NATION PROFILE: CRAIG MUNI

Lowetide
March 15 2013 07:27AM

 

Toronto spent a 2nd round pick on him, turned him pro, nurtured him through the tough times showing a great deal of patience. And then, just as he was ready, they pushed him to the curb.

BEFORE THE DRAFT

Last Team: Kingston (OMJHL)                           
Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario (Canada)
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario
   
PRE-DRAFT STATISTICS
Year Team League GP G A TP PIM
1978-79 Mississauga Ont. AAA 35 8 16 24 --
  St. Michaels Jr. B 2 2 3 5 23
1979-80 Kingston OMJHL 66 6 28 34 114

Selected in the 2nd round, 25th overall by Toronto in the 1980 Entry Draft

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EARLY CAREER

Craig Muni was a solid defensive prospect with a nice range of skills. Good size, he could move the puck with effective headman passes, and was known as a tough defender and a devastating hitter. His offense didn't come with him to the NHL, but that's fairly typical for defensemen who arrive in pro hockey and don't play a lot of powerplay minutes. In spring 1980, Muni was a pretty good NHL prospect and was taken 25th overall by his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. It was a dream come true, without the happy ending.

  • Muni: “That was the start of the dream, but because of different circumstances, things didn’t work out in Toronto. I was drafted by Punch Imlach and my first training camp he had a heart attack and never came back to his job as the General Manager. There was some changing and shifting of everything in the organization at that time. Then the year I was supposed to make the team, or have an opportunity to make the team, I hurt my knee in the junior camp before the NHL camp opened up and I didn’t get back until halfway through the season.”

Muni played 4 full AHL seasons (with cups of coffee in the NHL here and there) and didn't feel like he was getting anywhere.

  • Muni: “It was tough. When you are in the minors, it can get frustrating because we all believe that we are good enough to play at the NHL level. You wonder when you will get the chance or an opportunity, but then it’s on a one game basis or they put you on the wrong line or in the wrong situation; you are not in a situation where you can succeed. I guess it happened then and it still happens now.”

Eventually, Muni became eligible for free agency (he had completed several minor league seasons with the same organization and hadn't played enough in the NHL for Toronto to retain his rights) and had the opportunity to test free agency.

  • Muni: “When we met with teams that summer, there were about six or eight organizations that were interested, but the only thing I wanted was a guarantee from them that I would play in at least half of the exhibition games. During my four years with Toronto, I think I only played in about three exhibition games in that whole time and to me, that wasn’t an opportunity or a chance to really make the team. Of all the teams we talked to, Glen Sather was the only one that said he would give me his word on a handshake that I would. Sure enough, I played in half the games and I made the team - I wasn’t slated to make the team but I did!”

ROSTER SPACE ODDITY

After signing with the Oilers, and making the team, there was still one more hurdle. The waiver draft. Edmonton had a talented young winger (Raimo Summanen) they wanted to protect, but Muni's performance was so strong (this was fall 1986) they didn't want to lose him either. So, this was the backdrop for one of the craziest transactions in league history. During the first week of October 1986, Muni was the property of four NHL teams. The odyssey began when Edmonton sold his rights to Buffalo on Oct. 2. The following day, Buffalo sold Muni's rights to Pittsburgh. Three days later, the Penguins returned Muni to Edmonton to complete a Sept. 11, 1985, trade in which Edmonton had traded Gilles Meloche to Pittsburgh in exchange for Marty McSorley, Tim Hrynewich and future considerations. Muni became the future considerations in that trade. Follow? Me either. Glen Sather was filthy.

MEMORABLE MOMENTS

  • Stanley Cups: 3 (1987, 1988, 1990)
  • Edmonton Defenseman of Year: 1989-90
  • Drew criticism throughout his NHL career for low hits that led to several opponents' knee injuries

Muni as a player was a crowd favorite, and along with men like Lee Fogolin established the "ideal" defenseman in the eyes of Oiler fans. It's a working class city with a working class fanbase, and Muni--with his thunderous hits, shot blocking ability, tireless penalty-killing and gritty style--is remembered fondly to this day in Edmonton.

