Who says it's too early to make a coaching change? I say it's never too early.
I don’t have to say how tonight’s game went for the Los Angeles Kings. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Kings were just abysmal. I’m sorry for constantly returning to this but something has to change and, although most of the players should spread the blame for tonight’s showing, it’s who’s behind the bench that has to go.
I don’t know how many times I have to say this and, quite honestly, I’m getting sick of suggesting it because it seems to me that if general manager Dean Lombardi has any idea how bad his team was doing, this decision should have already been made. It’s simple: Terry Murray needs to go. Of course, if it makes Murray feel any better, assistant coach and power play specialist Jamie Kompon needs to be shown the door as well. I don’t know enough about what John Stevens does so I’ll leave his name out of the mess for the time being.
Terry Murray was a good coach for a rebuilding team who was slowly but surely finding their way back to respectability. Like his counterpart tonight, Tom Renney, Murray is good for coaching young, inexperienced teams. But now with the Los Angeles Kings referred to as either Stanley Cup contenders or a team on the precipice of being considered so, Murray’s window should have been closed already.
If the Kings were regularly winning, I would have to hold off my feelings about the veteran coach. Not only are the Kings losing but tonight they showcased a performance so bad that the thought of calling them a professional hockey club is laughable. Players like Anze Kopitar and Trevor Lewis were tripping over the ice, the players on the power play were too afraid to take a shot, there was no passion, players were all over the ice like they had no business being there, poor defense to say the least and what more is there to say? Does Dean Lombardi actually think this type of play is acceptable?
Let me rewind to the morning of October 23. The Kings were the hottest team in hockey with a 5-1-1 record. Not only that but Jonathan Quick was the league’s hottest goaltender, fresh off setting a franchise record with his third-straight shutout. Los Angeles had all the momentum in the world. Then, Terry Murray decides to shoot himself in the foot and start Jonathan Bernier for their next game, which was an uninspiring 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on the 25th. They were 5-1-1 before that game. After Murray’s gaffe, the Kings went 1-3-1. Not only that but Murray’s reasoning for the goaltending change was to give Bernier a chance and, at the same time, to give Quick some rest. Yet, Quick played both games of a back-to-back schedule last weekend. Care to explain that, anyone?
I suggested that Murray should be fired after his team’s loss to the Devils. Some suggested that it’s too much to fire a coach after one bad decision – or is it? This has happened before and I want to use an example that Dean Lombardi will truly appreciate as it involves the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, his most preferable fodder when talking about the progress of the Kings.
During the late stages of Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series, the Boston Red Sox were five outs away from a trip to the World Series and leading the Yankees 5-3 in New York. Boston ace Pedro Martinez was evidently tired. So, then-manager Grady Little went out to the mound to visit with Pedro. Pedro said he was fine so Little left him in the game. The next batter for the Yankees, Jorge Posada, drilled a line-drive to center field that drove in two runs and tied the game. Little then came out to take the ball from Pedro. The Red Sox ultimately lost the series in the 11th inning and the team’s dreaded 85-year curse was forced to continue.
That regular season, the Red Sox went 95-67 and won the American League Wild Card. It was a great season but championships aren’t won by what you do in the regular season. Little, to my surprise, was fired after the playoffs. Many thought the move was crazy but Boston then went out and hired Terry Francona as their manager and all the Red Sox did in 2004 was win their first World Series title since 1918.
So, if Dean Lombardi has the decency to pull his head out of his tokus, then he’ll see the state of his team under the tutelage of Terry Murray. Five years in Washington: nothing. Three years in Philadelphia: nothing. Three years in Florida: nothing. Who spiked Lombardi’s Kool-Aid that excessively that the GM actually has the gall to believe Murray can win anything in this league? Yes, two straight 46-win seasons but go back up a few lines when I say that championships aren’t won by what you do in the regular season. Lombardi says that just making the playoffs isn’t enough. Then prove it, Dean-O! Stop being such an irrational child by sitting on your hands while waiting for everything to miraculously work itself out.
The best teams all had to make coaching changes to get to that next level. The Penguins did it in 2008-09 before they won the Stanley Cup. Same thing goes for the Chicago Blackhawks the following the year. Although they didn’t win, the Philadelphia Flyers wouldn’t have fallen two games short of the Cup had they not hired Peter Laviolette to replace none other than current Kings’ assistant John Stevens. Oh, and let’s rewind to the early 90’s when the Detroit Red Wings started winning when it mattered after hiring Scotty Bowman to replace none other than Terry’s brother, Bryan.
Just a sidenote: if anyone thinks this is too harsh, then it's time to check into the reality of sports. When things go wrong with a team, the coach is usually the first to go. It may not always be justified or even fair but the case of Terry Murray is an exception in my mind. Disagree if you must but what benefit do the Los Angeles Kings have in keeping Murray?
Sure, there is the argument that there’s no one available (or so anyone thinks). But honestly, could the Kings do any worse with a new coach regardless of who it is?
I rest my case.
Photo: Courtesy of Sharkspage