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Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Legend of Crankshaft continues to grow, Canada discovers the UberTap and Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray



Some say he is half man, half machine, half reciprocating linear piston, but 6-foot-3 240 pound Cornell alumni Douglas "Crankshaft" Murray also showed his entrepreneurial zeal investing in the UberTap Dispensing Company. The revolutionary three spout keg dispensing system offers a hands free filling experience, a "superior pumping method", and a consistent flow of beer. Something that should warm the heart of Canadians and Americans alike, and also those in Murray's hometown of Stockholm, Sweden.

Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun investigates furthur: Sharks blueliner finds Swede way to tap into kegs.

Murray may be known for patrolling the blueline for the Sharks as they face the Flames in their opening-round playoff series, but sports fans of all ilk must appreciate what he and friends came up with in between their scholastic and sporting endeavours in their college days.

UberTap is a system that uses a foot pump to extract the liquid gold, and three spouts to fill the glasses. Imagine that. Three glasses being filled simultaneously. To borrow phrase sudsy connoisseurs know -- brilliant.

"It took too long to get beer in college. It's about five times as fast to fill up," Murray said. "Since I've been in the NHL, I haven't been involved as much, my partner is running it. When I was in the minors, there was more time."

Brilliant indeed. In his spare time, he likes to shut down 2-time Rocket Richard winning captain Jarome Iginla, tackle the subprime morgage loan financial crisis, and fight bears.

[Update] Douglas Murray Making Up For Lost Time - Sharks.nhl.com.

[Update2] A Salute to an Unsung Hero: Doug Murray (from Sweden) - Rudy K for Battle of California.

[Update3] Blueliner a hero to Sharks, fratboys, Murray learned solid defence, but invented keg pump - Calgary Herald.

"It's more being aggressive and assertive at the right time," says Murray, who unloaded a team-high 127 checks, many of the heavy variety. "I've always been an aggressive player. Physical. A big thing is not putting myself out of the play doing the physical part of the game. More picking my spots and letting the hits come to me. Guys are smart in this league -- they know you're coming. The good players use that as an advantage."

A classic late bloomer -- drafted 241st overall in 1999, out of something called the Eastern Junior Hockey League while toiling for a club named the New York Apple Core (really) -- Murray needed two full slates with Cleveland of the American Hockey League to get his pro bearings
"He's been excellent, right from start to finish," say Craig Rivet. "He started off this season by winning a job. He's really moved himself up the depth chart. You can see that he's logging some big minutes. He's extremely difficult to play against. He's as physical as any defenceman in the league."...

Might Murray also be the most improved player in the NHL? "Hands down, he would be on our team," says Rivet. "Throughout the league, I'm not quite sure because I don't pay attention to a lot of other people's players. But we've been blessed that this guy has grown and made this team that much stronger."

18 comments:

therealdeal said...

PJ where would you slot Murray on your defensive depth chart?

PJ Swenson said...

Tough question. A writer locally, I think it was Ray (insert negative comment here) Ratto said the Calgary Flames blueline was the deepest of the Western Conference playoff contenders.

Without strictly being a homer, noting the injuries to Boucher and Zubov in Dallas, and Yahoo.com's Ross McKeon who said Anaheim has the deepest blueline, I would still have to select the Sharks. But it is hard to pigeon hole them into one role.

I think Brian Campbell has to be the clear #1. The Sharks have drafted a very impressive honor roll of offensive defenseman over the years; Ozolinsh, Zyuzin, Stuart, Jillson, Carle and defensive defenseman like Hannan, Ragnarsson, and Rathje. Matt of the Battle of Alberta said that Campbell is not god, but I think he is very close to being the total package. On the cusp. If he can tighten up his game in critical situations, get more pucks on the net, and maybe provide a second go-to option on the power play, he will be hands down the best defenseman to play in San Jose.

As far as a depth chart, after Campbell I would have to put Craig Rivet. A veteran defenseman who had another gear he was missing last year when he was not quite recovered from a bout with pneumonia he had in Montreal. In the game against Anaheim when the Ducks were tossing people around and kind of dictating play early, it was Rivet and Roenick who were basically yelling at their teammates to get it together. Rivet is smart enough to know when to play physical, when to back off, and when to jump in on a play when the Sharks need offense. Vlasic can learn a lot from watching Rivet, because they are in the same mould, both play a very intelligent game.

Douglas Murray blossomed in the first half of the season. He went from fighting for the 6th spot and losing last year, to registering one of the top +/- in the league the first half of the season this year. He is massive, and it is surprising how often players still take a run at him. In the last 2-3 months, I have seen one opponent check him to the ice when I have been down on the glass. Many more bounced off. He makes solid reads, uses his reach and positioning to force people wide making up for a lack of speed, and he makes simple plays to move the puck out of the zone under pressure.

Defensively, I might put Douglas Murray and Christian Ehrhoff as the top two defenseman, definitely two of the most improved players this year. Ehrhoff has taken more of a defensive responsibility to heart this season, using speed, quick footwork and an active stick to get to pucks before opponents and get out of the way when they try to finish a check. He still throws down the occasional end-to-end rush, and you have to believe the offensive side to his game will develop more a couple of years down the road. He can create space and shooting lanes, he just needs to start bombing point shots on net.

