January 02, 2010
The St. Louis Blues fired Coach Andy Murray Saturday morning, as team president John Davidson showed an impressive reverence for New Year's babies, outdoor hockey games and Olympic roster revelations in waiting until the weekend.
Davis Payne of the Blues' AHL affiliate the Peoria Rivermen takes over on an interim basis, beginning tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks, and Davidson explained why:
Blues president John Davidson cited Payne's nine winning seasons in the minors, including an ECHL championship in 2006. "Davis is very knowledgeable of the players in our organization and we feel he is the best candidate to coach our team," he said in a statement.
The obvious early advantage to having Payne become the coach of the Blues is his track record with young talent. The Blues have been named Hockey's Future's best NHL organization in terms of young talent and prospects for two years running, so if Payne is more accustomed to dealing with the mentality of those types of players, he'll have an edge on retaining the position beyond his current interim status.
Allow us to translate: Davis Payne is 39, Andy Murray is 58, and the Blues have 14 players under the age of 30 on their team. They needed a new messenger.
What transformed Andy Murray from a Jack Adams candidate to a coaching casualty? Two stats, actually.
• A home record of 6-13-3. Inexcusable, embarrassing and, most importantly, bad for business.
• A power-play conversion rate of 16.1 percent, good for 25th in the NHL after being 8th last season under the guidance of Murray, who took the reins on the special teams unit and got results. The moment he handed off those coaching duties to his assistants this season after the power play flopped, the writing on the wall for his demise gained undeniable clarity. It was at the top of his accomplishments last season; a season that saw him guide an unlikely group to the Western Conference playoffs with a hell of a coaching job.
Perhaps that success reset expectations for this group, which is why management decided to strap him to the chopping block after Murray had danced around it for the last few seasons. Just like with the Philadelphia Flyers, management blamed the coach before blaming the players through its actions. We'll see how it works.
Of course, Murray never saw himself in as much danger as others did, as he said in our interview last year:
"I think the reason it was said that the coach might not finish the season was because the team was picked 30th. I didn't necessarily see it as a slam on the coach.
"I've been in it for such a long time, and I know most of the media guys very well. There may be one or two that I haven't seen eye-to-eye with. I don't think the question was my coaching ability; I think the question was whether our team had enough to get it done. When a team isn't very good, the coach doesn't look very good."
It wasn't. He didn't. And now the Blues have made a major change in the hopes of turning it all around.