Columbus Blue Jackets made the right move by drafting Ryan Murray

On Friday, June 22, the Columbus Blue Jackets kicked off yet another rebuilding effort by selecting Everett Silvertips’ defenseman Ryan Murray with the second pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. The team believes that Murray could one day become one of the top blue liners in the league. I’m not sure if Murray will reach that level of stardom, but the Blue Jackets made the right decision to draft him.

Many Jackets fans have blamed goaltender Steve Mason for the team’s defensive woes over the years. However, the problem hasn’t been the goaltending as much as it has been the club’s blue line. Let’s face it: the Blue Jackets have consistently failed to put top-flight defensemen in front of their netminders.

When the team traded center Jeff Carter to the Los Angeles Kings for blue liner Jack Johnson, it signaled a change in the front office’s philosophy. Johnson brought some solid offensive skills with him to Columbus, but it’s his steady defense and leadership that the team needed the most. Now the Blue Jackets have added Murray to the mix, and it’s beginning to appear as if the franchise is finally forming a blue line that can compete with the rest of the NHL.

Murray is a solid skater and strong puck handler who dominated opposing clubs while playing for the Silvertips. He entered the draft regarded as the top defenseman available in a class full of blue liners. There have been some questions concerning a lack of a mean streak, but I don’t put much stock in that. Murray has been such a force for the Silvertips that few opposing teams have been able to challenge him. It’s hard to gauge a player’s mean streak when no one is getting in their face.

The Blue Jackets deserve credit for sticking with their plan and taking Murray instead of moving down in the draft or selecting an offensive player. NHL champions are built on defense. All we need to do is look at the last two Stanley Cup winners to know that. If the Jackets are going to compete against strong defensive clubs like the Kings, St. Louis Blues, and the Detroit Red Wings, they need a strong blue line. By selecting Murray in the first round, the team is on the right path towards respectability.

Derek Ciapala has been following the hometown Columbus Blue Jackets since the team joined the NHL for the 2000-2001 season. You can find him on Twitter @dciapala.