Getting cut from any competitive team is disappointing. Hearing the same disappointing words of rejection in back-to-back years flat-out sucks.
Ryan Murphy has felt that pain before. With the 2013 World Junior Championships approaching, he’s hoping he won’t have to listen to those words again.
A first-round selection of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2011, Murphy was a somewhat unexpected cut off last year’s Canadian team. Most members of the media felt his smooth-skating, offensive style would land him a spot on the final roster.
“Life goes on; it’s not the end of the world. I still have another year to crack the team,” said Murphy after being cut last year.
That time is now, and Murphy is well aware of the pressure he’s facing to not only make the final roster, but to perform well in the tournament.
“I think the first word that comes to mind is disappointed,” Kitchener Rangers head coach and general manager Steve Spott told the Waterloo Region Record after learning Murphy wasn’t going to make it last season.
Fortunately for Murphy, he has a familiar face on his side this time around: Spott will be Canada’s head coach for the upcoming tournament in Ufa, Russia.
Nepotism screams aloud at Murphy. While it’s inevitable that Spott will have a hard time sending him back to Kitchener, are all the cries of favoritism justified?
There’s no clear answer to the question; it all comes to down to the pros and cons of Murphy’s game.
Skating and mobility are his obvious strengths. Running powerplays and breaking out of his own zone are others.
Concerns arise when discussing his defensive effectiveness and responsibility. It’s not as though they’re horrible; from a grand perspective, there has to be a reason Spott gives Murphy as much as time as he gets. It can’t all be because of offensive talent.
“We need guys who can carry the puck out of trouble, move the puck, guys that are very strong defensively in their own end,” said Kevin Prendergast, Hockey Canada’s head scout, on what the team is looking for.
Murphy knows his role on Canada’s final team won’t be to go out and score goals. The NHL lockout will be providing Canada with plenty of offensive talent up front.
Most often, defencemen who make Canada’s final 22-man roster for the World Juniors are the best of the best. There normally aren’t too many who don’t have a decent shot at making the National Hockey League.
These blueliners don’t usually put on the Canadian sweater because they’re expected to lead the team in points. Responsibility in their own end comes first, and Murphy’s well aware of that. But he also knows he’s certainly capable of playing that role of defensive stability.
Murphy hasn’t had a great season so far with the Rangers. Expectations were high, and he hasn’t been able to meet them as of yet. He’s Kitchener’s captain this season, too, and that has placed even more weight upon his shoulders.
Coming into his third selection camp, Murphy intends to stick to his strengths and hope for the best.
Truth be told, his chances of making the team are pretty good.
“I’m just going to go out there and show them what I’m trying to show them in the league and my own style of game, and hopefully things work out for me.”
David O’Connor is a managing editor with the Sunbelt Hockey Journal. His writing has been on the Los Angeles Times’ website, among other places. O’Connor also does some scouting work for the local Junior B hockey club. Please feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.