LEGACY

For four seasons from the fall of 1981 to the spring of 1986, Craig Muni was part of the Toronto Maple Leaf organization, but playing in only 19 games it was not what Muni had dreamed about. During his final season in Toronto, playing in only a handful of games, Muni along with his teammates were playing the fast flying Edmonton Oilers. Whatever Muni did that night, impressed Glen Sather and the rest of the Oilers staff, that they signed him as a free agent in the summer of 1986.

But during that summer Muni although never played a game as a member of four different teams thanks to trades etc, but ended up back in Edmonton for opening night at the Northlands Coliseum. The next few seasons are what dreams are made of. Craig Muni became a mainstay on the Oilers defence thanks to a lot of hard work and a little luck, but along with both of them, he saw his name engraved on the Stanley Cup three times over the next four seasons. For seven seasons, Muni took a regular shift on defence with the mighty Edmonton Oilers.

Following the 1993 season, Muni spent the next five seasons with five different NHL clubs including Chicago, Buffalo, Winnipeg, Pittsburgh and finally Dallas before retiring from his dream after the 1997-98 hockey season.

-HHOF

Reliable, dependable, hard working, strong and rugged defender, anything to prevent a goal. The things that Craig Muni represented are the things Edmonton Oiler fans value the most among their defensemen. Craig Muni scored 24 goals as an Edmonton Oiler, but was a menace to opponents at the other end of the ice. For that, he has a place among the very best defensemen to play for the hockey club. 

*quotes and other information from this article

 

C2a6955161684b5e3189319acfa5ebe4
Lowetide has been one of the Oilogosphere's shining lights for over a century. You can check him out here at OilersNation and at lowetide.ca. He is also the host of Lowdown with Lowetide weekday mornings 10-noon on TSN 1260.
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#1 stevezie
March 15 2013, 07:39AM
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I think this is the most interesting one of these yet. Loved his hip-checks as a kid, and Sather comes off great.

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#2 Henry
March 15 2013, 08:18AM
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Sather still makes great trades for defensemen.

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#3 Unhealthy scratch
March 15 2013, 08:22AM
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And of course they named the downtown airport after him.

Who is Craig Muni 2013? Will we play the part of the Leafs or the Oilers, this time around?

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#4 Dave Lumley
March 15 2013, 08:22AM
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"Toronto spent a 2nd round pick on him, turned him pro, nurtured him through the tough times showing a great deal of patience. And then, just as he was ready, they pushed him to the curb."

Hey this is EXACTLY what we should do with a some of our guys; Peckham, Smid come immediately to mind. Come on Tambo! Get er done!

Craig was a pleasure to watch, not Coffey but a good competent hard hitting D man. Regretfully guys like him and Kevin McClelland, those effective complementary guys just don't fit in yet. On todays Team we wnt and need them to be more than that. But soon.

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#5 Leef O'Golin
March 15 2013, 08:39AM
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Pretty funny to see a bunch of current coaches and execs in the scrap clip. Jason Smith and Luke Richardson come to mind as other great D-man heists from the Leafs. Seems like our pro scouts can't find 'em like they used to...or maybe it's all Toronto's fault. Yeah...that's it.

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#6 John Chambers
March 15 2013, 09:11AM
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Unhealthy scratch wrote:

And of course they named the downtown airport after him.

Who is Craig Muni 2013? Will we play the part of the Leafs or the Oilers, this time around?

His name is Matt Finn. Unfortunately the Oil passed up on him with our 2nd pick in 2012 because we're already loaded with prospects on the back end. What we selected instead was a Lucic-type, just one who doesn't deliver offense.

Instead Brian Burke drafted him, however we have a knack for stealing Burke's and Toronto's 2nd round d-man selections.

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#7 Slopp Joe
March 15 2013, 09:16AM
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Unhealthy scratch wrote:

And of course they named the downtown airport after him.

Who is Craig Muni 2013? Will we play the part of the Leafs or the Oilers, this time around?

We got Jason Smith the same way. He had some difficult developmental years with the Devils and then the Leafs. The Leafs traded traded him to the Oil for a 4th and a 2nd just as he was turning the corner, and we got a great D-man really cheap.

I don't know if your question is rhetorical, so forgive me if I am pointing out the obvioius. I fear that Smid is the Muni of 2013. There has been a lot of talk that the Oil are going to trade him at the deadline - essentially as a rental before he goes UFA. This seems idiotic to me, as he finally turned the corner last year, and is a solid 3/4 Dman. Trading at the deadline essentially means we went throught the tough developmental years with him for nothing.

