For anyone catching up, a menu of previous player (and also coaching and GM) report cards can be found at the bottom of the article.
Ryan Murphy’s starting point for the 2016-17 season
As a suddenly ‘needs to be maturing’ prospect at 22 years old, Ryan Murphy had a tough 2015-16 season both individually and in terms of the circumstances around him. He was very quickly leapfrogged on the Hurricanes’ blue line depth chart times three when the Hurricanes drafted Noah Hanifin and then Brett Pesce and later Jaccob Slavin made the jump almost straight from NCAA hockey into regular roles in the NHL. Murphy was suddenly no better than fifth or sixth even on a futuristic depth chart.
Individually, the 2015-16 season was not much better. The season started okay. Murphy found himself as half of the third defense pairing along with rookie Noah Hanifin. To this day, I continue to grumble about both players needing to play to their strengths as skaters and puck carriers, but with Hanifin an 18-year old jumping from a single season in college and Murphy still trying to get his feet firmly under him at the NHL level, their conservative, safe and sound start was not a horrible thing. Murphy had a quiet but steady October playing with Hanifin, but then a lesser November kicked off a winter of being in and out of the lineup and up and down from the AHL. Surpassed by Pesce and Slavin, Murphy did not check back into the NHL lineup on a full-time basis until the trade deadline made room. He had a decent March/April finish.
When the books closed on the 2015-16 season, Murphy had collected another 35 games of NHL experience and 10 assists (no goals) but still had not really established himself as an NHL regular while others did.
Ryan Murphy’s 2016-17 season with the Carolina Hurricanes
Ryan Murphy entered the training camp before the 2016-17 still very much trying to reach the higher level needed to become a regular and ideally a difference-maker in the Hurricanes’ lineup. At 23 years old and suddenly looking up on the depth chart at a few players who were his age or younger, the sense of urgency was increasing and the ‘this is his chance’ refrain was repeating.
Murphy’s 2016-17 season was derailed before it started when an injury caused him to miss the tail end of preseason and also the first few weeks of the regular season. When he did start, he started slowly. It took only 4 rough games for Murphy to again find his way onto the carousel that shifted him in and out of the NHL lineup and back and forth from the AHL and NHL. Just like the previous season, Murphy would not regularly see NHL ice time until the trade deadline opened up another blue line slot. Murphy looked better at times in a limited role in March before another injury cut short his season by a few weeks.
Murphy finished with 0 goals and 2 assists and a minus 11 in 27 games at the NHL level and very much with his future in the Hurricanes’ lineup still in doubt.
Grading Ryan Murphy
Graded as: Third pairing defenseman.
Grade: C. Like the other players who shifted in and out of the last defense slot in the lineup, Murphy never really put things together in 2016-17. And as a player still clinging his final rounds as a ‘young player’ and/or ‘prospect’, he really did not show enough progress. I would actually feel better about Ryan Murphy’s long-term upside if he looked like the dynamic skating, attacking, offensive defenseman that he was projected to become but was just making a few too many mistakes defensively. Instead, I think he has made modest strides defensively and positionally, but that will will never be his strength. And along the way trying too hard not to make mistakes, he has seemingly buried his upside as the rookie who could fly up the ice with the puck even if he was not sure exactly what he was going to do with it in the end.
Looking forward to 2017-18
I am on record as predicting that Ryan Murphy will be traded before the start of the 2017-18 season. He is suddenly 24 years old and about to be passed by another wave of younger defensemen, and he likely is not even the best option for a #7 or #8 depth defenseman. If he is still in Raleigh come September, he will be in the dog fight for a depth defenseman role between #6 and #8 at the NHL level.
But I think best for him and probably the Hurricanes too is that he gets a fresh start elsewhere. I think the remaining hope for Murphy as a regular NHLer will only come through a complete reset that sees a new organization tell him to get back to his roots and strengths as a skating puck-carrying defenseman and then living with the inevitable mixed results while he tries to build his game from the ground up. He could be a great fit for Las Vegas or another team that needs offense and can fit some risk into a #6 slot maybe while rebuilding.
What say you Canes fans?
Do you agree with my prediction that Ryan Murphy will be gone before the start of the 2017-18 season? Do you think a fresh start is the best thing for him?
If he stays, where do you see Ryan Murphy slotting coming out of preseason and into the regular season?
