I moved to Los Angeles in July of 2007, so I’ve followed the Kings from the inception of the Murray era. While I’ll shed no tears for the loss of Coach Murray, I don’t trumpet his departure with excessive joy either. Murray was the perfect coach for the Kings in the phase they were in, but unfortunately they’ve become something outside of his skillset; a contender. Murray is often spoken of as a “teaching coach”, the sort of interim guy who takes a team from raw bits to a legitimate threat night in, night out.
However, another coach will take over on an interim basis in John Stevens. I’m sure most Kings fans will agree with me when I say I hope he doesn’t become the full-time bench boss. No hate for Stevens either, but he’s too similar to Murray to garner any sort of significant change. No, the Kings have the personnel to play a certain variety of game that they just weren’t allowed to play with Murray.
When Murray arrived, the Kings were like the Ronin. Master-less soldiers who had no direction, no cohesiveness. He took over for Marc Crawford and inherited a burgeoning star in Kopitar, an offensively talented Alex Frolov, and a Captain in the making in Dustin Brown. Murray took the Kings from the basement to the top floor with his defense-first mentality and shed players who couldn’t cut the mustard under his watch, guys like Frolov and O’Sullivan. The Kings were at the top of the league in goals against and Quick blossomed as a starter.
Despite the Kings successes under Murray, they suffered their fair share of maddening defeats as well. Two first round playoffs exits. Several sustained losing streaks. The curious rise and fall of Drew Doughty’s play. While we can’t lump all of the blame onto Murray, it’s fairly clear that it is he that has plateau’d and the Kings players that have a bevy of potential waiting to emerge.
With an offensive lineup that boasts Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Dustin Brown, Simon Gagne, Justin Williams, and Dustin Penner the Kings should have no problem filling the net. That’s not the case and that’s why we are where we are. The task is now for Lombardi to find the right man for the job. The injection of offense will be on the forefront of his mind since Terry Murray hockey was neither enthralling the offense nor winning games.
Can the new coach get Doughty back into the Norris conversation? Can he get Dustin Penner back to form? Can he maintain the defensive discipline that got the Kings here, but also insert some offense?
In the meantime, the Kings need to staunch the bleeding and stay in a position to make the playoffs once the coaching switch happens. Finding the right coach is a process that Lombardi cannot and should not rush. And knowing how meticulous he is, he won’t rush.
About the Author
Written by Eric Cooney
Eric Cooney was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina, and lives in Los Angeles, CA. He shares his thoughts on the NHL as one man who is a northerner, southerner, east coaster, and west coaster. Follow him on Twitter @EricCooney