Arizona Coyotes' Connor Murphy's improved play may be rewarded

Connor Murphy's progression this past season may eliminate the need of the right-handed shooting defenseman the club has stated they need.

Murphy has stepped up his game, and it was just a matter of time before his play elevated enough to the point that the Arizona Coyotes may feel that he and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are a good first pairing on the blueline.

Improvement noticed

Murphy more than doubled his offensive output this year. Last season he had four goals and three assists, but was a horrible -27 on the +/- statistic. This season he had six goals, and 11 assists, but more importantly improve that +/- number to a very respectable +6.

The 6' 4" 212 lb native from Dublin, Ohio has the physical part of his game in order. His bruising hits have left opponents leary of going into the corner with him. He accumulated 175 hits, or 2.24 hits a game. Better yet, his takeaways went from just eight last season to 21 this season.

He's maturing into a decent NHL defenseman.

He was paired with OEL for some games during the season, but there was a point during the season where his play was less than acceptable in the eyes of his Head Coach Dave Tippett. The result was he was benched for four games, and that really got his attention. The mental errors he was making were partially due to the fact that he is young (23), and has only played two full seasons in the NHL.

Hitting the pines got his attention

Dave Tippett is not afraid to bench any player if he feels the player is not performing to his capabilities. That's exactly what Tippett did in December, sitting him on the bench brought the point across to Murphy that his play was less than exemplary.

When he was put back into the starting lineup again, he showed his Head Coach what he wanted to see by pounding out six hits in an overtime game against the Minnesota Wild. He hasn't looked back since then, and looks only to continue his maturation as a top NHL blue-liner. He has all the tools to get to that level.

Murphy told Coyote's Dave Vest:

"I think a lot of guys can say we were able to make strides individually to kind of gain confidence. To get guys to be able to establish themselves I think is a cool thing to experience."

Murphy will stay active over the next month since he was selected to play in the IIHF World Championships.

Head Coach Dave Tippett also commented to Dave Vest:

"He's come a long way. If he makes strides this summer like he made last summer he'll be right up there again."