Kitchener Rangers head coach Steve Spott is breathing easier now that he has last year’s most offensive defenceman back in the lineup.
Ryan Murphy, who was sent down by the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes to the Kitchener Rangers on Oct. 13, said it was a bittersweet moment, but he’s excited to be back.
“I was a bit disappointed at first but I’m coming back to a great organization here in Kitchener; it was a win-win situation for me. I mean I either stay in the NHL or I get sent back to a great organization,” he said.
Murphy plans on doing exactly what he did in previous seasons.
“My first two years on this team, I was an offensive guy. I ran the power play here and I’m focused on doing the exact same thing here for this season; I’m just going to go out there and it’s a matter of doing what I know how to do,” he said.
Murphy, who had one assist as the Rangers beat the defending OHL champions from Owen Sound 5-3 at the Aud, played aggressive defence but did show some signs of rust. His late-game giveaway led to a goal.
Spott isn’t too concerned about the giveaway or about Murphy’s defensive abilities.
“I think anytime these players come back from the NHL, they think it might be easier than it is so I think it’s just a matter of respecting his opponents … he gave away the one goal there but we made light of it at the end of the game, but I think that it’s a turnover like that, that’s going to make him better,” Spott said.
Spott is excited about what Murphy brings to his team offensively and looks forward to what he expects to see from him in what is likely, his last year as a Ranger.
“He creates so much from the back end, he’s like a fourth forward out on the ice and he just creates a lot of offence for our club. He’s going to have to be one of our leaders on and off the ice,” he said.
With the departure of veterans such as Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Tipoff, Murphy will be expected to take on a leadership role and that includes eating up a lot of ice time.
“He’s going to have to be our offensive catalyst and he’s going to have to run our power play so he’s going to be a 25-30 minute a night guy and we’re going to expect big things from him this year,” said Spott.
The coach isn’t the only Ranger who has increased expectations.
“He’s a world-class offensive defenceman, probably the best his age for creating points offensively. We’ll definitely make the playoffs, it’s just with Murph, we can go far,” said teammate Max Iafrate.
As for his time spent south of the border, Murphy was happy to see a friendly face and a former teammate in Carolina.
“For sure, Jeff Skinner, he’s an ex-Ranger. He helped me out a lot,” Murphy said.
Murphy may not have played in any regular season games for the Hurricanes but he took a lot away from the experience of being with an NHL club.
“Everything up there happens a lot quicker and everyone is always in the right spot so if I learned one thing, it was probably to move the puck and jump into the play whereas here I’m used to just rushing the puck the whole way,” said Murphy.