(4) Scott Howson v. (13) Bob Murray

The Not-So-Sweet Sixteen continues this week with the second half of the first round. The first half ended with Steve Tambellini crushing Kevin Lowe with 65% of the vote. I agree with the result, but I was expecting that to be closer. I'll be surprised if Tambellini wins this thing, but that victory leads me to believe that I may have underestimated him. Tambellini's next opponent will be the winner of today's contest between underdog Bob Murray and one of the tournament favorites, Scott Howson. A look at each man's record after the jump.

(13) Bob Murray

Teams Managed: Anaheim Ducks (November 12, 2008 to Present)
Record: 149-120-33 (.548 points percentage)

Bob Murray is an unconventional choice for this tournament. He's in the middle of his fourth season as general manager of the Anaheim Ducks, and he has yet to have his team finish among the league's five worst teams. The club has also made the playoffs in two of his four seasons, and he's managed to make a few stellar moves along the way, including the acquisition of Lubomir Visnovsky. So what's so bad about Murray? Well, he inherited a team with an excellent core group of stars, and he has completely failed to build around those key pieces to make them a contender. When Murray arrived, he had Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry signed, sealed and delivered, Chris Pronger under contract for another season, the tandem of Jonas Hiller and J-S Giguere in goal, and Teemu Selanne signing up for a discount year after year. He also had a strong core of veterans in the middle of his lineup, which he has systematically dismantled in favor of overpaid youth. Murray traded Samuel Pahlsson for James Wisniewski then overpaid Wisniewski on a one-year deal, which priced him out of Anaheim for the long-term. He then sent Wisniewski away for a 3rd-round pick. He sent Chris Pronger to Philadelphia for Joffrey Lupul and futures, a deal that makes sense for a rebuilding team, but not so much for a team with young stars under contract. One of those futures was Luca Sbisa, who he subsequently signed to a terrible four-year contract that would pay him $2.175M per season. Murray didn't buy any years of unrestricted free agency and paid a player who was just approaching his 100th career game when the contract was signed and had struggled mightily in his protected role on the club's third pairing. This summer he traded a 2nd-round pick for the privilege of paying Andrew Cogliano $2.39M over the next three years. He was gifted the pieces that are hardest to acquire, and hasn't been able to build on them at all.

(4) Scott Howson

Teams Managed: Columbus Blue Jackets (June 15, 2007 to Present)
Record: 164-179-57 (.481 points percentage)

Basically the opposite situation of Murray because he inherited a big mess. I was actually pretty impressed with Howson's early work in Columbus, but as soon as he started to trust in Steve Mason, things went south. In 2008-09, Mason made his debut, and the Blue Jackets made the playoffs for the first time. In 2009-10, Howson trusted in Mason and brought Mathieu Garon in as the backup. Mason had a poor season and the team missed the playoffs, but Howson thought the problem was the coach, and so he fired the excellent Ken Hitchcock mid-year. In 2010-11, Howson came back with the exact same tandem. Mason had a poor season and the team missed the playoffs, but at the start of that year, Howson had given him a vote of confidence with a two-year extension. In the summer of 2011, Howson loaded up his team, trading much of the future for Jeff Carter and signing several free agents. But he didn't address the goaltending. Mason has had another poor season and the team stepped into the elevator shaft. They will finish dead last after trading Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek in an effort to "win now". The team's best player, Rick Nash, has asked for a trade. Two of its other good players, Jeff Carter and Antoine Vermette, have been traded for one of the league's worst contracts (Jack Johnson) and nothing respectively. There's plenty more to say about what Howson has done wrong, but I'm pretty confident I'll have a chance to go into a bit more detail in the next round.

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