How Should The Chicago Blackhawks Handle The Connor Murphy “Situation”?
By Matt Morrow
Connor Murphy was suppose to be a big addition to the Chicago Blackhawks defense this season and for years to come. But since the start of the season, we’ve seen him scratched multiple times by Coach Joel Quenneville. Is this another Trevor Daley situation? Or, what should we make of this?
At the end of last season, Stan and Co. were quoted saying that changes were coming, and that they were going to be plentiful. They definitely held true to that, starting with the Connor Murphy trade.
It was unreasonable from the beginning for Blackhawks fans to expect Murphy to have no trouble at all with his transition. He’s not used to playing in front of a packed house, with good players, and behind a good team. Plus add along the unfamiliarity of his new teammates and city.
But, it was reasonable to expect the offseason’s big trade addition to be getting playing time rather than being scratched, especially this early into the season. After being a healthy scratch twice in the first 6 games, some Blackhawks fans were left scratching their heads as well.
Do we have another Trevor Daley situation on our hands? Is he just not a good fit? Is this one of those internal battles for power between Q and Stan (especially after knowing Q wasn’t a fan of this trade)? Let’s hope not, let’s hope not, and again, let’s hope not.
Related Story: Chicago Blackhawks, Trevor Daley And What Could Have Been
But now, I ask, how should this situation be handled?
Let the kid play!
Flat out, the Blackhawks could still have Niklas Hjalmarsson this season, for roughly the same cost as Murphy. But this trade was more about the future, age, and team control than it was about cost. The Blackhawks specifically sought out and traded for Connor Murphy for a reason. His size, his offensive potential, his age, and the fact that he has several years left under team control.
Because of this, they need to let the kid play. They need to let him be comfortable under Q’s system, and playing in front of 21,000+ strong every night. He needs to be comfortable playing with the high caliber players we are privileged to watch every night, and he needs to build some chemistry. By scratching him this early on, he isn’t being given a chance, and probably is over-analyzing his play.
Brought to my attention by Satchel Price, Connor Murphy clearly has confidence issues with his game.
Cracking a joke to lighten the mood? That’s squirt or peewee level stuff. If he clearly struggles with confidence and comfortability that much, the Blackhawks should recognize this, and not do things to kill his confidence.
Would a trade be out of the realm of possibility?
I would say yes. The less likely and more surprising option would be to trade him. He was acquired partly because he’s under team control for so long and is so young, so a trade would be surprising. In my opinion, if he was moved for a current top 4 veteran, the Blackhawks would be openly telling their fans that they are going all in this year, and that they feel their window closing. The Murphy trade was about keeping the window open and potentially extending it. A trade at this point would be quite shocking.
Trade Possibilities Regarding Murphy
The Vegas Golden Knights would be somewhere for the Blackhawks to look. They have an excess of NHL ready defenseman, leaving some players like Shea Theodore to flat out dominate in the AHL. They publicly have tried to get rid of their defenseman, so the Blackhawks could easily acquire a more NHL ready defenseman in return.
Another interesting option would be a Murphy + picks/prospects swap for James Neal. John Jaeckel reported over the summer that the Blackhawks had interest in acquiring Neal.
As much as Blackhawks fans hate him when he’s the opposition, wouldn’t he look great on the second or third line?
Side note, if you don’t already, give John Jaeckel (@jaeckel) a follow. He regularly posts blogs that give very honest and in depth analysis of the Blackhawks. He also reports rumors of trades and other happenings within the Blackhawks organization and braintrust, and he has very legitimate sources.
Without getting too ahead of myself and throwing out way too many trade scenarios, there is one more interesting option. With Anisimov showing signs of slowing down, so much so that he was demoted to the 4th line, the Blackhawks could look to move him as well. His cap hit is simply way too high for a slow 4th line center. Teams around the league could use someone like him, whereas the Blackhawks need a faster player who has a higher faceoff percentage. Barstool Chief mentioned this:
Before I get off on another tangent, Bowman has shown the willingness to make bold moves. If he really wanted to shake up the team, which I am not necessarily suggesting, he could package Anisimov and Murphy in a deal bringing back a defenseman and center. Or even move them in two separate deals. Again, this is all just speculation, and I’m not saying I necessarily condone any of this.
Lastly, some fans have even called for the re-aquiring of Niklas Hjalmarsson. If I’m Stan, I stay away from this. Hammer was phenomenal in his time here in Chicago, but he’s getting older, and all the playoff miles will catch up to him sooner than later. He’s likely due for a big raise next year anyways. Also, how often do you see two teams swap players, and then re-swap them again?
In reality, Murphy will stay with the Hawks, as he should. Having 8 NHL caliber defenseman on the roster is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially considering the Blackhawks of recent past have only had 3. He should, and most likely will, become a huge part of this current team and the future of this team.
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Eventually, the Blackhawks will figure out who their 6 defenseman are, as well as what the right pairings should be. People around the league are calling defense the Blackhawks weakness, but I honestly see it as a strength. Murphy, Kempny, Forsling, Osterle, and Rutta all have a ton of potential; while veterans Keith, Seabrook, and Franson are there to solidify the back end while teaching the young defenseman and helping them reach their full potential.