Haven't said much about Vlasic, McLaren, Semenov or Ozolinsh, but I would say that none would be out of place as a top-6 defenseman at an NHL level. Ozolinsh had over a year and a half off from the league due to substance abuse isssues, but was in traithalon condition at the start of the season. His skating and stickhandling didnt catch up with his conditioning quick enough for Ron Wilson, but Ozolinsh steadied the backline a little when they were pressing early in the season.

Ron Wilson mentioned that they needed the physical presence McLaren brings to the ice, but he has to make plays without taking himself out of position. And that has happened more than many are comfortable with, especially the last two games of the regular season against LA and Dallas. Defensive zone coverage is also an issue.

Hard to make a simple depth chart, with different defenseman being used more often in different situations, but with all of the above taken into consideration, here is a rough depth chart:

1. Brian Cambpell
2/3. Craig Rivet
2/3. Christian Ehrhoff
4. Douglas Murray
5. Marc Edouard Vlasic
6. Kyle McLaren
7. Matt Carle
8. Alexei Semenov
9. Sandis Ozolinsh

And there are a couple of bluechip defensive prospects in the system including Ty Wishart, hard hitting Nick Petrecki, and AHL Worcester Shark Dan Spang. Wilson traded a first rounder for Campbell, but having a first round pick in each draft is a big marketing bonus, so look for Wilson to try to trade for another late first round draft pick again if possible.

PJ Swenson said...

Actually, scratch that. List Rivet, Ehrhoff and Murray each as a 2/3/4. You really have to factor in the first two games of the WCQF, and given Murray's performance against Iginla, I think I would be just as comfortable labeling him #2, as #3 or #4.

PJ Swenson said...

And I guess this is a way to determine the coaches depth chart. Ron Wilson has said in the past, the only way he has to motivate players is ice time:

CUMULATIVE ICE TIME - 2 WCQF GAMES

Brian Campbell 45:13 (2)
Craig Rivet 44:08 (2)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic 43:11 (2)
Douglas Murray 42:20 (2)
Kyle McLaren 23:24 (2)
Alexei Semenov 15:16 (1)
Matt Carle 10:29 (1)
Christian Ehrhoff (inj)
Sandis Ozolinsh (0)

You should also note that McLaren probably is not 100%, and second line center Joe Pavelski gets most of the minutes on the first power play unit on the point with Brian Campbell. Matchups and defensive pairings play a role too.

RudyKelly said...

I think I deserve credit for popularizing Doug Murray, man of Sweden.

PJ Swenson said...

Rudy deserves props for breaking the UberTap story to the blogosphere:

http://battleofcalifornia.blogspot.com/2007/08/salute-to-unsung-hero-doug-murray-from.html

Just an FYI, Wave Magazine here in San Jose wrote about the UberTap 2 years ago.

And to add one more mind numbingly miniscule fact to the depth chart above, Marc Edouard Vlasic and Matt Carle earned co-rookie defenseman of the year honors from the NHL last season, first time teammates had won it in 8 or 10 years or so. So you have a top-4 guy filling out the #6 slot, and a Hobey Baker winning 2-time NCAA national champion and rookie defenseman of the year winner as a #7, and the future president of Latvia #9.

That's deep.

Megalodon said...

Everyone is wrong about everything. Douglas Fucking Murray is number one on every list ever. He's a man who gets things done. He saw the problem - "it took too long to get beer in college" - and using his genius, he brought the world a solution.

God bless you, Douglas Murray.

And Rudy, you only wrote about Murray cause of me, so I think all the credit for this story, and for everything else ever, should go to me.

Earl Sleek said...

Ratto said the Calgary Flames blueline was the deepest of the Western Conference playoff contenders.

Without strictly being a homer, noting the injuries to Boucher and Zubov in Dallas, and Yahoo.com's Ross McKeon who said Anaheim has the deepest blueline, I would still have to select the Sharks.


I would vigorously defend the Ducks here, but you've caught me at a particularly vulnerable time.

PJ Swenson said...

I've seen the Ducks blueline, and you sirs are no Jack Kennedy. What was it a fan told me in Anaheim last year, beware the defensive pairing on the ice after a penalty kill.

Taking a look at the rest of the Western Conference, Detroit, Dallas, Calgary and Anaheim are on a second tier. San Jose is the deepest blueline in the Western Conference hands down. There is still a mental, focus, or even a heart question with the team, but a series win over a tough Calgary lineup could prep the Sharks well for the playoffs.

And if you disagree, tell me the bottom half of which blueline corps is deeper than this:

4. Douglas Murray
5. Marc Edouard Vlasic
6. Kyle McLaren
7. Matt Carle
8. Alexei Semenov
9. Sandis Ozolinsh

Earl Sleek said...

Well, sure, if you're going to define "deepest blueline" as "excluding the top three defensemen", then maybe you have a point.

