Terry Murray was gracious enough to take a few minutes, from his (sometimes) offseason home in Maine, to chat about the Kings’ acquisition of Mike Richards. Murray was an assistant coach in Philadelphia when Richards broke into the NHL, and the player and coach spent three seasons together. Murray said that he had spoken to Richards this afternoon as well. Here are Murray’s thoughts on the move…
Question: You obviously have some solid familiarity with Richards. What were your thoughts about the trade?
MURRAY: “Well, from the time he was drafted, in the Flyers’ organization, I was there. And during the lockout year, he came in and played with the Phantoms in the American Hockey League and they won the championship that year when John (Stevens) was coaching. And I was with him the first couple years in Philadelphia. So I’m very familiar with who he is and what he is and how he can play. There are a lot of positive things. This is an incredible add to our hockey club. I’m very, very excited about it. You don’t want to lose anybody, to take anybody off your hockey club. Simmer has been a great trooper and a great player for us, and I wish him all the luck, but on the other side of it, with adding a guy like Mike Richards, this really helps us start to live up to our own expectations, of just moving on and becoming a real good team. He’s a proven, quality player, a quality guy. He’s a captain. It’s going to be a tremendous fit, I think, to our hockey club.”
Question: Are there any areas of the game, in particular, that stand in your mind when you think of ways that Richards might be able to improve the team?
MURRAY: “Mike Richards, from when he was drafted by the Flyers, you’re not just looking at where the skills are. You’re looking at the character, the intensity, the way he plays the game with such a high level of compete all the time. He’s got incredible determination and ability to rise up to the next level, in high-level competition. He finds a way to get it done. On the playing side of things, he gives you everything, as far as what you need as a coach, in my opinion, when it comes to playing in any situation. On special teams, he’s one of the best penalty-killers in the National Hockey League. His anticipation skills are second to none in the league, in my opinion. That’s just his shorthanded ability, not to mention scoring goals. He’s got all of the skills and abilities to play in every situation. He’s just a great add to the center position.”
Question: Talking about the center position, that one-two punch with Kopitar and Richards must make you smile a bit…
MURRAY: “Well, just the name Mike Richards gives me a smile [laughs]. I was sitting here this afternoon when I spoke with Hexy [Ron Hextall]. It caught me by surprise, because I hadn’t heard a lot about this. Whenever the name Mike Richards was coming my way, boy, I got excited, because I just know the ability that he brings and the determination. He’s a compete player. He’s a compete player and he’s a complete player, in every situation. That’s why he ended up with the `C’ on his sweater in Philadelphia. He just has the uncanny ability to grab situations and to lead the way and push through a lot of very difficult situations through the season. It gives us a great punch, as you mentioned, with Kopitar there as our No. 1 guy. Mike Richards now slides right into that situation, right behind Kopi. You literally have a 1A-1B kind of a situation. It’s very nice to have a coach.”
Question: Wayne Simmonds’ time with the Kings was so interesting. He sort of came out of nowhere to make the team, and then seemed to take a bit of a step backward last season. Are you able to put that in any kind of perspective?
MURRAY: “Everything was positive with me, with Simmer. This is a guy who, when I first got there, came out of the development camp in the summer time, stepped right into the training camp and competed and battled and fought. He was a very gritty and hard player to play against. It brought our attention, as coaches and management, to him in every game that he played in that training camp. That’s why he was a part of the L.A. Kings on opening night that first year, because of what he showed, the attitude that he showed, that he was going to make the team at all costs. `Whatever it is, I’m going to do it.’ That’s a great skill of Simmer. He showed us that he has that determination and that character to go out and get the job done. And I really think that his game improved tremendously during his time with the L.A. Kings, from being that surprise out of the training camp to where he is today. He’s a goal scorer. He can move up into a No. 1 line situation, in which I often used him with Kopi, and he played very well. He probably fit the best with Handzus on that right side. Very responsible against top lines. Played hard, played determined, played a gritty game and was always there to support his teammates. You know, if you’re going to add a good player, you’re going to have to give up good players. Everything that Wayne Simmonds did for me, as a coach, and for the organization, it’s only positive and we’re very grateful to have had the time together.”