Connor Murphy doesn’t remember much about the hit that ended his season on March 12. The 29-year-old defenseman said that he remembers taking the ice for his shift during that first period in Ottawa. The next thing he remembers was being in the visitor’s dressing room at the Candian Tire Centre, being evaluated by medical personnel. After Tuesday’s optional morning skate, Murphy said that when he came to it the dressing room, he was more concerned for his family and friends who had to witness the hit and see him stretchered off the ice.
Since that March 12 game in Ottawa, Murphy has dealt with headaches, memory issues, and the “typical off feeling that you get from concussions.” Despite being ruled out for the remained of the season by Derek King, Murphy is in great spirits and feeling well physically.
“I feel good physically, really good actually,” Murphy said. “The hard thing is, with the head stuff, there’s not enough research to know for sure if you’re 100 percent or when that is. You just kind of look at history and what the symptoms were like and how close together certain concussions were [and] the severity of each one of them. So, we’re lucky to have a great medical staff here that’s been helping a lot along the way and got me to now, to feeling good.”
That doesn’t mean that the injury, and more specifically losing the rest of his season to that injury, hasn’t been frustrating. Murphy, an alternate captain of the Blackhawks, was disappointed that he had to watch his teammates endure a dreadful eight-game losing streak recently, one that he couldn’t do anything to help stop.
“This one is hard… It’s like different points of the season are so different,” Murphy said. “When it’s the start when you’re pushing so hard to get back and so much of the season to give you that kind of optimism in that, and then now, not having the games left to play is frustrating and having to see your team go through a couple of losing streaks is even harder. Not being able to be around it to help at all is hard, but that’s just part of the game, and injuries do that to you.”
Whether or not Murphy’s presence in the lineup would have helped the Blackhawks avoid that nasty late-season skid will remain a mystery, but Murphy’s future in Chicago seems to be for sure if he has it his way. Murphy signed a four-year contract extension that kicks in next season and carries an annual salary-cap hit of $4.4 million, and Murphy has taken to Chicago and now calls it home year-round. The veteran defenseman said that he’s not concerned with Kyle Davidson’s rebuilding plans.
“It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to each year just because you’re in a rebuild. So, I don’t look at it with any negativity. I’m still as excited as on day one, coming in here to this organization and the city, and I live here now pretty much year-round, so it’s been awesome. I’m happy to be here as long as I’m wanted and fortunate to, even though we’ve had some struggling seasons, to be a part of this group.”
Murphy’s concussion has sidelined him since early March, so he hasn’t played with the Blackhawks since they dealt Brandon Hagel, Marc-André Fleury, and Ryan Carpenter on March 21, but he knows that this is a business, and he believes that the rest of the dressing room does too.
“I’ve had it happen before. I’ve been on losing teams where it’s kind of the known thing that it is a business, and no one is really safe to a point. As a team, the only thing as the season gets going that you can control is the more you’re winning, the safer everyone kind of is. You understand that when you’re not performing to the level that you need to as a team, we’re all at risk for things like that happening,” Murphy said. Still, you just understand the business side of it and know to just not take for granted the time you have in the NHL and on the team with each one of your teammates.”
Like other veterans under contract with the Blackhawks, Murphy will be called on to help mentor and teach the next wave of Blackhawks, including the ones that are already on the roster. Murphy has spent time getting to know rookie defenseman Alec Regula and has had little interaction with Alex Vlasic, who joined the team just days after Murphy’s scary injury.
Murphy is inked to a four-year extension, and while he’s well aware that he might be the next to go, he’s happy to be in Chicago for as long as the Blackhawks will have him there and looking forward to putting a cruddy end of this season behind him and getting back to work this summer.