Panther defenseman Cory Murphy summed up his rookie season in the NHL with the words “disappointing” and “awesome” in the same breath.
Yes, it was that kind of season for the popular, 30-year-old.
After spending six seasons playing in Europe, the undrafted graduate of Colgate University was all the rage after slipping on a Panther uniform to assume the role as the team’s quarterback on the power play.
Murphy picked up five points in his first five games, had 11 points (one goal, 10 assists) in his first 19 games, played in his hometown of Kanata, Ottawa, and looked every bit like the player voted the year earlier as MVP of the Swedish Elite League.
But Murphy’s season took a cruel turn Nov. 13 in Atlanta when he injured his shoulder. The initial diagnosis? Day to day. Then week to week. Then month to month.
By the time Murphy was ready to return, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s had come and gone. So had 30 games in the middle of Murphy’s rookie season.
Murphy admits the first six weeks of the season “were awesome.”
“Every kid in Canada dreams of playing in the NHL,” Murphy said. “Getting the chance to do that was amazing. Obviously, I was excited to be here and playing in the league. The positive for me was I played some games. Unfortunately, getting hurt, missing three months and not making the playoffs, it was very frustrating.”
Murphy said his injury was finally diagnosed as a “bursar rupture…or something like that.”
“Frustrating,” Murphy repeated. “It’s part of the game. Guys get hurt all the time. But it was frustrating still having the pain and not quite knowing what was going on. I thought it was going to be a week long thing and it turns into months.”
When Murphy returned to the lineup Jan. 22, he struggled finding his groove. Although he registered his first career, three-point night Feb. 5 at Toronto, Murphy had only three more assists in his remaining 22 games. GM and coach Jacques Martin said Murphy’s confidence might have suffered when he returned.
In the end, Murphy called the season a “huge learning experience.”
“It was tough getting back into it when I came back,” Murphy said. “It was unfortunate. Timing is a big thing, and to miss three months…it’s tough to get that back.
“But I learned about everything. The game on the ice. I got to watch a lot of games from the press box. Not that I wanted to, but you see the game differently from up there. I think that’s probably going to help me, seeing certain things you maybe don’t see when you’re playing. I learned a lot, and, hopefully, I can use that next year.”
Murphy said he’ll spend the summer with his family in Toronto. “I’ll work out,” he said, before adding, “and maybe I’ll mix in a round or two.”