Life of Bryan
Murray turns around Ducks in first year as GMPosted: Thursday May 08, 2003 3:03 PM
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Bryan Murray believed the Mighty Ducks needed to make a few moves to become a championship contender. So he got moving.
In his first year as Anaheim's general manager, Murray has transformed the struggling Ducks into a winner.
They went 40-27-9-6 and had 26 more points this season than last, the biggest improvement in the NHL this season. In their third playoff appearance and first in four years, they swept defending champion Detroit in the opening round and eliminated top seed Dallas 4-2 in the second to reach their first conference finals.
"We wanted to change the culture here," Murray said. "We got a new coach, we brought in people to work on strength and conditioning. I think the players understood that we were serious about winning."
He began by giving Mike Babcock -- whose coaching experience was in the minor leagues at Moose Jaw, Spokane and Cincinnati -- his first NHL job.
Then Murray, who coached the Ducks for one year before taking over as GM after Pierre Gauthier was fired, began dealing. By the time he was finished, there were 12 new players on the team, including Adam Oates, Petr Sykora and Sandis Ozolinsh.
"First, we improved our ability to score goals. Then we thought we really needed some grit, some strength and some experience," Murray said.
Sykora led Anaheim with 34 goals, and the other newcomers also played significant roles for the Ducks, who open the Western Conference finals Saturday on the road against the Vancouver-Minnesota series winner.
Murray, who has spent 22 years as an NHL coach or GM, had previous success transforming losers into winners.
He was the Florida Panthers' general manager from 1994-2001, and coached the team during the 1997-98 season. After joining the Panthers in August 1994, he assembled a team that made the Stanley Cup finals in just its third year in the NHL.
Murray was Detroit's GM from 1990-94, and served as the Red Wings' coach for his first three seasons with the team. Taking over a Detroit team that went 28-34-14 the previous season, he helped the Red Wings go 170-121-37 during his four years as the GM, with the club making the playoffs each season.
So it shouldn't be a surprise that he's turned around the Ducks.
"He's done a fantastic job," Anaheim's Paul Kariya said. "He's had a wealth of experience, and he came in here and made some huge deals."
Babcock believes Murray has been the key to the Ducks' success.
"He's the guy who got the players, he's the guy who's made it a people-first organization," Babcock said. "He's hired people and let them do their jobs. That's the bottom line.
"Here's a guy who's been in the game a long time, and he doesn't care what the media says, doesn't care what other general managers say. He just does the right thing. To me, he's been just excellent and allowed us to be here [in the postseason]."
The Walt Disney Co., which owns the Ducks and has them up for sale, helped. It allowed Murray to increase the payroll by about $6 million, to around $45 million.
"This is so terrific for this franchise, from where it was not long ago," Murray said. "It's incredible what we've been able to do. But it shows what you can do if you put your mind to it."