Previous report card articles
Thoughts on Lucas Wallmark and Valentin Zykov’s short auditions
I’d say he’s TOAST…! ..how?? AHL, waiver, trade…maybe? Vegas…
Until we obtain a defenseman who is better than Murphy, to me he’s our 6th defenseman. It doesn’t make any sense to just give him up for nothing. This is especially true when right at the moment we are short on PROVEN NHL DEFENSEMEN. It’s one thing to always highlight his shortcomings and it appropriate to do so. But it’s another to go out and get someone who is better than him. Right now we have some PROSPECTS (that’s all they are) from the AHL. Hopefully, either one or more of the PROSPECTS or someone we can obtain in a trade will TAKE his job. Until I see that I look at him right now as our 6th defenseman. As such a C rating appears to be about right.
I think Fleury will pass him next season. I also think RF will get an additional D, per many of our discussions. With Dahlbeck as expansion protection, Dahlbeck is probably #7. That means no place left for Murphy. I think a C grade might be too nice. He was always getting outplayed defensively and …. 2 points. I agree with puckgod, time has run out. I would love to see him catch fire (do not want to see people fail) and do well but I do not think he will get another change at this point. If RF does not get another D then very possible Murphy gets another year to prove himself.
Yeah, I’ll be surprised if someone (either new) or from Charlotte replaces him.
I WON’T BE SURPRISED! oops
D-. There I said it. And I am not a Murph-hater. But his play was much worse than average. He was constantly out of position which on multiple occasions led to opposing goals. He is weak on the puck – some of it because of size/strength (he should be doing Gerbe workouts). And he totally lost confidence in his offensive game, looking like he was afraid to make mistakes. Quite literally his play hurt the team in noticeable ways. I don’t see a place for him on the Canes roster. And I think his game is now so far gone from the promise he showed in juniors that I don’t even think a fresh start will make a difference – but it is worth the try for him.
Let me clarify my comments about Murphy. I am not trying to say Murphy is a even good defenseman. I grade him as a C for this reason. I compare him to the defensemen other teams have playing the 6th or 7th (3rd pairing) role and he is comparable to what I see. In other words, he’s an average 6th or 7th defenseman. Is he a weak link, yes, but that is what you usually get with a 6th or 7th defenseman on any team.
Do I hope he gets infinitely better or that he is replaced by someone infinitely better, yes. That’s a separate question from what is his rating. My answer above addressed this second question also. It is my view that you replace players when you have someone better. I haven’t seen anyone currently under contract to the Canes who has PROVEN to be better (obviously excluding Faulk, Slavin, Pesce, Hanifin, and Dahlback). RF hasn’t added a better replacement and Fleury, McKeon, etc. from the AHL also haven’t shown they are any better NHL defensemen. Will we find a better 3rd pairing defenseman? Hopefully so. If not, we better hope Murphy improves substantially if he is to be that player. To me, for him to be rated as an A defenseman, he doesn’t have to be as good as Slavin, Faulk, etc. He just has to be one of the top 3rd pairing defenseman in the league. In other words, better than what other NHL teams are putting on the ice in THAT role.
I think RedRyder’s comments include good context for level of play relative to role.
As a mid-first round draft pick, initial hopes for Murphy would have been a high offense #4. While things can and do change, the chances of that have obviously decreased significantly.
But looking at here and now instead of could’ves and should’ves, the question is whether Murphy can be a good #6 or #7 and important in considering that is setting realistic expectations for that role. As RedRyder pointed out, it’s not about trying to be as good as Slavin, Pesce, etc.
For Murphy, in a #6 or #7 slot, I think it’s this. 1-He needs to get back to his skating and offensive roots and transfer that game to the NHL level such that he can be above average in terms of generating offense; 2-He needs to decrease the volume of positional/coverage ‘oopses’ such that he is serviceable defensively.
Tentative plan is to make the Monday Coffee Shop about sorting out the bottom pairing, so I will save my thoughts on where Murphy fits in that mix if he stays until then.
Matt – I agree with your comment “1-He needs to get back to his skating and offensive roots and transfer that game to the NHL level such that he can be above average in terms of generating offense; 2-He needs to decrease the volume of positional/coverage ‘oopses’ such that he is serviceable defensively.”.
The trouble is that his performance has been regressing. Again, I am not a Murphy-hater by an stretch, but it has been painful (and at times hair-raising) to watch him on ice.
I think he has lost his game and is no longer at the NHL level. I don’t see him returning to it (was he ever there?) or the sense in living on a prayer that he will get to that level.