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What if I don’t want Matt Murray, though?

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As soon as the rumours the Leafs were looking to move Frederik Andersen heated up, all eyes turned to the Soo for his replacement.

Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds v London Knights

Matt Murray, born in Thunder Bay, went to play in the OHL in Sault Ste. Marie in 2010. He was 16 years old, one of three goalies on the team, and he played in 28 games. The other two goalies are guys you’ve never heard of.

The next season, Murray played 36 games while a guy by the name of Jack Campbell played 34 (Campbell had the better save %), and their GM was a fellow by the name of Kyle Dubas.

Dubas is thinking of trading Frederik Andersen, and it’s now been reported by enough people, we can stop calling it a concept and call it at least a contingency plan, if not an outright desire to move on to a younger goalie. So naturally everyone is assuming he wants the band back together.

He might. It’s possible, and Pierre LeBrun in the Athletic says a rival executive claims Dubas does have an interest in Murray. LeBrun also says the Leafs may be waiting on Murray, and didn’t bundle him into the Kapanen deal because they want to be sure of moving Andersen first.

Murray, meanwhile, is 100% on the trading block. Jim Rutherford has not been coy about it.

As LeBrun teased in his tweet, Rutherford acknowledged he’s received offers for a goalie, and he didn’t say which one, but all the tea leaves in the world are pointing to it being Murray getting shipped out. Pittsburgh doesn’t have an offer worth pulling the trigger on — and goalies are almost always traded for a relatively low price compared to their on-ice value and impact, but that’s just the way it has always been on the trade market.

Murray tops the list of expiring RFAs for salary, and salary determines the amount of the Qualifying Offer which has to be made to maintain rights to a player. Murray’s is $3,750,000 and the Penguins’ other goalie is Tristan Jarry, also an expiring RFA with a QO of only $735,000. The problem is, Jarry has been demonstrably better lately. I’d want to keep Jarry too, if I were them, while trading away the once and thought to be future king, who didn’t turn out to be a big upgrade over Marc-Andre Fleury.

At the last expansion draft, Pittsburgh chose to send their starter, and heart of the team (assuming Crosby is the soul), off to Vegas so they could keep Murray and continue on in the world a prosperous and successful dynasty with the best player in the world fronting their team. That’s not what happened. Since Fleury took his third cup and went to Vegas, the Penguins have exited in round 2, round 1 and round 0.

That’s not all on Murray obviously, but he’s not been the star of the future they’d hoped for. He’s 26 now, not a prospect, and they need to decide about their future just like the Leafs do.

I looked at the last three seasons (Evolving Hockey) combined for all goalies in the NHL who faced at least 150 unblocked shots. That’s 106 goalies running the gamut from overused starters to regular backups. Frederik Andersen is 14th on the list in Goals Saved above Expectation, and Matt Murray is 92nd. That means he plays about like a league average goalie most of the time. I looked at his entire career of games, and his average game performance by GSAx is zero. Sure he’s better some of the time, and he has one hot season that looks great, but overall, he’s a very good back-up at best. Or so it seems.

The differences in goalies is so small that the margin for error between Andersen and Murray seems impossible to see in a single game, but over time, the truth is revealed. Because of that, and because of the way goalies seem to go on big swooping ups and downs in their careers (with very few and expensive exceptions) the tandem idea has seized imaginations.

The theory is that Dubas gets the band back together and plays Murray until he seems to be struggling and then swaps in Campbell, who plays until it seems to be falling apart and then you switch... and look, anyone who has seen Sheldon Keefe (formerly of the Soo Greyhounds) handle goalies in the AHL knows he seems to believe in the hot hand. He played Sparks in the playoffs until he was forced to switch, and then he played Kaskisuo. Then when Sparks was gone it was Kaskisuo all the way in the regular season until Michael Hutchinson arrived. It all worked until it got to the point that Keefe was dancing with the one that brung him in the playoffs with Kaskisuo and the Marlies went down in flames when his save % regressed to where it had always been headed.

But I see why this idea is attractive as an abstraction. The concept of the “hot hand” has been analyzed to death in a sports context and the results aren’t clear. Maybe there’s something to it, or maybe everyone is just fooling themselves that they are the master of fate. I think a hockey team trying to play alternating hot hands with a tandem of goalies can luck into a successful sequence of game results, but they will struggle to engineer them. Some of the most successful tandems in the regular season suddenly reveal themselves to be a starter and a back-up in the post-season. Some of them fall apart under a little pressure.

For some reason the idea has seized Leafs fans and they see Jack Campbell as half the ideal pairing. Maybe he is, because on that list I mentioned, his three seasons (mostly in LA) have him at 24th in 62 total games played. You want to know who’s at 11th?

Curtis McElhinney.

Because back-ups sometimes get softer starts and get used by smart coaches in ways that let them shine. But is Campbell just a back-up or is he more? There’s only one way to find out.

If the goalie prospect in the Marlies starter’s chair right now was 25, not 22, and had good or even excellent results, not terrible ones, I’d feel better about this. There would be a chance this tandem idea could be a pas de trois that way, but that’s not how it is.

I don’t want Matt Murray, not at his QO, not for more, and not even for less unless it’s a whole lot less and he brings Casey Desmith with him.

Now it’s your turn. Do you want to get the band back together?

Poll

Should Kyle Dubas reunite his old Soo goalie tandem?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Yes, Greyhounds all day.
    (241 votes)
  • 47%
    Nope.
    (740 votes)
  • 37%
    Can we have Darnell Nurse instead?
    (587 votes)
1568 votes total Vote Now