Evaluation: Terry Murray
This season: 46-30-6 record (2-4 in playoffs).
The good: Eight out of 30 NHL teams recorded at least 98 points in each of the past two seasons. The Kings were one of them. They could do far worse (and have) than having the patient, organized Murray behind the bench, even if his on-camera demeanor and plain, sometimes repetitive answers don’t always play well to an often-anxious fan base. The Kings had a plus-21 goal differential, the fifth-best in the Western Conference and better than that of Detroit, which totaled 261 goals this season to the Kings’ 219 goals. Defense wins just as many games as offense — see: Predators, Nashville — and the Kings are unquestionably one of the league’s top defensive teams.
The bad: In terms of offensive improvement, Murray had two publicly-stated goals at the beginning of the season: improve 5-on-5 scoring and improve the Kings’ puck possession on offensive-zone entries. The Kings made only a negligible improvement in 5-on-5 scoring (148 goals, up from 145) and too often — either by design or player instinct, or some combination thereof — the offense devolved into dump-and-chase mode at the first sign of resistance in the neutral zone. Murray must find a way to improve puck possession without sacrificing his defensive bread-and-butter and, perhaps most importantly, he must improve the power play.
Going forward: Winning games by scores of 4-3 might be more exciting than winning them 2-1, but it’s no more or less effective. To borrow a phrase, “sexy” hockey isn’t always the most-effective hockey. Murray’s challenge is to take this team to the next level and have it be a season-long contender for the division title. The Kings shouldn’t need a fantastic February just to make the playoffs. Murray also needs some help. He needs a motivated, in-shape Dustin Penner and, perhaps, some further help from Dean Lombardi to improve the team’s skill level.