Bob Murray is in deep, and he knows it. The tone—hesitant—and the answers—inconsistent—of his conference call Sunday afternoon said as much. Here’s a sample of some of his answers, offered as a mix of transcribed quotes and paraphrases. The main themes seemed to be that he needed to explain why he is going behind the bench and what to do about a complete absence of passion, even amongst the team’s leadership.
The team is a mess. There’s no passion. There’s no leadership. And the way that he could get that fixed was to get down on the bench himself and see what he’s got as far as personnel. “I had to live it with these guys,” he said, “It’s more problematic than I thought a while ago.”
“What bothered me the most was the lack of emotion” in losing, he indicated. “We used to be a pride team. That’s gone away.” He did not elaborate immediately as to why.
He did own some of what’s going on. When asked if this was a tough decision, he said, “It’s my job. We’ve got problems here, and it’s got to be fixed.”
Why make himself coach? He said that years ago, some GMs told him to go down to the bench and see what coaches go through. This might have meant “when there’s problems,” or he might have meant it more generally. That was the problem with the presser—the answers were evasive at times. For example, he later repeated the point about getting close to the players, “I felt I needed to be in the trenches,” and again, he made passing reference to having talked to people—it seemed now like he meant recently—about this strategy of the GM going behind the bench. He would later say, “This is the only way for me to determine what all the problems are” because there are players, and he clearly meant the senior ones, who are disengaged.
He indicated that “I’m looking forward to seeing what the issues are,” but then turned right around and indicated that he knew: “Too many guys are following. I have to determine if there are people who can lead.”
“I’m very focused on watching my players” from behind the bench, because “when players are losing, you learn a lot about them. The cream tends to rise to the top when it gets ugly, which it is.”
From that point, the leadership (troubles) idea seemed to predominate, but so did the question of emotion, or lack of it. One thing he seems to have as a goal was stated this way: “I’d like to get them feeling good about themselves.”
But that’s the opposite of finding out what they feel and why. So is he going to fix the Ducks’ problems, or just diagnose them? Your guess is as good as anyone’s.
If the fix is leadership: “I’m looking for people to lead this team and get the [passion] back,” which doesn’t sound like those people are currently doing it. Maybe they’re not even in the room.
But one other answer seemed to involve Carlyle, whose contract does give him a reassignment in the organization. Murray said, “He wants to help this organization get better just as I do. We’ll continue to talk.” When a follow-up question asked whether Carlyle will have a role, he said, “We’ll talk things through.”
“We have good players. We just don’t have a good team right now.” He said that the team is characterized by “lack of emotion, lack of passion, lack of pushback. Since 2005 we’ve always pushed back,” but not now. He assigned no blame for this, but it was said in the general context of how the veteran players are performing. He said later, “there are too many followers who blame the coach” for what’s been going on.
He said the Ducks need to get younger and faster, but that the change the Ducks will make isn’t a total rebuild, a four- or five-year thing, because they have good players in the AHL. “A few good moves” plus capitalizing on the youth will be the key.
Moves like before the 25th, the trade deadline or on it? He didn’t say.
That leads to the question of veterans. What does he do about them, and especially those with no-movement clauses? He’ll talk to them over the next couple of weeks (prior to the trade deadline) and yet this isn’t just asking them what they think. He wants to figure out who’s capable of leadership, and who isn’t interested in that role. The veiled notion was that those who aren’t on board can move on.
“Who can rise to adversity?” will be a key question.
Near the end, he circled back to the emotion problem: “There’s no life left,” Murray said, adding that he’s always been one to talk to players (again alluding to why he’s going to coach).
Murray also wants to know why there have been so many player-games lost to injury in the past couple of years. (The Kings asked the same question about decade ago, if anyone remembers. They blamed the trainers. More likely, it was Andy Murray’s repressive regime of making players come in at the crack of dawn for treatment and be gone before the healthy ones showed up.) Bob Murray might start by looking at who he’s added: aging Kesler, for one. Bieksa long past his prime.
Wednesday night, when the Ducks begin a new home stand, “will be awkward,” Murray said. What’s way more so is hearing him try to talk his way through this mess the Ducks are in which, ultimately, is his mess.