For the past four or five years, the Chicago Blackhawks defense has been the achilles heel of the team. Those players have received more scrutiny than any other players. This year, Hawks’ fans have been especially hard on Seth Jones, Jake McCabe and Connor Murphy– three of the four highly paid defenseman.
Today, Blackhawk Up looks at Connor Murphy’s play and contract compared to those similar around the league. Is the vitriol valid?
This year Murphy will make $3,850,000; he will make $4,400,000 for the next four years. To compare his game, I have chosen nine players with similar contracts to compare points, hits, blocks, takeaway/giveaway and plus/minus. Those are Shea Theodore, Ben Chiarot, Mikhail Sergachev, Tyson Barrie, John Klingberg, Morgan Rielly, Brandon Carlo, Damon Severson and Mattias Ekholm.
Some stats need to be taken with a grain of salt. Obviously, it’s not a defenseman’s job to score points, and plus/minus isn’t necessarily a stat indicative of an individual’s play. For the purposes here, though, it gives a total picture of each player’s game.
Beginning with points, Connor Murphy is tied with Brandon Carlo for the fewest points of any defenseman. He currently has two points, with the leading defenseman in this group, Morgan Rielly, scoring 13 points. Six of the ten have points or fewer. The Blackhawks are struggling offensively, so he could jump into the play a little more and help put some points on the board. He is struggling so far.
Connor’s grade for points: F
Looking at hits. Connor is second in this group with 42 hits. Ben Chiarot leads with 46 hits. The range for the group outside of Murphy and Chiarot runs between 5-24. The group is nowhere close to Murphy and Chiarot who are clearly the class here. Good news for Blackhawks’ fans- Murphy is not afraid to put his body on the line for his team.
Connor’s grade for hits: A
Blocks show a similar pattern. Murphy and Chiarot lead in blocks as well. Connor leads here with 39 while Chiarot has 38. From there, the other eight range from 14-32. This stat can be misleading because teams who have strong puck possession, thus having fewer shots against, have less need for blocks. However, comparing multiple factors, it’s one part of the game, and Murphy is clearly ready to put his body on the line keeping pucks away from the goalie. It’s clear that Murphy is a very physical player.
Connor’s grade for blocks: A
For takeaways and giveaways, Murphy is somewhere in the middle. He has 11 takeaways with only Theodore (16) and Severson (12) having more. In terms of giveaways Murphy has 14, tied with Theodore. Chiarot (18), Rielly (22) are the only players with more. From there, the group ranges from 3-13. Early this year, Murphy and the rest of the Chicago defense were guilty of defensive zone giveaways. That was a major factor in the slow start. With new coach Derek King, that has improved.
Connor’s grade for takeaway/giveaway: C
Finally, the most controversial, and possible meaningless stat, plus/minus. There are four other players on the ice who play into this stat. However, since we are looking at all factors, we have to look at plus/minus. This one doesn’t bode well for Murphy. He currently has a +/- of -13. It is the worst in the group. The best is Morgan Rielly with a plus 6. The rest of the group goes from 0 to-7. Although, he is in last place among the group, since King has taken over as head coach, Murphy is a -1. That is a huge improvement and indicative of the coach making a big difference.
Connor’s grade for +/-: D (would be an F, but the improvement must be considered.
Overall, Murphy, when compared with his peers, is worth his money. When it comes to hits and blocks, he is doing his defensive job. Hopefully, he can pick up the scoring, but he is being paid to keep the puck out of the net. With King at the helm, things are turning around for Connor and the Blackhawks.