If there’s one thing Ryan Murray is absolutely sick of, it’s talking about his nightmarish 2014-15 season.
It was a season that saw him picking suits and ties far more often than he was taping sticks and lacing skates; in short, it was a season from hell – and he’d rather not think about it again.
What he does let on, though, is how much that lingering disappointment, frustration and occasional anger motivates him as he diligently prepares for a third professional season with the team that drafted him second overall in 2012.
He played only 12 of the Blue Jackets' 82 games last season, an encapsulation of a tumultuous year that was interrupted on several occasions by a lingering knee injury that never seemed to agree with him. But it goes back farther than that; Murray missed most of the 2012-13 after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in November while playing with his junior team, the Everett Silvertips.
After knee surgery in the summer of 2014, Murray’s recovery delayed his season debut until late October, but it took until after the new year to feel normal again. On Feb. 6, Murray went down with a high ankle sprain that kept him out of action for five weeks, adding to an already-disappointing season and forcing him to spend another portion of his summer getting back into top shape.
Here's the good news: after months of hard work both in the gym and on the ice, Murray feels as strong as he has in a long time. He’s been skating with several of his teammates in the OhioHealth Ice Haus over the past few weeks, working on his skating and stamina while also just getting a feel for things again.
“I’ve been on the ice for almost two months now,” Murray said. “I’ve done some things differently this summer, changed it up a bit; the workouts have been less weight-based and more body and movement-focused things.
“I spent part of the summer at home in Saskatchewan, hanging out with my friends and family, relaxing, playing golf, and it was great. It was good to go home and recharge, and now, I’m back here and ready to work.”
Murray has paid close attention to the Blue Jackets’ offseason activity, which, to this point, has not included any changes to the defense. GM Jarmo Kekalainen has said that having a healthy Murray in the lineup would be the most important acquisition they could make on the blue line, so it’s clear that management is banking on the even-keeled 22-year-old being a major contributor this season.
While grateful for the praise, Murray knows there’s a lot of work ahead in order to become that relied-upon presence once again.
“It’s great to hear that they have that confidence in me, but at the same time, I have to show up and prove it,” Murray said. “Right now, I’m not thinking too much about opening night, I’m just thinking about the things I need to do on a day-to-day basis to get ready. Once we get closer to playing actual games, I’ll be focusing on that more but right now it’s the one-step-at-a-time approach still.
“It’s barely even August, right? So I’m excited, anxious I guess, but there’s a long way to go until training camp, and I have to keep working at it.”
In keeping tabs on what’s gone on around him this summer, Murray also saw the Blue Jackets’ core group of players largely remain intact. For nearly three years in a row, the Jackets enter the season with a familiar roster and a team that’s grown tighter over time.
The prevailing thought amongst all of them? Unfinished business.
“Even when we’ve struggled, (management) hasn’t sold the farm or whatever,” Murray said. “They’ve kept this group together because they believe in us, and that’s great because we feel the same way. It says a lot about every person in here, the character we have, and the type of leaders we have.
“We have a young team and every single one of us has something to prove. That’s our approach. We have the pieces in here, we all truly believe that.”