Let's be real. We all had Ryan Murray out for the count.
And in a lot of ways, understandably so.
Going on six seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft's professional career has been riddled with injuries, underwhelming offensive output and inconsistent defensive play. He was rapidly approaching the "fish or cut bait" time with the Blue Jackets before signing a bridge deal one year ago.
This season, however, Murray has shown signs of this being his best season to date – and certainly one where he's getting closer and closer to the expectations that were laid upon him at the draft.
While Murray may not ever reach No. 2 overall pick potential and talent, he can and has been proving himself as a solid second-pairing defenseman that could be a crucial piece to the Jackets finally becoming a contender.
In just nine games, Murray nearly already has 25% of the points he did in the previous two seasons combined.
Murray did miss 38 games last season and 22 the year prior, but the bottom line is there: he's showing out and is looking comfortable and confident while doing it, especially when paired with smooth-skating Finn Markus Nutivaara.
And while Murray tends to be a more stay-at-home defensemen (while the likes of Zach Werenski and Seth Jones are fond of jumping up in the play), he still been showing flashes of his capability to be a playmaker.
On the Jackets' first goal against the Blues on Thursday night, note the assertiveness in Murray taking the puck into the zone, passing to himself off the wall, cutting to the net and somehow finding Boone Jenner in the high slot to turn the momentum of the game:
Murray is seventh on the team in points with five, and tied for second in assists (with also five). While he's yet to net his first goal of the 2018-2019 season, his presence has been felt in practically every other facet on the ice.
Murray is tied for seventh in offensive points shared and tied for eighth in defensive points shared. He has 17(!) blocked shots, only one behind team-leading David Savard.
In just nine games, Murray nearly already has a fourth of the points that he did in the past two seasons combined.
Now, Murray is getting the second-most ice time of his NHL career, which surely helps his opportunity for these statistics – but this decision for ice time didn't come without building trust amongst his teammates and coaching staff, which began towards the end of last season.
In the final 12 games of the 2017-2018 regular season as the Blue Jackets pushed for a playoff spot, Murray recorded seven assists and 21 blocked shots, while getting his ice time bumped up to over 20 minutes per game throughout the same time.
Like several other Jackets, Murray struggled in the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring against Washington, but early in this season, he's shown that he's ready to take on more responsibility. So far, he's taking advantage of the opportunity.
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