Nervous times for the Western Conference regular season champion Anaheim Ducks and their fans.
I’d be even more nervous if I was GM Bob Murray. If the Ducks fail to get out of their opening round series against the Dallas Stars (now tied 2-2), or fail to make it to the conference final, Murray can wear this failure himself as though it were a custom-made suit.
I’m not saying Murray has to worry about his job. He’s far too accomplished a GM to be worried about the big, personal picture. He’s made a ton of excellent moves and signings since taking over from Brian Burke in 2008.
But Murray’s failure to do anything of significance at the March 5 NHL trade deadline was astounding at the time and even more baffling now. Sure, he picked up Stephane Robidas to add playoff experience to the blueline, but that’s it. Murray also offloaded Dustin Penner, which might be considered a mistake now given Penner’s propensity to ramp his game up in the playoffs.
What Murray shockingly didn’t do is pick up veteran offensive support at the trade deadline. We hear he was making a play for center Ryan Kesler from the Vancouver Canucks, but when that didn’t pan out, I find it inexcusable he didn’t have a Plan B in place.
Imagine proven playoff performer Mike Cammalleri in Anaheim’s lineup now, providing secondary scoring help behind Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. The injury to Getzlaf puts an even bigger spotlight on Murray’s deadline day inactivity.
Cammalleri had 12 goals and 23 points in 19 games for Calgary after the trade deadline. He’s now golfing.
Yes, Anaheim was the top scoring team during the regular season and Perry-Getzlaf was the best one-two tandem in the league. But Murray should have known scoring has to come from multiple layers in the post-season, especially with teams sharpening up even more defensively.
Nick Bonino, Mathieu Perreault, Andrew Cogliano and Kyle Palmieri – the source of Anaheim’s second wave of offense as Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne age – all had career seasons, but combined have just 38 games NHL playoff experience.
Meanwhile, Cammalleri and his 17 playoff goals in 32 career post-season games could have been plucked from Calgary for as little as a second round draft pick and prospect. What makes it all the more bewildering is Murray and Burke have a great relationship. Hard to believe there wasn’t a contingency plan in place at the 11th hour if Anaheim couldn’t get Kesler. That falls on Murray.
The Ducks, by the way, have four picks in the first two rounds of the 2014 draft, having the rights to Ottawa’s first-rounder and Toronto’s second-rounder. Moreover, the Ducks have the best lists of prospects in the NHL, recently being voted the No. 1 team by a panel of scouts in Future Watch 2014. It’s nice to have a solid crop of prospects coming through the pipeline, but a more pro-active GM would have parlayed one of them and a pick to help the Ducks get through a tough Western Conference and made a hard push for the Stanley Cup.
It’s almost as though Murray thought his current lineup was good enough to do the trick on it’s own.
If the Ducks go down to defeat in the first or second round, history will remember this edition of the team as the one where Anaheim won the conference during the regular season, but lost out in the playoffs after the injury to Getzlaf.
I think there should be an addendum in mentioning Murray’s inactivity on March 5 as a contributing factor.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN