Montreal Canadiens Spotlight: Signing Douglas Murray, a wise move?

Doulgas Murray - Justin K. Aller / Getty Images

Justin K. Aller / Getty Images

By James Stephan (@J_Habs)

On August 22nd, the Montreal Canadiens signed the physical intimidator that is Douglas Murray to a 1.5 million dollar contract for one year.

The Past

Rewind back to the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs and you would see a very vocal Pittsburgh Penguins fan base that had some choice words for the Swedish blue liner. Fans cheered when he delivered a crushing hit, but shook their fists in the air when they saw the 6’3 240 pound mammoth of a defenseman being exposed as a slow skater.

When General Manager of The Year winner of the year Ray Shero acquired Douglas Murray from the San Jose Sharks, he paid the hefty price of two second round picks. Since Murray’s playoff run with the Penguins, many have suggested that San Jose was essentially trying to give away Murray and that he had no place on their roster.

The San Jose Sharks have slowly transitioned their style of play to focus more on speed, and less on the rugged physicality that both Murray and Clowe brought to the team. While it may be true that Murray no longer fit on their roster as he was a healthy scratched several times last season, he was hardly a nuisance, nor was he a terrible player, he simply no longer had a role in San Jose.

San Jose general manager Doug Wilson hardly gave away the Swedish wrecking ball that is Douglas Murray as Pittsburgh paid a high price for his temporary services. While no one is advocating that Murray was indeed worth two second round picks, it was what the San Jose Sharks were able to acquire for him as a rental player, and with such a high premium it is reasonable to assume that there were a few other teams interested in the Bromma native, thus dictating the high negotiating price.

The Numbers

Douglas Murray’s contract at 1.5 million is far from an overpayment as he brings quite a few tools to the table that the Canadiens’ system desperately needs. Signing a contract equivalent to that of veteran defensive mentor Francis Bouillon, Murray will be bringing a mix of size, and shot blocking ability that the Canadiens will certainly appreciate.

A few stats to consider -

Blocked Shots

Hits

Penalty Kill

PIM

Minor Penalties

Total Fights in 2012-2013

702 (14th)

1067 (20th )

79.8% (23rd)

636 (4th Highest)

201 (3rd Highest)

7 (Highest)

 

While last season was shortened by the NHL Lockout it is worth mentioning that during the 48 game regular season Montreal was amongst the top five in most penalized teams, as well as having the highest amount of fights while being one of the lesser teams on the Penalty Kill, producing a 79.8% penalty kill efficiency. Montreal also remained in the middle of the pack for blocked shots tallying 702, and while the regime has since changed from when they were amongst the elite shot blockers in the NHL, it is safe to say both their penalty kill strategy as well as willingness to block shots need to be tweaked.

What do these statistics have to do with Douglas Murray?

Marc Bergevin knows what he is getting in Douglas Murray; when he was assistant GM for the Chicago Blackhawks he saw plenty of the burly blue liner on San Jose, and it is very likely that Murray will find more success in a defined role with the Canadiens.

With the Habs freight train of a blue liner Alexei Emelin out for six months following surgery on his ACL & MCL many had asked in a panic who was going to be our intimidating staple on the back end to protect our smaller players. Many speculated Canadiens’ top prospect Jarred Tinordi would make the jump and start the season with the big club, and while this may still happen, it left an element to chance that the Habs would be without Emelin, or Tinordi if he wasn’t ready to make the jump.

Acquiring Murray made the decision easier for Bergevin, who has always heavily emphasized the proper development of youth; Murray’s physical presence, and hockey sense will give Montreal some leeway, allowing them to properly develop Tinordi and have him truly force his way into the lineup from excellent performance rather than an emergency injury replacement.

Murray will bring a steady defensive impact to the Canadiens roster while being a physical threat that will force teams like Boston to think twice before trying to man handle smaller forwards like Brendan Gallagher or Brian Gionta.

The Verdict

While it is difficult to address a need by an injured player because you don’t want to harm the team in the long term, Marc Bergevin was wise to seek the services of Douglas Murray. Many will argue the points that both Ron Hainsey and Tom Gilbert are available, and could have potentially contributed more, the most logical counter argument is that Montreal will give all the opportunities to produce to rookies Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi when they show they are ready.

Until that time having the likes of Douglas Murray will be an asset to the Habs roster as he will help in the statistical areas mentioned above, whether it be blocking shots, dealing smart effective checks, or protecting his team mates so they don’t have to take penalties in self-defense.

Murray at a one year deal for 1.5million dollars seems to look better by the day and with a specific role defined for the slow moving defender it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he carved out a successful niche on the Montreal Canadiens blue line.

 

 

Stay Tuned as I’ll be evaluating the second round of the Montreal Canadiens draft.

One Response to Montreal Canadiens Spotlight: Signing Douglas Murray, a wise move?

  1. Given what his tools are, Douglas Murray being actually not very good at defense (or hockey in general, come to think of it) may dampen a bit his positive contribution to the Habs. The main point seems to be that, like George Parros, he takes up a lot of space on ice, and not much on the payroll.

    While I would agree that the PK needs some improvement (playing “Mr Norris” PK on the PK, anyone?), it has more to do with JJ Daigneault’s tactical layout than his personnel. As for shot-blocking, an alternative reason to the “unwillingness to block shots” might be that, compared to 2011-12, the Habs actually played WITH the puck rather than without last year. When puck possession stats are better, blocked shots (and hits) tend to plummet. Here’s hoping the Habs join the Hawks at the bottom of the blocked shots rankings this season!

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