Battalion Breakdown is a closer look at the Blue Jackets' past season on a player-by-player basis. Today, BlueJackets.com continues the series by looking at Ryan Murray's season and how it impacted Columbus in the 2018-19 campaign.
Birth date: Sept. 27, 1993
Height/Weight: 6-1, 205
Stats (Games, G-A-P, point shares): 56 GP, 1-28-29, 5.7 PS
Contract: Restricted free agent
By now, the story of Ryan Murray doesn't have to be repeated.
There's the enormous potential, as demonstrated by his choice as the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. Then there's the frustration of injuries, as a seemingly endless parade of setbacks has kept Murray from consistently reaching that enormous potential.
This year, you could argue Murray was playing the best hockey of his career when he left the Feb. 18 game vs. Tampa Bay. There was no big hit, no obvious moment where it appeared something was wrong.
Early in the game, Murray simply left the ice and was gone, unable to suit up again for the Blue Jackets on the season. He said on exit day that he hoped to be back quickly and even was riding a bike in the days after the undisclosed injury, but it never improved to the point where he was ready to go.
"A day or two after, I was back riding the bike and I kind of thought it was something I tweaked, but obviously it took longer than that," a downcast Murray said on exit day. "It was a little more complicated than that. Toward the end of the season I started feeling a lot better and got back on the ice and was feeling really good.
"The day we lost out we are talking with the training staff about starting to crank it up again. That's what is the worst part of it is you're just getting back and everything ends."
Entering the season: 2017-18 was another injury-plagued season for Murray as he missed three months from late November to late February. But upon his return, the Saskatchewan native played some good hockey then had a strong playoff, with a plus-3 rating and more than 21 minutes of action per game against Washington in the six-game opening-round series.
With that in mind, Murray was targeted to have a strong showing in 2018-19 after signing a qualifying offer with the Jackets in the summer.
What happened: While Murray's season unfortunately ended because of injury, it seems inarguable he was playing at a high level before going down -- so much so he was earning first-pair minutes with Seth Jones for a lot of the campaign.
Across the board, his numbers were impressive, with Murray tallying a career-high 28 assists and 29 points. He was also plus-20, a rating that placed him among the top players in the NHL.
All the more impressive, Murray was not a mainstay on the team's power-play units, with all but one of his points coming at 5-on-5. In fact, with 0.50 points per game at even strength, he placed eighth among all NHL defenseman in that category among those to play at least 50 games.
Perhaps most importantly, as Zach Werenski going through his growth process to find an improved defensive game, Murray stepped up to play with Jones and allowed the Jackets to keep their high level of pace out of the back end.
"Murr was huge for us this year," Jones said. "He had one of his best years. Before he got injured, I think he had 30 points, right? 29 assists or something like that. I played with him a little bit this year when I was struggling and just playing with him you seem to settle down a little bit. He has great vision, neutral zone passing, his quick ups are spot on. I PKed a lot with him this year before he was hurt and we have good chemistry as well."
Murray tallied just one goal on the year and it was an empty-netter in a November home win vs. Dallas, but a highlight in another home game around that same time shows off Murray's skill set a little better. His long breakout pass to Markus Hannikainen in a game vs. Detroit led directly to a goal by Josh Anderson, and Murray has become one of the Blue Jackets who is most proficient at helping the Blue Jackets break out of the zone.
Video: DET@CBJ: Anderson finishes great passing play
By the Numbers
10: Despite playing in 56 games, Murray had just 10 penalty minutes on the season, approximately a minor penalty taken every 11 games.
1.27: With 1.27 shots on goal per game, Murray established a new career high in that category. He put 71 shots on net in 56 games, yet had only one goal for a career-worst shot percentage of 1.4 percent.
21:26: Murray played 21:26 per game this past season, an average of three minutes more per game than in 2017-18. It was the second-highest average of his career, after the 22:51 he played while playing all 82 games in 2015-16.