What to make of our Large Irish Son? In some ways he was the Hawks’ best defenseman this year and basically was the only one trusted with the dungeon shifts (yes he had Dahlstrom with him, but Dahlstrom was only there because Murphy was with him). On the other hand, if you’re the best out of a piss-poor group that features the likes of Slater Koekkoek and Brandon fucking Manning for large portions of the season, what does that really say about you? We’ve tried before to parse out who Connor Murphy really is, and we’re nothing if not stubbornly repetitive around here! What’s that saying about the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting a different result? Let’s just get to it:
52 GP – 5 G – 8 A – 13 P
48.6 CF% – 29.8 xGF% [5v5]
It Comes With a Free Frogurt
Connor Murphy was not terrible. I realize that doesn’t seem like the most ringing endorsement, but again we’re evaluating a defense among the dregs of the league. Murphy’s numbers won’t blow your skirt up (at least not mine, anyway), but he and Carl Dahlstrom acted as the closest thing to a shutdown pairing the Hawks could muster. He took 61% of his starts in the defensive zone, so while his possession numbers may seem disappointing, we have to keep in mind where he was going to work most shifts. Among all defensemen with a minimum 600 minutes, Murphy is fifth for fewest offensive zone starts (35.2% at 5v5), so that’s gotta count for something.
When it came to the eye test, Murphy generally passed. We had Gustav Forsling constantly out of position or just skating in circles somewhere, we had Nachos just falling down, whereas Murphy was typically where he needed to be and at the very least was upright (this is what we’re going with, folks). He had a habit of taking dumb penalties, but again if you consider how much he played in his own end, they’re a little less maddening.
And, his xGA ws 37.2 at 5-on-5, ranking him 70th in, again, defensemen with at least 600 minutes played. That may sound shitty, but there are literally 120 guys with a higher expected goals against (oh, and guess who are the second- and third-worst on that list? Duncan Keith and Erik Gustafsson, and they certainly weren’t taking as many defensive zone shifts).
The Frogurt is Also Cursed
OK, so like I said, not terrible. But is Connor Murphy truly good? That’s never been clear and this past season did nothing to help. His takeaways to giveaways was a career-worst 14-to-48, and that was playing about 25 fewer games than his historical average, such as it is in his young career, since he missed the first couple months of the season.
Oh, and about that—the Hawks suddenly announced right before training camp that oh, whoops, Connor Murphy will be out eight weeks with a back injury. As anyone over the age of 29 knows, back problems don’t get better with time, and they’re as unpredictable as they are debilitating. Not what you want to have happen to one of your most valuable defensemen who also happens to be a large human with a lot of muscle weight resting on that spine.
Even if he stays healthy, Murphy still needs a decent partner so we can see if he really can hold his own against top competition or if he’s just been the least bad option the Hawks have had. Carl Dahlstrom is basically the definition of “a guy”—a seventh defenseman or maybe a bottom-pairing bum slayer. Murphy needs someone else, someone more competent and preferable with better speed, and at that point we’ll all be out of caveats and excuses and we can finally figure out what they have in him. That is, if he’s not having back surgery by age 27.
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