Terry Murray broke his silence today with an interview on SiriusXM’s “Power Play’’ show, with hosts Scott Laughlin and Jim Ralph. Murray, fired on Dec. 12 and eventually replaced by Darryl Sutter, gave his thoughts on his firing, the Kings and today’s NHL game…
Question: Give us a sense of what about the last couple weeks have been like for you…
MURRAY: “[laughs] Well, it’s never fun, whenever you get let go from your job. It was a surprise for me. I was very disappointed and probably still am disappointed about the way things went at the end of the day. I was very happy with what was going on in L.A., as far as going out there and working with the young hockey club, a team that’s still one of the youngest in the National Hockey League. In my opinion, the team has come a long way in the time (since) I started out there. I’m watching them closely, and I’m hoping that things continue to go well for them.’’
Question: Since the draft last year, 13 coaching changes in the NHL. Do you remember any cycle like this since you started coaching?
MURRAY: “I really don’t remember a high number of coaches being fired, like it is this year. Just chatting with (producer) Josh Rimer before we came on the air, he pointed out to me that there were a couple years when it was higher, but it’s incredible. The parity, the line is so fine out there today, and the expectations are high. The salaries are high. It puts a lot of pressure on everybody. I think, as a veteran hockey club, you probably can deal with it a lot easier and a lot better than young hockey clubs. That’s where you have to have the patience and just go through the process of dealing with those high expectations. At the end of the day, things will work out, but man, the line is so fine. One bad bounce, one penalty kill, one power play, so many things can make a difference in the game today.’’
Question: You mentioned the salary cap and players making X amount of dollars. They’ve got no-movement clauses. When you go back to the start of your coaching career, to now, is it more difficult because you’ve got fewer tools to use threats with players?
MURRAY: “It has changed dramatically, since the time I started, just because of the stuff you’re talking about. Years ago, if there was a player who slipped for five or six games, and not performing well or not scoring, the minors was the option that every team used. You were sent down for a couple weeks, or longer, and were able to regain his confidence. That’s a big change in where the game is today. Now you’ve got to work through a lot of issues. The confidence is a big part of the game today. The expectations, as I mentioned earlier, are huge, not only from teams’ point of view but from the individuals, and that’s just a part of the process.
“On the other side of it, today, I believe we have better hockey players. The players are better-prepared to play in the NHL. They’re coming out of junior and guys are stepping in and having huge impacts on the game, and that’s because of the process that they’re going through in their development, with playing year-round, going to World Juniors, experiencing different levels of play and playing in different countries. It just prepares them so well for the NHL. Then, as you get into maybe your second or third year, inevitably there’s going to be a time where you’re going to hit a wall and you’re going to have a tough time breaking through. That’s where you have to show a lot of patience, as an organization, and you have to deal with the consequences, obviously, and hopefully you can break through quickly.’’
Question: Dean Lombardi said, years ago, when you took over and he came aboard, that he was building from the goaltender out, to be a better defensive team. Quickly, you and Dean had success together, in transforming the Kings into a top-flight defensive team. How frustrating was it to get the team to score more? Even Darryl Sutter, right now, is not able to get this team to score like we thought you could…
MURRAY: “That’s one of the hard things in the league to do today, is score goals. You take a look at the standings today, and there are 19 teams that are `minus’ teams in the NHL. I watch my brother’s team there in Ottawa, and as many goals as they score — they’re one of the top-scoring teams in the league — they’re still a minus team. So it’s a fine line, again, to bring it all together. Some teams can score. Other teams are not very good in the checking part of it, and they end up being a minus team, or vice versa. You can be a good defensive team and not be able to get it done on the offensive part of it. But I think, as you go through that whole process, it’s just time. You’ve got to have that kind of patience with your young hockey team, those core guys that are going to be there for an extended period of time, to bring it all together, to become a mature group of players. To be a real good team in the league, you have to be a high plus team.
“Again, the scoring for L.A. is starting to come. They’re starting to get timely goals. That was something that I just couldn’t get it going. The power play didn’t click. In any given game, if we had just been able to score one or two power-play goals, it would have been a `W’ and I’d still be coaching the team. It was that fine of a line. It’s just a young group of guys in L.A. right now that have to get themselves healthy and get some real good confidence in themselves, and it will come together. It’s a great group, a great leadership group. It’s a very strong dressing room. I really like what’s gone on there, during my time there, and they’re just continuing to build on it. I think that the L.A. Kings could become a team to reckon with as they move through the rest of this year.’’
Question: Would you like to coach again? You’ve got a milestone (500 wins) ahead of you and you’ve had a good career. What about the future?
MURRAY: “I’m a hockey coach, and that’s what I’ve been doing every year, through my post-playing days, and that’s what I want to stay with. It’s coming to the end of my time as a coach in the NHL, and I understand that, but I’d sure like to give it one more shot someplace, and see if I could get something in place. I take a lot of pride in being able to build a team and put a solid defensive game in place. I also feel that, on the offensive part, that I could get that side of it going. So I would be very excited to get another opportunity to coach in the NHL. It’s the greatest league in the world, the greatest sport in the world. I had a great time in L.A. and all the places that I coached, and I’d sure like to finish it off on my own terms and get one more chance.’’
Before Murray’s interview, Kings president of business operations Luc Robitaille also joined the “Power Play’’ show. Robitaille talked about his “Celebrity Shootout’’ charity event, to be held Jan. 22 in Park City, Utah — more information here — and talked about the Kings’ play under Sutter
ROBITAILLE: “We weren’t playing that before. It’s just that we weren’t winning. At the end of the day, unfortunately, in sports you’ve got to win. The expectations are really high in our organization. When you’re losing games 1-0 or 2-1, you know you’re right there. What happens is, who knows what it is, but a couple guys pick up confidence with a different voice, a different speech maybe. We’re not playing, necessarily, that much different, but you can clearly tell that a couple guys have picked up confidence. Sometimes you get a cheap assist or cheap goal, and next thing you know, you see the play so much bigger and it just happens. It was unfortunate for Terry, because that’s just the way it is sometimes. That’s just the way it is in sports. Darryl is coming in and we’re finding ways to win, where we weren’t finding ways earlier. That’s basically the difference.’’