Chicago Blackhawks: Believe In Connor Murphy

OTTAWA, CANADA - OCTOBER 18: Connor Murphy
OTTAWA, CANADA - OCTOBER 18: Connor Murphy /

Murphy Can Be Top Defender Blackhawks Need

It seems the whirlwind morning of the NHL Entry Draft 2017 will be engraved in the minds of Chicago Blackhawks fans everywhere. Not only was the city hosting the NHL Entry Draft, but the franchise made two huge trades that could shift the organization for years to come.

Brandon Saad returned to Chicago and Artemi Panarin shipped off to the Columbus Blue Jackets, while Niklas Hjalmarsson was sent to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin. It will be these two trades that will shape most talking points for the Blackhawks community during the 2017-18 season.

The bigger of the two deals may end up being the Hjalmarsson-Murphy, Dauphin move because of the hole that is left on the Blackhawks’ blue-line without Hjalmarsson in the lineup. He was a fan favorite and an underrated defender who could play in nearly every situation for the Blackhawks, and was an intricate part of bringing three Stanley Cups to the City of Chicago. That is the standard that Murphy will be compared against during his time with the Blackhawks, however long that may be.

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That’s quite the resume to try to live up to and as it stands right now, it’s unrealistic to think that he can step on the ice on opening night and be the equal of Hjalmarrson right now.

However, given time, Murphy can become exactly what the Blackhawks need on their blue-line: A consistently reliable top-four option. The rag-tag group that the Blackhawks will ice for their blue-line rotation leaves a lot to be desired, but if Murphy was more of a known commodity, the view of the blue-line wouldn’t be as dark as it currently is.

What we know of his is that he was on a bad team, playing top minutes, with very little help in front or behind him. A former first-round pick of the Coyotes from 2011, Murphy has played in 258 games for Arizona, tallying just 49 points (13 G, 36 A), so he is not the offensively minded type of defender like Duncan Keith and will not factor into the Blackhawks power-play.

Murphy was on the ice in 2016-17 for the third-most penalty-killing minutes for the Coyotes, and overall was on the ice for the third-most minutes of the entire season for Arizona’s defensive core, behind Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Alex Goligoski.

All told, Murphy will be able to handle the minutes of a top-four defender and alleviate some of the pressure that will land on Keith to be on the ice for 25+minutes a night.

Taking a look at how Murphy impacted those he played with, a look at the Five-on-Five Corsi numbers for when a teammate was on the ice with him and off the ice with him shows the positive effect he had on his defensive pairing:

  • Oliver Ekman-Larsson
    • With Murphy: 47.7 CF%
    • Without Murphy: 43.8 CF%
  • Jakub Chychrun
    • With Murphy: 44.9 CF%
    • Without Murphy: 45.0 CF%
  • Alex Goligoski
    • With Murphy: 45.0 CF%
    • Without Murphy: 45.0 CF%

Check It Out: Laurent Dauphin’s Fourth-Line Potential

The biggest impact that Murphy made was on Ekman-Larsson, who is the top defender on the Coyotes squad.

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Playing the most minutes with a top-end talent like Ekman-Larsson at even strength and on the penalty-kill made both players better together. That is a positive note for Murphy as he heads into this season as a potential defensive partner for Duncan Keith.

Granted, these numbers are low, but as is evident and stated before, Arizona is a bad team.

Murphy has also had a great amount of experience and success at the international level as well, winning gold medals with Team USA as a part of the U-18 World Juniors in 2011, the World Juniors in 2013, and playing for Team USA in the World Championships in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017.

He was part of the World Championship bronze medal winning Team USA squad in 2015 and was named Captain of Team USA during the 2017 World Championships.

At six-foot-four, 212-pounds, Murphy is a large-body presence on a Blackhawks team that has a need for size and skill. Being 24-years old also gives the Blackhawks a young, contract controlled defenseman with plenty of NHL experience, which the Blackhawks also needed badly.

He is not going to be a one-for-one replacement for Niklas Hjalmarsson, but his ceiling has yet to be reached and his upside bodes very well for the Blackhawks. It won’t be long before Red and White #5 Murphy sweaters roam the streets of Chicago and concourses of the United Center.