Wed Dec 14 01:08pm EST
In the final analysis, the combo of a tight 72-hour window to win over Hockey Canada and the concussion he suffered five weeks ago might have been too much for Ryan Murphy to overcome this week.
Judgement on Team Canada's final selections, for most, will be reserved until the world junior championship game on Jan. 5, since generally a gold medal hanging around the necks of the 22 players who did make the cut is the only argument most need.
The big talker coming out of the final cutdown is that Murphy, 18, whom everyone has talked about as a premier playmaking defenceman for nearly three seasons, was cut for the second year in a row. What did comparables such as Team Canada three-timer Ryan Ellis and two-time gold medalist P.K. Subban have that he did not?
Earlier this week, Sportsnet's Sam Cosentino foreshadowed that coach Don Hay, et al., want defencemen who keep their own zone tidy and provide a modicum of offence: "Hay ... wants his defencemen to be concerned about taking care of business in their own end of the ice first, and then worry about contributing offensively."
Call it selection bias, call it knowing what you want, but as TSN's Ray Ferraro pointed out, Montreal Canadiens first-round choice Nathan Beaulieu fit into that structure better than Murphy could within a 72-hour period.
"Murphy is a tremendously skilled puck mover, a little bit high risk and high reward. There wasn't enough risk and there wasn't enough reward for him at camp. I don't know if he's 100 per cent all the way back. In that final battle for that guy who's going to run the power play, an offensive-minded defenceman, Nathan Beaulieu of Saint John in the Quebec league really, really stood out in that regard. If it came [down] to those two, Beaulieu beat out Murphy." (TSN)
Prior to the camp, Hockey Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast said Murphy would have "to tone his game back a bit, but I think he has the sense to do that. He's going to be a fun player for the fans to watch for the first couple days, then we'll take it from there." In Murphy's self-performed post-mortem, he said that's what he tried to do, but as he told TSN's Mark Masters, "I should have played more like myself."
That could be the reality: no player can change his style completely in 72 hours. For all his virtues, Murphy at less than 100 per cent might not have justified a spot. It's probably not cold comfort at all that he's hardly the first offensive defenceman who'll be home for the holidays.
Beaulieu is capable of running a power play. Signed Boston Bruins first-round pick Dougie Hamilton has a cannon-shot and is sixth in the OHL in scoring. The Everett Silvertips' Ryan Murray and Moncton Wildcats' (for now) Brandon Gormley have some offensive awareness to play the points.
There is some irony involved if it is true that Beaulieu bumped Murphy out of a spot. Ryan Pyette had a good column this morning all but imploring Canadians to question what Hockey Canada values when selecting coaches for national teams. Pyette noted it's glaring that Beaulieu's coach, Gerard Gallant, didn't even apply for Team Canada after being a two-time CHL coach of the year and guiding his team to the MasterCard Memorial Cup. In the pecking order, he could be behind Murphy's coach, Steve Spott, who guided Canada's summer under-18 team (successfully) in August.
Hockey Canada likes to reward men who give up parts of their busy schedules to help the program in some form. If you spend time in the system and go somewhere with the under-18 team, there's a better-than-average chance you'll one day wind up on the world junior bench.
But the puck-following public doesn't care about any of that.
They want the guy who can harness these gifted horses, get them playing the most successful system and put the right kids on the ice in the biggest moments. No one will question anything if Canada wins gold. (London Free Press)
The irony? Gallant and associate coach Mike Kelly are the only coaches who have had one of their defenders make Team Canada this season and last season.
Why not Toffoli?
Los Angeles Kings prospect Tyler Toffoli has 87 goals in his last 100 OHL games and scored twice Tuesday in the final scrimmage. He was among the most notable cuts up front, along with Chicago Blackhawks first-round pick Philip Danault of the QMJHL's Victoriaville Tigres.
The snappy answer is that for all his scoring touch, the surfeit of right-shot wings — Brett Connolly, Devante Smith-Pelly, Brendan Gallagher, Mark Stone, to name four — might have deep-sixed Toffoli's chances. He simply might not be cut out to be an energy player or a checker.
Nix the 'Bunz of steal' headlines
Goaltender Tyler Bunz being cut goes to show that the goaltending jobs are always won during the camp. The 19-year-old Edmonton Oilers prospect had the best numbers in the CHL of the four goalies who came in. The Plymouth Whalers' Scott Wedgewood just beat him out to join incumbent Mark Visetnin.
"In my mind, I think they made the right decision," Bunz said. "Wedgewood played well. He really came in and secured that spot.
"I just wasn't good enough in camp." (Calgary Herald)
Cutting Bunz, fellow Edmonton-area native Joe Morrow and Portland Winterhawks sniper Ty Rattie leaves the Edmonton Oil Kings' Mark Pysyk as the team's only Albertan. Who knows, maybe players who don't have the pressure of playing at home might be better able to block out the pressure of ending Canada's two-year gold-medal drought.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: OHL Images).