TORONTO– Mike Murphy is about to close the book on his long and exemplary NHL career.
On December 31, the NHL vice president of hockey operations will complete his final official shift at the league’s war room in Toronto, overseeing and overseeing all required video reviews of New Year’s Eve’s 12 games.
As soon as the last horn sounds in the final game, he will retire, leaving behind a more than 50-year hockey career as a player, coach, and league leader.
“It was an incredible run,” said Murphy. “I signed my first contract when I was 19 and joined the league in 1971. I’m 72 now and was paid by an NHL team or the league to live a dream for so many years.
“It’s just about time. The bucket list is too long. Now, if I don’t stop and start doing family things, you know what’s going to happen, I’m going to go away to do other things.”
Murphy had 556 points (238 goals, 318 assists) in 831 regular-season games as a forward with the St. Louis Blues, the New York Rangers and the Los Angeles Kings from 1972-1983. He coached the Kings from 1986-1988 and from 1996 to 1998 the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was an assistant coach for the Rangers, Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators.
He said he’s grateful to have worked for the NHL for the past 23 years and said it’s been a rewarding run, even though he and his team often face outside criticism in the war room for the decisions made there.
“The goal is to always do everything right,” he said. “Our best nights are when no one mentions the War Room because that means everything is going smoothly.”
NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Kris King said Murphy was missing.
“He’s like the veteran in the war room who keeps everyone calm and on point, even though he’s often the one dealing with the angry coaches or GMs on the phone,” King said. “He’s a special person.”
No argument here. Happy retirement, Murph.
DEVIL’S DRAFT DECISION FINALLY PAYS DIVIDENDS
About an hour after the New Jersey Devils won first place in the 2017 draft lottery, then-GM Ray Shero was sitting at a table in a Toronto dive bar with a few other GMs and a reporter. He wrote a name on a piece of paper.
“We’ll take that,” he said dryly.
Turns out Shero was playing with us.
It mirrored a scene from the 2014 film Draft Day when the GM of the Cleveland Browns, played by Kevin Costner, wrote the name of the player he would pick before the NFL Draft.
Linebacker Vonte Mack. Shero wrote down the same name.
Shero laughed at our expense. He pulled the same on Devil’s staff as the draft drew closer. In fact, he was pretty tight-lipped about who his choice would be.
In the end, the Devils took center stage Nico Hischier. The Philadelphia Flyers picked the forward Nolan Patrick No. 2; The Dallas Stars picked the defenseman Miro Heiskanen third; and the Colorado Avalanche eagerly grabbed the defender Kal Makar fourth.
The Devils took some heat for the picks, especially passing Makar, who won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman and the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.
New Jersey’s patience with Hischier’s development is paying off. The 23-year-old captains the Devils and is enjoying a breakout season with 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 17 games.
New Jersey has won 12 straight games and can break the franchise record set in 2001 against the Oilers on Monday (7:00 p.m. ET; MSGSN, SNOL, ESPN+, SN NOW).
“Hindsight is 50-50 right? Everyone is right coming back,” said Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald. “You hear people all the time saying, ‘Oh, we would have taken Makar.’ Well, back then we wanted to build our team from the center position, a few years later we were lucky enough to get the first overall win again Jack Hughes. Now we are happy where we stand in the middle. It was like when I was in the front office of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2007 and we inherited Sydney Crosby and Yevgeny Malkin.
“We always knew Nico had offensive skills. But it’s his care and dedication to being a 200-foot centerman that sets him apart. He’ll one day win a Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward.”
Fitzgerald, the Devils’ assistant GM when Hischier was selected, was promoted when Shero was fired on January 12, 2020. Now, nearly three years later, Shero’s bet on Hischier, his version of Vonte Mack, is paying off.
HARD OF THINGS
After riding roller coasters early in his young career, Carter Hartit seems is growing up.
The Philadelphia Flyers goaltender has struggled against average for the past two seasons with a combined record of 22-35-12 and less-than-ideal goals (3.67 in 2020-21; 3.16 in 2021-22). It’s the kind of adversity that goalies often face when they start playing NHL games at 20, like Hart did.
But the 24-year-old appears to have found his game through his first 13 starts of 2022-23. He’s 6-3-4 with a 2.65 GAA and a .922 save rate. He has all but one of the wins for the Flyers (7-7-4).
Chuck Fletcher thinks he knows why.
“It starts with practice,” said the Flyers general manager. “In my eyes he’s been working harder in training. He’s been more competitive in training. Just his professionalism, his preparation, his mindset all seem to be at a higher level this year.
“He’s 24 now. He’s spent some time in the league. So, like any young player, as you gain confidence you gain experience, your game grows and develops.”
HUGHES, CANADIENS ADHERE TO ‘THE PLAN’
American Thanksgiving, which takes place on Thursday, is believed to be the first barometer of where a team stands in its quest for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Montreal Canadiens (9-8-1), who surprised their fanatical fan base with a competitive start to the season, will be looking inside from the outside next Thursday.
Even if they make a run, GM Kent Hughes said, don’t expect them to be buyers in the trade market to squeeze into the postseason.
“We’re in November, so we’re deferring those decisions until such time as they need to be made,” Hughes said. “But I always think that there is a view of the big picture. We can’t make a decision in such a narrow perspective that we’re only worried about this particular season.
“Some teams are at different points. If we’re talking about Boston or Pittsburgh, they’ve had their core group together for a long time and they might feel like it’s their window to win and we have to try. But where we are As an organization, we’re standing at a window that’s more into the future than it is now.”
QUOTE QUOTE END
“No. I met Ryan Reynolds like that (Laughter) … Sometimes they say you shouldn’t meet your idols because you perceive them. (But) he was bigger than expected. And so nice. And he likes hockey. It was only five minutes but I was really impressed.”
— Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion when asked if the team’s ongoing sale process is affecting his job. Reynolds, the Vancouver-born actor, has stated publicly that he’s interested in buying the Senators if he can find partners.
THE SUNDAY LIST
New Jersey Devils coach Lindy Ruff has endured many surprising, sometimes bizarre events over the years, but hearing the crowd at the Prudential Center chant “Sorry Lindy” several weeks after whining “Fire Lindy” was news to him . With that in mind, Ruff recalled some of the more interesting situations he’s faced in his 25-year coaching career.
1. Beer Cheers: “After winning a year in Philly while coaching the [Buffalo] Sabers, I got hit in the head with a pint of beer after we beat Philly in six games. But these are just fans who are fans.”
2. Logo Lawsuits: The Sabers of the mid-2000s wore a controversial jersey with a logo that angry Buffalo fans dubbed “Buffa-slug” for its resemblance to a snail. “The jersey we used during that tenure was a little off the mark and heavily criticised, but it turned out to be one of our most successful ever.” Buffalo wore these jerseys during his run to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2007.
3. Pain in the Glass: “One of the most bizarre things I experienced was when I was coaching the Sabers and Brian Campbell shot the puck over the glass and Carolina scored the winning goal with him in the box in Game 7 of the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals. This team from 2005/06 was so good. But by the time we got to that game, four of our top six defenders were injured. Then Brian. When it rains, it pours.”