Bob Murray will have two more years to guide the Ducks through their rocky transition from an older, physical team to a young group that can successfully play the uptempo pace the NHL now demands.
Murray, who joined the Ducks as an assistant general manager in 2005 and was promoted to general manager in 2008, agreed to an extension that will take him through the 2021-22 season, the club announced on Saturday. He and his staff have excelled at drafting and developing young players, and the Ducks have made the playoffs the past six straight seasons. They’ve reached the Western Conference final twice in the past four seasons but have not played in the Stanley Cup Final since they won in 2007. Their efforts to remake the roster are hampered by the big contracts given to forwards Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry, whose production has dwindled.
The Ducks, beset by injuries, are 15-11-5 and stood second in the Pacific Division through Friday’s action. They ranked 30th in goals per game, a problem Murray said is “on our minds big-time,” in trade talks. The outstanding goaltending of John Gibson and Ryan Miller has kept them afloat. “There’s been ongoing discussions about where the organization is heading and how we’re going to do it. Obviously, the goal is to get back to the point where we’re a true Stanley Cup contender,” Murray said. “There’s just playoff teams and there’s Stanley Cup contenders, and we want to get back to being a contender to win the Stanley Cup.
“I don’t think at the moment, the way we’re playing, we’re a Stanley Cup contender. Every night you can’t be getting out-chanced, scoring chances. You can’t be out-chanced. We’ve got lots of work to do on and off the ice.”
Murray also said he didn’t consider firing coach Randy Carlyle, even during the seven-game winless streak that negated the team’s 5-1-1 start. However, Murray wants the team to play at a much faster pace, a point he made with the coaching staff last summer. He said he told them, “some things I wanted to see changed with our group, how we play the game, and some things have worked and a lot of things haven’t worked. I’ve got to give them a little bit of time here to figure some things out with our group. You can blame some of that on the coaching staff. Some of the things we tried earlier in the year didn’t work. They tried but some things just didn’t work with our group. But that’s not always the coach’s responsibility when things don’t work, so they have to find ways to make things work with our group. It’s a work in progress and we are in a transition stage at the moment.”
Murray also said defenseman Cam Fowler (facial surgery) might resume skating in about 10 days and Perry is recovering well enough from knee surgery that he has been held back from pushing himself too hard to return. Murray said he had no timetable for the return of winger Patrick Eaves (broken rib).