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Iced Coffey

Murray the latest fall guy in hockey

Since the 2010-11 season ended, 11 NHL coaches have lost their jobs, with Terry Murray the unlucky 11th, getting the news that the Los Angeles Kings had changed the locks in the offices Monday.

When the news came down, you heard the usual platitudes tossed around when a respected professional like Murray takes the fall.

“It’s not his fault.”

“You can’t fire the players.”

“More was expected of the team.”

But the bottom line is—deserved or not—Murray paid the price for a disappointing season in Los Angeles, where the Kings’ offense has sputtered and the clubs sits at a pedestrian 13-12-4 record. But consider that the Kings hadn’t been to the playoffs for eight seasons before Murray took over and got Los Angeles into the postseason the last two seasons.Murray’s winning percentage with the Kings was .560.Overall, Murray was 139-106-30 with the Kings after taking over in 2008. The Kings won 46 games in each of the last two seasons, but also were ousted in the first round of the playoffs. Murray needed just one more win to 500 in his career, but Lombardi figured that milestone wasn’t going to come with the Kings anytime soon.

“Ultimately, the message is that they’re accountable,” GM Dean Lombardi said. “Unfortunately, the coach has to pay the price, but make no mistake, they’re the ones who are accountable for this.”

Culprits? The list is a long one.

• Justin Williams (4 goals in 29 games)
• Dustin Penner (5 points in 18 games)
• Dustin Brown (5 goals in 29 games)
• Brad Richardson (2 points in 20 games)
• Jarret Stoll (2 goals in 29 games)
• Drew Doughty (8 points and a minus-4 in 24 games).

“We hadn’t been playing up to the expectations of this team, and I think the last homestand was the end of it,” Lombardi said. “You’re constantly evaluating everything. I don’t think you can say (there was) one glaring moment. It just kind of builds up.

“When you have expectations, it’s driven more towards results,” Lombardi told the Associated Press. “It’s harder at times to look for those victories within losses, and it’s just the state of the franchise right now. You can look for more of those things three years ago, but we’re trying to push to that next level, and it isn’t easy. It’s a lot easier playing with the house’s money. We’re at the stage where you’re going to be judged on wins and losses and playoff success.”

Those expectations were raised when Lombardi added Mike Richards and Simon Gagne in the off-season. Still the goals haven’t come. Los Angeles has scored just 65 goals so far this season and only 13 goals in the last eight games. Now it’s up to John Stevens to find the answers. Maybe the new voice will grab the players’ attention. 

Sid’s taking it slow—Anyone who thought Sidney Crosby’s return from a concussion was going to be full-speed ahead was kidding themselves. Concussions are nasty business and have that annoying habit of coming back to visit time and again. On Monday Crosby said he was feeling concussion-like symptoms and was taking some time off. Tests didn’t show a concussion, but Crosby has become quite the expert on what it feels like to feel bad.

Crosby said he developed a headache after a loss to the Boston Bruins last week.

“I ended up skating the following day after with a little bit exertion and it just didn’t feel right,” Crosby told the Associated Press. “After kind of talking with everyone it was better to be cautious here and not take any chances.”

Especially after all Crosby has experienced. The vast majority of last season was scuttled by a concussion and Crosby’s future was by no means certain this summer.

Crosby underwent testing last Wednesday, which didn’t show a new problem. But the symptoms reared their ugly head over the weekend, so plans are on hold.

Optimistically, Crosby said he doesn’t feel “bad,” just “off.” Compared to the initial problems, he isn’t anywhere near that level. But that doesn’t put him anywhere near the ice either.

“It’s kind of that whole routine again, but hopefully not as long,”  Crosby said. “That’s something where when I wasn’t doing something for 6-7 months, that process is a little longer. Hopefully that’s not the case here.”

Crosby refused to call the situation frustrating. It’s more a case of an ounce of prevention beating a pound of cure.

“I don’t think frustrating, that even describes it,” he said. “It’s not fun but I look at my ImPACT (test), I look at some of that stuff and I’m way better off than I was dealing with this stuff 10 months ago or whenever it was.”

Poof! Kaberle’s gone—Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford could have a second career as a magician based on his ability to make Tomas Kaberle and his bloated contract disappear. Getting Montreal Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier to take Kaberle and his three-year contract that totals $12.75 million for free-agent-to-be Jaroslav Spacek was a thing of beauty for Canes fans, who now must be wondering what Rutherford saw in Kaberle to begin with.

Hiring your replacement—In Columbus, GM Scott Howson is a brave man in hiring Craig Patrick as a consultant. With the Blue Jackets still among the NHL’s cellar dwellers, the seat under Howson hasn’t exactly cooled. So, adding Patrick, who has a pretty successful resume, may well give Columbus ownership a ready landing pad if a change is deemed necessary.

Patrick is 65 now and may not be a long-term solution for the Blue Jackets, but he could be a caretaker—a la Cliff Fletcher prior to Brian Burke in Toronto.

Feel better, Dale—The Florida Panthers have been an interesting success story this season and you would hope GM Dale Tallon get to enjoy the ride. But as anyone who has ever suffered through a kidney stone can attest, an attack of the little blighters can distract you from anything—good or bad.

While in Boston last week, Tallon had to head to the hospital because of a kidney stone.

“Disease of the Irish … it’s not the first time,” Tallon joked with the media. “Usually I can pass the stones, but I’ve had three surgeries before this. What’s the kidney stone pain like? Worse than a hip dislocation or a broken leg.”

As one who has had bouts with stones, Tallon is absolutely right!

Filed in: | Iced Coffey | Permalink
  Tags: los+angeles+kings, nhl+talk

Comments

SYF's avatar

Everyone knows Neil Smith is a better GM than Scott Howson will ever be.  It was Smith who drafted Lidstrom and Konstantinov for the Wings.

Jeebus, how the heck does he ever slip under everyone’s radar…

Posted by SYF from The Revenge of Johnny E on 12/13/11 at 02:48 AM ET

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About Iced Coffey

Phil Coffey has covered the NHL since 1981, most recently as the Senior Editorial Director of NHL.com. He spent over 11 years there.