When Joe Murphy was drafted first overall in 1986, it looked like the Detroit Red Wings were on the verge of better days. Other teams were looking to deal for the Michigan State centre. The Red Wings expected him to make the squad immediately.
However, Murphy spent the bulk of the 1986-87 season with Detroit's AHL affiliate in Adirondack. The next season, Detroit had little choice but to give him time at right wing. The team was desperate for scoring from the right side and had converted Murphy and Adam Graves to the position. Murphy contributed ten goals and 19 points.
In the fall of 1989 the Red Wings traded Murphy to the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers, were a strong team but not the favourite to win the Stanley Cup. In the playoffs, Murphy was put on a line with Adam Graves and Martin Gelinas. The Oilers, with the "kid line," went on to capture their fifth Stanley Cup.
Murphy peaked with the Oilers in the 1991-92 season with 82 points and after sitting out the better part of the 1992-93 season, Murphy was dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks. Murphy spent parts of four seasons in Chicago before signing as a free agent with the St. Louis Blues in the summer of 1996.
After parts of two seasons with the Blues, Murphy was off to San Jose followed by Boston and ending with Washington in 2000-01. Throughout his career Murphy played over 700 games and finished with over 500 points.