Ducks GM Bob Murray puts blame for team’s lousy start on players, not coach Randy Carlyle

Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray can often be outspoken with the media. It’s great for generating headlines and juicy stories considering the fact that general managers usually speak as if they’re reading off of cliche-laden cue cards, but you wonder if the team might benefit from him staying out of the papers.

Regardless, Murray provided some rather interesting comments to Eric Stephens of the OC Register. In a nutshell, the occasionally fiery front office man exonerated Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle while throwing the roster he constructed under the bus.

Of course, this is usually the time when I point how the dreaded “vote of confidence” is usually a kiss of death for head coaches, but let’s at least give the Ducks GM the benefit of the doubt and take a look at his revealing statements.

“I’ve got total faith in Randy,” Murray said. “He’s won a Stanley Cup. That’s not an issue here. It’s up to the players. Enough excuses. Talking about coaches and things gives them an excuse when they have no excuses in my eye.”

In fact, Murray went as far as to say that the team might make a major change via a trade or other transaction.

Murray was also quite clear that he isn’t averse to making a major personnel shake-up if the Ducks don’t start winning soon as he pointed to an upcoming stretch where they play three straight at home and five of the next six at Honda Center.

In other words, the thought breaking off one part of the young core of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan in order to bring in a major piece and shake a team out of its slumber may be entertained.

“Fair question,” he said. “Eventually, that’s going to have to be in front of this group if they don’t get their act together. It’s going to be right in front of them. If they don’t know that then, well, I feel sorry for them.”

Murray might be talking tough about getting rid of Getzlaf, Perry or Ryan but here’s the bottom line: the trio might be flawed in some areas, but they are the strength of this team along with goalie Jonas Hiller.

The Ducks simply need to surround them with quality role players, a depth scorer or two and (the hardest part) a defense that can help clean up their messes (especially on the penalty kill). Anaheim allows a league-high 38.8 shots per game, a startling number that is three shots worse than the second worst team in the NHL (Atlanta at 35.6). You cannot blame effort or preparedness alone for those kind of numbers; it’s clear that the Ducks are just a mess in their own zone.

That’s the kind of thing that falls to the coach and general manager most of all, not subjective concepts such as effort or elbow grease. Perhaps you could question the decision to make Getzlaf their captain – yes, he’s their best player, but he’s not always the kind of guy that sets a good example with his penchant take bad penalties and turn the puck over – but that also is as much about front office decision as it is about the character of guys on the roster.

The Ducks lost three of their lost four games and their 4-7-1 record parks them deep in the Western Conference cellar. It’s early in the season, but they need to make good on their four game homestand. The problem is that each of those four contests are tough; they already suffered a 5-2 loss to San Jose and host resurgent Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and pesky old Nashville. Losing all four of those games is not outside the realm of possibility.

If they fall apart during that stretch, the Quest to Find Who is Truly to Blame will progress from “dreaded vote of confidence” to “heads begin to roll.” I can’t help but guess that the team’s talented young trio enjoys better job security than their addled head coach as well as the general manager who wasn’t the boss until the team started missing the playoffs.

Either way, it could get ugly in Anaheim before things get better.

Senators blank Canadiens in NHL 100 Classic

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One win, even in the frosty outdoors for the NHL 100 Classic, only means so much.

Still, the Ottawa Senators probably experienced some ice-cold relief on Saturday, beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 during a tightly defended outdoor bout.

It was 0-0 for much of the game until Jean-Gabriel Pageau tipped an Erik Karlsson shot for the first goal with about five minutes remaining in the second period. Bobby Ryan then capitalized on a rough Jonathan Drouin turnover to make it 2-0, while an empty-netter iced the icy evening for Ottawa.

For a night, it was a fun time, and Karlsson reminded us what all the fuss is about, as he logged a ridiculous 32:55 of ice time. And he seemed to be having a good time doing it.

This night laid the “Canadian” on thick, with Bryan Adams performing during the event, and Gary Bettman posing for photos with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?

via Getty

Weird, but OK then.

Generally speaking, things haven’t been that OK for the Senators lately. Such headaches did surface during this frosty-mug-on-ice event, as owner Eugene Melnyk inspired a #Melnykout hashtag on Twitter, not to mention icy barbs like these.

Fair criticisms about the Sens’ bigger picture aside, Ottawa looked nice tonight, with Karlsson shining and Craig Anderson pitching a rare shutout outdoors (shutoutdoors)?

Carey Price generated some nice saves of his own, but couldn’t will Montreal to win in his 10th consecutive start. The Habs rarely got things going against the Senators, seen most easily in Ottawa’s 38-28 advantage in shots on goal.

Nights like these make a bigger impact on fans’ memories and bottom lines, but this marks consecutive wins for the Senators either way. Considering the fact that the Senators hadn’t put back-to-back wins together since they faced the Avalanche in two contests in Sweden, it might not be a big deal, yet it’s far better than the nothing they’ve been coming up with far too often lately.

Also

In other news from the event, Mario Lemieux’s “five goals, five different ways” was named as the NHL’s greatest moment, voted by fans:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Sadly, Capitals aren’t selling this collection of Christmas songs

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Let’s be honest, virtually any time a team gets its players to embrace a holiday theme, it’s in the name of goofiness. And bless NHL teams for this.

When it comes to Movember, you get the fantastic combination of mustaches and charitable contributions.

The holidays are rapidly approaching (hey, I see that Amazon tab open), so we’ll start to see various New Year’s/Christmas/Festivus/etc.-themed fun. Even with that in mind, the Washington Capitals will be tough to top with their collection of Christmas tunes.

Sadly, there’s no Volume 1:

Question: which performance stood out to you the most? While Braden Holtby was fantastic (with a Tomas Plekanec-level turtleneck game), the simple entertainment of watching Alex Ovechkin sing is tough to top.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

 

Video: Michael Grabner totally meant to do this for Rangers

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Depending upon how things go for each team, the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins may very well grapple for a wild-card spot in the East.

Thankfully, it won’t come down to Michael Grabner‘s deeply weird, memorable, and fun goal against Tuukka Rask, a “bank” goal that Grabner totally meant to do. Right?

(Watch that goal in the video above this post’s headline.)

That was Grabner’s 16th goal of 2017-18, which isn’t half-bad for a guy carrying a $1.65 million cap hit this season. Prediction: the speedy winger will cost quite a bit more than that in 2018-19.

As you can see in this video, Alain Vigneault points to Grabner gathering steam in his second season with the Rangers as part of the reason this team is turning things around:

J.T. Miller added a beauty of a goal to make it 2-0, but the Bruins dug deep to tie it 2-2, so we’ll see how the rest of that game goes.

Update: The Rangers ended up edging the Bruins 3-2 in overtime thanks to Mats Zuccarello‘s patient, OTPPGWG.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH NHL 100 CLASSIC LIVE: Montreal Canadiens at Ottawa Senators

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PROJECTED LINES

Montreal Canadiens

Forwards

Pacioretty – Danault – Byron

Galchenyuk – Drouin – Shaw

Hudon – Plekanec – Gallagher

Deslauriers – Froese/de la Rose – Carr

Defense

Alzner – Petry

Benn – Weber

Schlemko – Jerabek/Morrow

Starting Goalie: Carey Price

[NHL On NBCSN: Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators Meet In NHL 100 Classic]

Ottawa Senators

Forwards

Ryan – Duchene – Stone

Dzingel – Brassard – Hoffman

Smith – Pageau – Pyatt

Burrows – Thompson – Dumont

Defense

Oduya – Karlsson

Phaneuf – Ceci

Claesson – Chabot

Starting goalie: Craig Anderson