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Sunday, June 16, 2013

What's Next: Douglas Murray by @KyleFourOneTwo

The What's Next series is part of an ongoing look from the Pens Initiative staff taking a look at the Penguins UFAs, RFAs, and most polarizing personalities heading into the next season.  We look at the year that was and the year coming and wonder: What's Next.

The Legend of Crankshaft

From the first time he took the ice donned in the Black and Vegas Gold, Pittsburgh was excited about the idea of Douglas Murray. What was not to be excited about? Standing at 6'3 and tilting the ice at Two Hundred and Forty-Five pounds, the imposing figure we came to lovingly refer to as "Crankshaft" became a houshold name among the puck-knowledgeable throughout the Steel City. Brawn, power, a hell of a shot, and nearly zero skating ability came together in a strange bouquet that smelled of pure bliss seasoned with a spritzer of Diesel Fuel.

How did it come together? What did we learn? What will come next?

Let us delve into a strange and terrifying world in which a guy that size is ALLOWED to play professional Ice Hockey...

Douglas Murray is a special kind of player. A player that I can't help but feel confident has found a spot to call his own within our system. Much like Liam Neeson in an Eastern European nation-state, Murray has landed smack-dab in the middle of a perfect place and time to put his very unique set of skills to the best use. As we found in the few games we were able to see him play, one of these uses proved to be making the opponent's offensive zone a living nightmare, at even stregnth as well as the Penalty Kill. His effectiveness in the defensive zone is easily illustrated by his 25 blocked post-season shots (placing him second among defensemen) and his innate ability to disrupt the flow of the enemy's fore-check, becoming an immovable force especially along the boards.

Please do not be fooled by the numbers folks, Murray is not Kris Letang. This fact in and of itself is exactly why #3 was so important to our team. In a league where Stay-at-home Defensemen rarely get their likeness plastered on bus stops and building facades like their flashy, more offensively minded counterparts, Murray adds the stregnth and grit to the places where the Penguins desperately need it the most, which happens to be keeping our sometimes...err... oft maligned goaltenders out of the shooting gallery and clear of the muck.

Defensive prowess aside, Douglas Murray also came up with much needed shots on net, and even put a few beautifully timed goals in the twine. While providing the Penguins with 12 post-season shots, 1 assist, and 2 goals, Murray out preformed what many thought was simply meant to be a terrifying wrecking ball with wobbly wheels. In a playoff run riddled with hot goaltenders and staunch defensive effort, every little bit helped, and you can bet it was much appreciated. 

Let's face the facts. As much as we hated to hear it from every corner of the NHL mediasphere, and from every ring-less pundit with a camera pointed to their face, the 2013 Penguins did not live up to the expectations brought about by a stellar regular season. I like to think however, that I know a hard worker when I see one. Douglas Murray played his heart out every shift and provided a much needed calming presence in areas where things otherwise may have gotten out of hand.

The future look of the Penguins defensive corps is largely dependant on the outcome of ongoing contract negotiations with other free agents. Each one bringing something different to the table. With a crop of young defensemen waiting to rise to the top, it seems doubtful to me that Murray would be at the top of the priority list when it comes to re-signing our talent. However if a deal with Murray gets done, I would like to see his veteran knowledge, cool demeanor, and excellent work ethic become a locker room staple. A player like Murray would eventually prove to be a guiding light for the future blue liners that will one day grace the ice on Centre Ave. 

If I am in the Penguins front office, I am looking to make a decent offer to #3, nothing that would shock the world, but hopefully enough to keep him in a skating penguin sweater for another year. Priorities are priorities and I understand that as well as anyone, but lets be honest with ourselves...

Raise your hand if you would NOT love to see a full season of Crankshaft rocking the boards...

Thats what I thought.

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