MONTREAL – The Bell Centre won’t be a comfortable place to play in 2013-14.
When Alexei Emelin went down with a torn ACL and MCL in April, the hole he left in the Canadiens’ lineup was anything but discreet. With the team’s back-to-back hit leader expected to miss the majority of the first half of the year recovering from surgery, Marc Bergevin has spent the offseason hunting for reinforcements to help make the corners a little less hospitable for opponents this fall.
After already acquiring a hulking enforcer in 6-foot-5 forward George Parros this July, Bergevin set his sights on bolstering the back end on Thursday, signing 6-foot-3 blue-liner Douglas Murray to a one-year deal.
“I think I’m a pretty simple player. What you see is what you get. In order for me to be successful, I need to defend really well, number one, and [I need to] be a big, physical presence out there,” described Murray, who spent seven-and-a-half seasons in the gritty confines of the Western Conference before heading to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline this April. “I definitely have a [will] to win and I bring a lot of competitiveness. It’s nothing flashy; I don’t think anyone has ever used that word to describe me as a player. I’m a steady player and the excitement probably comes from the physicality department.”
When he’s not dishing out punishment, Murray can usually be found accepting some of his own. Finishing in the Top 20 in blocked shots in 2012-13, the Bromma, Sweden native wears bruises like badges of honor and will be looking to help shore up the league’s 23rd-ranked penalty kill this season.
“I have a lot of experience with [penalty killing] and I’ve played a lot of different systems. Obviously you need great penalty killers and people who are willing to block shots, which I definitely am,” shared Murray, who spent two years in San Jose alongside resident shot blocking specialist Josh Gorges early on in his career. “It’s important to have a lot of pride in killing penalties. I love shutting the opposition down – maybe it’s because I’ve never scored many goals, but I think I almost enjoy that more.”
Coming off the third Conference finals appearance of his career this spring, the 33-year-old blue-liner is also bringing an impressive playoff pedigree to the mix. However, joining a lineup that already includes seven defensemen on one-way deals, Murray knows ice time will be at a premium in his new hockey home, but he’s ready to make the most of every minute as a Hab.
“A big part of why I decided on Montreal was I had very good conversations with Marc Bergevin about how they view me as a player and how they were planning on using me as a player,” divulged Murray, who will be looking to represent Sweden at his second Olympic Games this February. “I feel better than ever. I can play as many minutes, if not more, than I have in the past. I feel great and I’m excited to get going. I definitely don’t feel old; the people who know me know the last thing I am is an old soul.”
His pending workload and role within the team weren’t the only factors leading to Murray’s signing on the dotted line. About to add his name to the all-time roster of one of the most storied teams in professional sports, the opportunity to join the Canadiens brotherhood was too good to pass up.
“It’s the most historic franchise in the league and an Original Six team. I take history very seriously with my grandfather being a big part of hockey history in Sweden,” shared Murray, whose grandfather, Lasse Bjorn was inducted to the IIHF Hockey Hall of Fame in 1998. “As a little kid I was always riding with him when he played for the national team and he played for the most decorated franchise, Djurgardens, here in Sweden. That makes this very special.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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