So far Ryan Murphy’s play is an improvement from the start of the season
Don’t look now Carolina Hurricanes fans, but Ryan Murphy over the past four games has put together a string of decent play. Seriously don’t look if he realizes that people are actually watching him it could stop like some sort of weird Heisenbergian hockey principle. Some people might say that exceeding expectations of being absolute garbage isn’t really that great of an accomplishment. Even though those people have a good point, the idea that Ryan Murphy can come in and play competently shouldn’t be a huge surprise.
Was he really that bad to begin with?
Don’t get me wrong Murphy made some critical blunders when he first came back from the IR. Most notably against the New Jersey Devils; Murphy completely missed his mark on Mike Camilleri that lead to a goal. (Hanifin also fell down trying to cut off the pass on same play but nobody seems to remember that). Murphy’s played seemed out of touch and Bill Peters understandably benched him. How much of that was due to rust due to his injury to start the season? It’s hard to say but to ignore that as part of the reason for a poor first four games would be disingenuous of any analysis of his play. So maybe the fact that Murphy’s playing well
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shouldn’t really be all that surprising. Especially since his time on the bench gave Murphy an opportunity to play for the Checkers in the AHL.
Small Sample Size Alert
Even with his poor play to start the season for the Carolina Hurricanes, Ryan Murphy put up some of the best shot metrics for a defenseman. Offensively Ryan Murphy is first on the team in both CF per 60 minutes and his Expected Goals per 60. I even adjusted those numbers for zone starts which I don’t normally do because they usually don’t matter. However, given Murphy’s high percentage of offensive zone starts I felt it was needed.
Despite that adjustment, Murphy still leads the pack. While he isn’t as stellar on the other side of the puck he isn’t horrible; his CF% and xGF% is fourth and second respectively, and his Expected Goals Against per sixty minutes is fourth as well. The stats seem to say what they always have about Ryan Murphy: he is a solid defenseman with offensive upside. Nothing here says he’s a top pairing player, but the idea that he is completely worthless isn’t really borne out by the facts of what happens on the ice.
So should the Hurricanes actually hold on to Murphy?
I wouldn’t go quite that far. Even though Ryan Murphy is better than most people think, he is isn’t indispensable by any means. The Carolina Hurricanes still need to make someone available for the expansion draft on the defensive end. If Murphy can keep playing like this, the idea of him playing 27 games seems a lot more palatable. Add in his right-handed shot, Murphy becomes even more valuable at the trade deadline.
Can Murphy keep up his string of play and help make those things come true? I think so and the stats, which are predictive, seem to think so as well. Are we ever going to mention Murphy in the same breath as Faulk, Slavin, or Pesce? No of course not, but just because he isn’t as good as those three doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value, and to keep putting him in the same category as Jamie McBain or Jay Harrison is a commitment to a narrative that just isn’t true.