The Matt Murray vs. Marc-Andre Fleury debate has reared it’s ugly head once again, and it only took two games. This time things have taken a different and unfortunate turn after Murray was diagnosed with a third concussion in 30 months. Now the conversation isn’t just about his numbers and playing ability.
Yes, the Penguins made the correct move parting ways with Fleury, and given the circumstances of the time, trading Murray would have been an obvious mistake. The story and reasons behind what played out are well known, but the portion of Pittsburgh fandom that continues to regurgitate this discussion are thinking only with emotion, and not logic.
Before the Vegas Golden Knights broke thousands of hearts in the ‘Steel City’ by claiming Fleury in the expansion draft, the future of the Penguins’ goaltending situation was painfully clear. Murray had just won two Stanley Cups before the age of 23, having replaced a struggling Fleury both times. The younger netminder was still on his entry-level contract, while Fleury had a salary cap hit of $5.75 million a year. The Penguins’ 2003 first-round pick accepted his backup role with dignity, but clearly, he was not prepared to play second fiddle forever.
So to recap: Murray was younger, cheaper, and performed better when it counted. In fact, the Penguins may not have won either of the championships if not for the role that both goaltenders played. Nothing about that scenario should have made anyone even consider moving Murray. Fleury is one of the most likable guys in all of the professional sports, but keeping him was not what was best for the franchise. If the Penguins kept all players with high likeability, then Paul Bissonnette and Max Talbot would be lining up alongside Sidney Crosby in 2018.
Don’t Write Murray off Yet
As for the panic ensuing after his performance in only two games…it’s only two games. Without question, Murray has given up some bad goals thus far, but have you seen the rest of the team? Many of those goals were caused by an ill-advised pass during a failed zone exit or a lackadaisical effort during a backcheck. The forwards have hung the defense out to dry. The whole team did the same to Murray.
Last season the 24-year old was not as bad as it was made out, but he admittedly could have been better.
“Having a little bit of extra time gave me a good opportunity to step back and really look at my game objectively and realize when it’s not where it needs to be,” Murray said. “Just working on honestly everything, trying to become a better, more well-rounded goaltender in every aspect.” Quote from a Trib Live article by Jonathan Bombulie
The death of Murray’s father weighed heavily on him last season, compounded by his first year as the Penguins’ uncontested starting goalie. An early rebound from last year’s woes was needed to build confidence for the Thunder Bay native, but fate had other plans. The entire roster needs to be better in nearly every facet, but no position on the team is more critical than Murray’s, especially given the lack of depth behind him.
Time will tell how successful Murray will be, but whether he becomes the next Patrick Roy, or a future Rick DiPietro, the choice to part ways with ‘Flower’ will always be a no-brainer.
*Editors Note–Pittsburgh Hockey Now incorrectly wrote Murray had three concussions in 18 months, dating back to April 2016. That is 30 months, not 18. We apologize fore the error.