Tuesday, May 4, 2010

(A little) more on Murdock

I received an e-mail from Kevin Murdock this week confirming that he is indeed going back to junior hockey next season, specifically the USHL's Lincoln Stars, where he played for two seasons before going to Minnesota State -- "unless something changes."

Asked if he would be coming back to Mankato or transferring to another school after a year away from college, he wrote: "as far as coming back to MSU or not, I'm not 100 percent sure ... what I will be doing."

He is finishing the semester (this week is finals week at MSU), which shows that he's at least serious about keeping his college eligibility intact.

My Free Press column today (Tuesday) is about the Murdock situation, playing off a quote of his from the beginning of the 2009-10 season.

Whoever plays the best is going to play. Whoever works the hardest is going to play.

Although Murdock came in to MSU fairly highly touted, coach Troy Jutting made no promises and had a wide-open competition for the top spot. Murdock got an early chance, starting five of the first 12 games and splitting time with Austin Lee. Phil Cook got some mop-up duty early and finally got into the starting mix in December. By then, Murdock was at the bottom of the ladder, and, by playoff time, Cook was the Mavericks' go-to guy.

Some have argued that Murdock deserved another chance to play after November. Perhaps. But I compare the situation to Vikings training camp, which I've covered many times in Mankato. When there's an open spot for a job, you have to take advantage of your reps. Play well, and you move up the depth chart. Fumble the ball, and you move down -- sometimes enough rungs down that you're watching from the sidelines.

That seems to be what happened to Murdock. His last start on Nov. 21 at Alaska-Anchorage was a rough one. Lee was pretty consistent all season, and Cook went on a nice run once he got a chance to start. By January, the order was pretty well set, and, right or wrong, neither Cook nor Lee played poorly enough to create another opening for Murdock to get another stab at the job.

Murdock could have come back and competed for the job again in the fall. Perhaps he would have pulled a Mike Zacharias and eventually grabbed the No. 1 job despite not getting it as a freshman. Then again, he might have remained buried on the depth chart behind Cook for three more years.

Time will tell if the right decisions (by Murdock, by the coaching staff, etc.) were made.

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