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#8 Giant Squid Overlord
March 15 2013, 09:21AM
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What I remember most about Muni was that he destroyed guys. Whether it was a hip check or leading with a knee, he flattened guys who often took a while to get up. Not sure how he would survive under shannys eagle-eye these days.

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#9 Minister D-
March 15 2013, 09:26AM
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Very canny, Lowetide, sending subliminal "Keep Smid" messages through Craig Muni. Well done. Let's hope it works.

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#10 Velo
March 15 2013, 09:35AM
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3 things:

1. We could use a filthy GM to do something creative...oh god could we ever. 2. That soft butter-cup Euro, Kurri, is cauthg on tape clearing the crease (take note young Oilers) 3. So many great parts other than the brand name vintage Oilers...that's what made that team great.

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#11 Ducey
March 15 2013, 09:49AM
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John Chambers wrote:

His name is Matt Finn. Unfortunately the Oil passed up on him with our 2nd pick in 2012 because we're already loaded with prospects on the back end. What we selected instead was a Lucic-type, just one who doesn't deliver offense.

Instead Brian Burke drafted him, however we have a knack for stealing Burke's and Toronto's 2nd round d-man selections.

Matt Finn will be a tweener.

Its tough for 6ft 185 lb defencemen to move people from the slot in the NHL. He won't bring his offense with him, so he will be one of those guys who will always be on the bubble.

I like the Moroz pick better. He may not score the way you want a high second rounder to. But he has hands, can skate and a could be a David Clarkson type player (toughness that can play up and down the lineup). Thats very valuable.

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#12 DSF
March 15 2013, 10:25AM
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Ducey wrote:

Matt Finn will be a tweener.

Its tough for 6ft 185 lb defencemen to move people from the slot in the NHL. He won't bring his offense with him, so he will be one of those guys who will always be on the bubble.

I like the Moroz pick better. He may not score the way you want a high second rounder to. But he has hands, can skate and a could be a David Clarkson type player (toughness that can play up and down the lineup). Thats very valuable.

Pretty early to make a call like that on Finn.

He's currently listed at 6'0" and 200 and one would imagine a 19 year old still has some filling out to do.

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#13 The Soup Fascist
March 15 2013, 10:57AM
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Ducey wrote:

Matt Finn will be a tweener.

Its tough for 6ft 185 lb defencemen to move people from the slot in the NHL. He won't bring his offense with him, so he will be one of those guys who will always be on the bubble.

I like the Moroz pick better. He may not score the way you want a high second rounder to. But he has hands, can skate and a could be a David Clarkson type player (toughness that can play up and down the lineup). Thats very valuable.

I didn't mind the Moroz pick initially because he showed some flashes of brilliance as a 17 year old. This year I have not seen him step up like I thought he would. But this is a deep Oil Kings team, likely not gettting the PP time to put up big numbers.

Big thing for Moroz is he has to play physical first and the offence will come. If he thinks he is going to toe drag everyone, his pro career will be short. If he plays like a bull he will be OK.

Good news is he is a '94 born kid. Lots of time to figure it out.

Muni airport comment was Gold, Jerry .... Pure Gold. And in the news. Props.

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#14 RexLibris
March 15 2013, 11:10AM
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When the Oilers traded for Fistric, Muni was the first name that came to mind.

They let Dallas do the heavy lifting and maybe, just maybe, they went and found a dirty bottom pairing defenseman who doesn't cost his team goals against.

Sign Smid and Fistric both, and let them shut down the Sedins next year.

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#15 Quicksilver ballet
March 15 2013, 11:26AM
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What's Craig doing to that big burly Cam Neely guy, tossing him around like a rag doll like that. The Oilers sure need a guy like him now, hey i know, why not go out and get a Shea Weber......Gagner,Smid and Paajarvi/ or a first rounder in 2014. That would make Lowes job a little easier this summer. Gagner could be next seasons Ryan O'Rielly.

Being on a special team during a special time helped alot of players reach their potential here in Edmonton.

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#16 Spydyr
March 23 2013, 05:10PM
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Craig Muni Hip Check. Nuff said

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