Here’s the media conference call Dean Lombardi held today, after the firing of Terry Murray…
Question: What is your timeline on hiring a full-time coach, and are you looking at John Stevens to fill that role?
LOMBARDI: “There’s no timeline right now. We’re looking at all our options.’’
Question: Can you talk about how hard it was to fire Terry?
LOMBARDI: “I don’t think words can ever describe how hard something like this is. You’re talking about, first off, a really good man. As far as a coach, if you look at what he’s done for us, he really stabilized this franchise, pointed it in the right direction. He taught these players a lot. When they look back, they’re going to realize they learned a lot from him. The team got younger and got better under him. He did a lot for this franchise.’’
Question: Can you describe what your message was to the players?
LOMBARDI: “It’s simple. It’s sounds cliche-ish, but it’s true. The message is, they’re accountable. Unfortunately, the coach has to pay the price, but make no mistake, they’re the ones who are accountable for this.’’
Question: In terms of John maybe being able to coax more offense out of this lineup, have you had a chance to even talk to John about how he moves forward?
LOMBARDI: “Not in much detail. Obviously in these things, the most important thing before talking (to the media) was trying to handle it professionally with Murphy, and secondly deal with the players. We’ll talk to Johnny later today and tomorrow.’’
Question: What was the final straw, or was there one final straw that led you to decide this had to be done now?
LOMBARDI: “It doesn’t hit you like a ton of bricks. I think it’s something that kind of builds up. We hadn’t been playing up to the expectations of this team. The last homestand was kind of like the end of it, but you’re constantly evaluating everything, whether it’s coaches or players or how they’re responding. So I don’t think you can say it’s one glaring moment. It just kind of builds up.’’
Question: When did you make up your mind, and when did you notify Terry?
LOMBARDI: “I think it’s probably safe to say that we reached the point where we had to make this decision yesterday. I flew out early this morning and went right to Murph’s room, so it was around 4 o’clock.’’
Question: Does this have something to do with the fact that some of your younger players, Doughty and such, have been underperforming this year? Do you think that was a coaching thing, and that they need to hear a different voice?
LOMBARDI: “Obviously, you’re thinking that’s part of the solution, but in the end it still comes down to the player getting his focus and being the best he can be. With young players today, this is the challenge. But I don’t think it’s just the young players. I think it’s been right across the board. So I’m not just pinning some of the performance of the younger players, in getting to the next level. They are trying to reach their potential, and there are always stumbling blocks along the road to reaching their utmost. But then you have players with a specific m.o. who have had a cetain level of success in this league. Players who are establishing themselves are going to have certain ups and downs, but they should have an idea of where they’ve been in the past. I don’t think we have any guys who you would consider old, or on the down side. So it’s collective. You just highlighted the young players, but I think the young player presents a different challenge for the coach today, in terms of getting to them. It’s so difficult, with all the things they have, to get to where they need to be, and it’s a process. I’ve been through this before. I saw it with Marleau, Stuart and Nabokov, but it’s collectively across the board here. You can’t just say it’s the young players. The Stolls, the Williams, the Greenes, the Browns, certainly have to look at themselves as much as the young players.’’
Question: After St. Louis made its change, it completely turned things around for them. Do you think, with the group you have, that such a turnaround is possible?
LOMBARDI: “I think it’s possible, but in the end it comes down to the players. I don’t think you’re going to do this unless you think you’re going to get some improvement. Sometimes it has an impact, like in that case. There’s different degrees. I think every situation is different, though, in terms of the impact of the new coach, in terms of the fit at that point of the franchise. And every franchise, don’t forget, has different levels of expectations. This team came in with a very high level of expectation, so that puts a different perspective in your room, particularly when you’ve got younger players leading that group. So it’s unique here, in the sense that you have the youngest core in the league and you’re counting on these young players. But again, these established players have to step up here. To answer your question, I think every situation is unique, but why else, in any sport, would you make this change unless you’re hoping for improvement?’’
Question: Over the years, you’ve spoken very highly of Darryl Sutter. Is he someone you would reach out to?
LOMBARDI: “Like I said, there’s no timeline and we’re looking at all our options. Right now, I think that’s as far as I can comment.’’
Question: How do you go about this? Do you have a short list in mind, or do you look at one specific individual?
LOMBARDI: “I think it’s fair to say, when you’re in this situation, it’s a very short list. When you’re with your team, right in the middle of the fray, I think you have a decent idea of what your team (needs) to get jump-started. So, the list is pretty short.’’
Question: Looking at the changes in Washington in Anaheim, the former coaches said they had tried everything, even strayed from their usual approach. Can you talk about Terry’s approach? Did he try everything?
LOMBARDI: “I can tell you one thing for sure. This was one of the hardest-working coaches that I’ve ever been exposed to, in terms of his commitment to the game and always searching for ways to get better. The other thing, too, is, even last year, we had some sketchy periods there, as we certainly have had this year, but this year the expectations are even higher, so it gets dicier. He never quit, and that’s not his nature. I’m sure, like every coach, he gets frustrated, but his work ethic and his focus never changed. Having to meet with him today, these are never pleasant but this one was particularly hard, given the man he is and knowing how hard he tried. Even seeing him today, I had to talk to him while he was at work, and that’s just Murph. Like I said, in terms of him trying everything, within this time frame he never stopped trying.’’
Question: Can you elaborate on what his reaction was when you told him?
LOMBARDI: “It wasn’t easy for both of us. I have such respect for the man. If this was just a business relationship — we always use this cliche that, `This is business,’ but this was more than business. This goes beyond that. It’s always difficult, even if you’re using the business approach. There’s a very good man here, and nobody likes to be the bearer of this type of news.’’
Question: Recently, Terry has talked about being happy with the team’s effort. Did you see it that way?
LOMBARDI: “He’s in the line of fire there. You never see exactly what your coach sees, but for the most part, I think it’s safe to say that with the expectations this year, it becomes more result-orientated. I guess, again, this goes back to (a previous) question. Every situation is different, and the challenge for a coach, as well as players, when you have expectations it’s driven more to results. It’s harder, at times, to look for those victories within losses. That’s just the state of the franchise right now. You could look for more of those things three years ago, but we’re trying to push to the next level. And it isn’t easy. It’s a lot easier playing with the house’s money. So I think, to answer your question, you’re never going to see things exactly (the same) but I do think we’re at the stage of the franchise where you’re going to be judged on wins and losses and playoff rounds. And that’s where you strive to be. It’s a lot easier when there’s no expectations, and with every win you can get a parade. We’re not there right now, so it comes down to wins and losses.’’