup contender earlier this season. He admitted it could be better and that he was working towards that.
This roster has issues, and a coaching change is not going to suddenly turn this team into world-beaters. It may not even be enough to get them to the playoffs, despite only being two points out (on the flip-side, they’re just nine points out of dead last in the league).
Murray’s statement says that he is “more focused on our players, specifically with who is going to step up in this situation.”
He’s never been afraid to make a trade to send a message to his players. And that is likely what will happen in this instance.
But many fans are growing tired. Tired of not knowing what the direction of their favorite team will be. Tired of losing. Yes, the general manager should not sit there and implement every suggestion the general public throws at him, but with each passing day that Carlyle is not fired, the louder the voices grow.
The fans are the ones who make this team a reality. This is a game made primarily for the purpose of entertaining paying customers. If those customers are no longer happy with the organization’s choices, then they will pull back their support. With their wallets and with their voices.
When Murray makes a statement re-affirming his faith in the head coach, a coach who has obviously demonstrated that he is likely not going to have a hand in this team’s future successes and has led this team to a franchise-record 11 straight losses, he is telling the fans that he doesn’t care about them. That he doesn’t want his fragile pride to be hurt by admitting that he made a mistake re-hiring Carlyle three years ago. That he doesn’t want to get rid of his personal friend for the sake of bettering the team that he is in charge of crafting to win hockey games.
Anaheim Calling staff writer Jake Rudolph summed up his feelings with this tweet:
I’m going to save a lot of this for the pod, but after reading that statement I have never felt this disenfranchised from a team I care so deeply about. Up until this point lose for Hughes was a joke when it came from me, but from now I’m dead serious.— Jake Rudolph (@ReindeerGames91) January 14, 2019
If Murray continues to refuse to take any shred of accountability publicly for this losing streak and will not fix the elephant in the room as pertains to scenario one, then it might be best for him to be shown the door.
If he does not care about competing and wants to shoot for a high draft pick as pertains to scenario two, then he needs to stop misleading the fans and insulting their intelligence. Come clean with a statement indicating a rebuild, even if it’s soaked in PR coating.
If he’s lying to the fanbase and is indeed looking for a new coach, then he better make the move quickly and retract his statement supporting Carlyle. And probably issue an apology.
Any way you slice it, this statement is tone-deaf at best and completely dysfunctional at worst.
Hold on everyone. The next few days are going to be a wild ride and potentially alter the direction of the franchise for years to come.