December 12, 2011
It was just a question of "when?"
After Los Angeles Kings execs told the LA Times that they were "poised to dismiss" Coach Terry Murray, the possible became the inevitable. On Monday night, with the Kings preparing to face the Boston Bruins on the road Tuesday, GM Dean Lombardi pulled the trigger.
Murray, 61, departs as the Kings' third most successful coach in team history with 139 wins in 275 games. Hired on an interim basis to replace him: Assistant Coach John Stevens, former bench boss for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Who should coach the Kings? And will this firing help them fulfill their potential as a contender in the West?
Stevens, 45, is in his second season with the Kings organization, having been named a team assistant coach prior to the 2010-11 season. He will be the 23rd head coach (including interim head coaches) in Kings history.
Prior to joining the Kings, Stevens served as the head coach for the Philadelphia Flyers (2006-09) and had a 120-109-34 record, while leading the Flyers to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2008.
We'll have Lombardi's comments later tonight on Puck Daddy.
Before the firing, Murray was asked by Rich Hammond of LA Kings Insider about coaching on the hot seat: Said Murray:
"I'm going to approach every game and every practice the same as if we had seven or eight wins in a row. You want to win the next one. So that's the approach that I take every day, every game. I like the way we're playing. The effort, the compete, the intensity, the chances that we're getting, everything is in place. We just have to find a way to get a 'W.'"
The Kings were 3-6-1 in their last 10 games, which was one issue. More importantly: They're last in the NHL in offense, averaging 2.21 goals per game with a payroll of over $63.5 million against the cap.
Murray had taken this team as far as it could go under his defense-first tutelage. Stevens is considered one of the NHL's more cerebral bench bosses, but he failed to take the Flyers to the next level despite a talent-laden roster. Interestingly, his track with that team mimicked Murray's with the Kings: a mentor to young players who couldn't lead the team to greater success when the kids got older and veterans were added to the mix.
But hey, he's an ex-Flyer, so he's a perfect fit for the Kings.
Mayor's Manor had a great list of coaching possibilities for the Kings when Murray was turfed, including Craig MacTavish of the Chicago Wolves (AHL), Mark Morris of the Manchester Monarchs and, perhaps most interestingly due to his history with Lombardi, Pittsburgh Penguins assistant and former Colorado Avalanche coach Tony Granato.
Hey, now that the Leafs sale is finalized, Gretzky's available. Just kidding. Sorta.
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