"Crankshaft" is an apt nickname for Douglas Murray given his surly, physical play and how his work drives the San Jose Sharks defensive engine
He was an intimidating hitter coming off his two best offensive seasons. His stay-at-home approach seemed to be as good a match for the frequently pinching Dan Boyle, as his blue line partner's speed was with Crankshaft's subpar skating ability.
Even with his 32nd birthday coming during the season, Murray was expected to be a mainstay in the Sharks end for years to come. Stay-at-home defencemen have long shelf-lives, and he had lower miles than most because he did not become a daily starter until the age of 27.
By season's end, the Sharks had broken up the pair of Boyle and Murray and reduced the fan favorite's playing time. So is he still a member of the team's core? Here is what the season tells us of the good, the bad and the ugly truth about Crankshaft...
Douglas Murray may be the San Jose Sharks only really intimidating hitter good enough to make the everyday lineup. But the fact that he led the team in hits with 126 playing in just 60 games and thus ranking eighth in total minutes on the ice is more of an indictment of the team than a credit to Crankshaft.
Still, that was good enough for 48th overall on the blue line and 118th overall, with 18 defencemen and 46 players overall ahead of him averaging fewer hits per game. His 143 blocks were second on the team and he had more per game than team leader Marc-Edouard Vlasic.
Thus, despite a paltry 14 takeaways and 22 missed games, his Defensive Quotient (accrued through playing time rather than averages, as explained at the link) is still a team-leading 73.77.
A Cornell grad who has invented a better beer tapper, Murray's intelligence is a benefit to the team. Despite his intimidating style, he has been able to stay out of the penalty box: He had just 31 PIM last season and has just 179 over his last 287 games.
He has even shown the ability to contribute offensively, with 31 points over the two seasons prior to this one. In the 2010 playoffs, he even showed offensive prowess, scoring seven points in 15 games.
Douglas Murray could not stay healthy in 2011-12, forcing the San Jose Sharks to play Colin White too much...which is to say at all.
His 22 games missed came in three stretches, so there were not major injuries that are red flags moving forward. At the same time, he has never played 80 games in a season and missed 19 games over the previous three years, so it is fair to say that he has a tendency to get dinged up.
Moreover, Murray's two-year offensive "outburst" may have come to an end. He had a respectable three points in 10 games during October but just one point the rest of the way, giving him a paltry 4.59 Offensive Quotient (defined at the link in the last slide).
Douglas Murray may provide a physical element missing on the San Jose Sharks, but last season he was a one-dimensional player on a team that struggled to score.
It is entirely possible that his offence was a result of getting opportunities while paired with elite offensive defenceman Dan Boyle. It is also possible it came at a brief window when a player with eight-round draft pick talent was peaking, and he has slowed enough that he cannot get into the play anymore.
The Sharks should not expect him to hit double-digits in points again. Even his hitting is on the decline because any attacker than can skate can avoid him.
He is in the last year of a $2.5 million per year deal, and worth every penny because the Sharks need defenders and hitters. But he is hardly indispensable, and the Sharks should be willing to make him part of any package that will upgrade the team's core that he appears to no longer be part of.
Assuming he remains in San Jose, this season can serve as a test: If he has more trouble staying healthy or continues to be a liability offensively, the team should be able to get something for him at the trade deadline and fill his role almost as well with any number of cheap free agents.