But tell me, how much more does the 4th defenseman play for SJ than the 4th defenseman for ANA? How can it not matter that the top three for ANA are huge minute-eaters, in all critical situations?

Fuck, find me one hockey fan that (these series results excluded) would straight-up trade ANA's blueline for SJS's blueline, and I'll find you one lunatic.

PJ Swenson said...

Defensively, Sharks are better.

Right now out of Schneider, Pronger and Niedermayer, only Pronger is playing at a level equal to last season. Not on a solely statistical analysis, Niedermayer looked a half step slower when I saw him, Schneider is not as effective, only Beauchemin and maybe Huskins are trending up.

Murray and Ehrhoff were the most improved defensemen for the Sharks this year, and each took turns taking over games defensively at points this season. Rivet is captain material, and actually skating faster than last year when he still had not recovered from pneumonia. Campbell is a legitimate #1, Carle and Vlasic.

Hell yes I would take San Jose's blueline over Anaheim's geriatric corps. San Jose needs to punch a couple of weaker teams in the face the first two rounds of the playoffs, gain confidence so they can actually play to their potential for once, and then they will be even more dangerous against a Detroit or a Stanley Cup Final opponent.

There, gauntlet thrown down.

PJ Swenson said...

Oh, I should mention my gauntlet has a 5 year window.

alix said...

I love Douglas Murray. He is pretty much the reason I'm cheering for the Sharks to come out of the West. Might be the coolest man alive.

Earl Sleek said...

Oh, I should mention my gauntlet has a 5 year window.

I think it's fair if you're projecting ahead on this timeframe, but generally if you're listing guys like Ozolinsh, I thought you meant "this year".

The rest is opinion, I guess, but it sounds like you are looking at the downside of Duck defenders and listing only the upside of Shark defenders. In that sense, I don't know what to tell you.

There's certainly upside to having Niedermayer and Schneider on a blueline, though it's not shown itself in two games this series.

therealdeal said...

CUMULATIVE ICE TIME - 2 WCQF GAMES

Brian Campbell 45:13 (2)
Craig Rivet 44:08 (2)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic 43:11 (2)
Douglas Murray 42:20 (2)
Kyle McLaren 23:24 (2)
Alexei Semenov 15:16 (1)
Matt Carle 10:29 (1)
Christian Ehrhoff (inj)
Sandis Ozolinsh (0)


Do you think these ice time numbers are a bit skewed because of special teams time?

I hadn't really heard of the guy until I did a little research before the series began, but so far he has impressed me.

PJ Swenson said...

Downside for the Sharks blueline right now is the loss of Ehrhoff, which is huge. Not only was he the best defenseman on many nights, but he helped move the puck up ice. The first 10 minutes of game 1 you saw how much of a loss that was. I am not sure if he is going to be able to come back for the first round either.

The negative on McLaren is his knee. He missed 2 weeks and then came back for I think the Toronto game and he did not look close to 100%. The Sharks tried to balance working him back into the lineup, and giving him rest when needed, but he had his worst two games of the season along with Semenov in the last 2 games against LA and Dallas.

I would have started Carle over Semenov in Game 1, party based on Semonov's 4 or 5 turnovers in one period against LA. The entire team gripped their stick, and a number of players bobbled the puck or turned back behind their own net early in the first game against Calgary. But you saw how limited Carle's minutes were. He needs confidence that one mistake is not going to sink him or the team.

12 penalties in game 2 is going to skew the ice time heavily in favor of Brian Campbell and Joe Pavelski, who saw 10:46 and 9:57 respectively on the point for the power play.

-X- said...

Hey, really good post. I'd love it if you'd come discuss the game tonight on my forum at http://www.myhockeyforum.com

Thanks!

PJ Swenson said...

Ross McKeon has a much more detailed rundown of the Sharks blueline problems here:

Playoff troubles plague Sharks early

http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/news?slug=rm-flamessharks040908&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

"Craig Rivet played in Game 1, but he was a minus-2. He missed the final five games of the regular season with an undisclosed injury. It wasn’t minor bumps and bruises when he didn’t play in the regular-season finale, a time to get the rust off.

It’s not an exaggeration to suggest veteran Kyle McLaren is playing on one leg. He had an arthroscopic clean-out of his troublesome left knee in January. But this time for the first time after such a procedure he experienced pain, a setback if you will. It’s evident, as is the case with Rivet, that McLaren isn’t skating as well as he’d like.

And Christian Ehrhoff wasn’t anywhere to be found. He’s nursing a lower-body injury (probably his leg since he’s not even skating). That’s three of San Jose’s top six. And for all that Brian Campbell is known for – pretty passing and clever skating – throwing his weight around is not one of them.

“We’d certainly like to be 100 percent healthy back there,” said McLaren, limited to 13:04 of ice time. “The way (Ehrhoff) can skate and control the puck on the power play, I think we’re missing that. We have to fill in for him. One guy can’t change the dynamic of the team too much, but he’ll certainly be welcomed back when he’s healthy.”".