It was difficult for Terry Murray to sit back and watch the Los Angeles Kings win the Stanley Cup.
On the one hand, he was thrilled for a great collection of players whom he coached for the parts of four seasons he was the bench boss in L.A.
On the other hand though, it was difficult to see them hoist the trophy without his presence. After all, he did coach those Kings for the first 29 games of last season before he was let go.
In a move that was more about stirring the Kings players out of their early season doldrums, Murray was replaced by Darryl Sutter, who went on to lead the Kings to an unexpected championship run as the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed.
But that is far from an indicator that Murray isn’t a top quality NHL-caliber coach.
He’s been a head coach in the NHL for 1,012 games compiling a record of 499-383-89-41 and his teams have reached the playoffs in 11 of the 13 seasons he finished as a coach. He also reached the Final once – in 1997 as coach of the Flyers.
To go along with that impressive record, Murray, who turns 62 Friday, spent nine seasons as an NHL assistant coach, more evidence that hockey people believe Murray has a lot to offer a team.
It wouldn’t have surprised if Murray looked to latch on with another NHL team after being let go by the Kings.
Instead, he returned home… again.
For the fifth time in his 42-year professional hockey career, Murray is back in the Flyers organization, this time as head coach of the AHL affiliate Adirondack Phantoms.
“I’ll always remember coming to the Flyers organization from the [California] Seals,” Murray said Sunday after watching the conclusion of the Flyers prospect development camp. “I was grateful I got drafted by the Seals but they were clearly a team with no success. Coming to the Flyers, a team that had just won two Stanley Cups, and coming into that camp, the players and the people around the team welcomed me and made me feel comfortable.
“The coaching staff spent time with me, and talked to me and were helpful to me to make me a better hockey player. I’ll always remember that. That’s why I want to give something back now to this organization. I wouldn’t do this for any other team in the league. This is the Philadelphia Flyers and it’s only because of them that I am here today working with the minor league team. I want to help the young players and develop that blood line that is so important to this organization.”
After Murray first arrived in Philly, He played a few seasons in the organization before being traded to the Detroit Red Wings in February, 1977 (along with Steve Coates, Bob Ritchie and Dave Kelly) for Mike Korney and Rick LaPointe.
The Flyers re-acquired him from the Red Wings in November of that year in exchange for cash considerations and he stayed with the team until he was claimed by the Capitals in the 1981 waiver draft.
The 1981-82 season was his last as a player, and he immediately got into the coaching ranks, working as an assistant for the Capitals for five seasons.
His first head-coaching job came in 1988 when he was handed the reins of the Baltimore Skipjacks, the Capitals AHL affiliate at the time. He lasted just one-and-one-half seasons in the AHL before getting the call to coach the Capitals.
He hasn’t coached in the AHL since… until now.
“It’s going to be a great challenge,” said Murray, who except for a brief, 28-game stint with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the IHL in 1994, has been coaching or scouting at the NHL level for the last 24 years. “The young kids are such an important part of any organization right now. You have to get to them and bring them into the culture and mold them the right way to play the style of game the organization wants.
“There are so many young players in the NHL that are a little bit better, but the same age, and they need to learn a lot of the same things – how to be good pros and do things the right way every day. I’m going to approach coaching the Phantoms the same as if it were an NHL team because that’s the kind of attention that’s needed today.”
Part of that process will be teaching the affiliate players to play within the same system that is being used at the NHL level.
“The consistency within the organization is very important and that’s something that Peter [Laviolette] and I have to sit down and discuss later this summer so that we’re on the same page. That way when there are call-ups – and there will be – the kid is comfortable and instinctive in his game and not hesitant thinking what he should do in a particular situation. “
One other person that Murray will have to work with in close concert is Ian Laperriere, the newly minted director of player development for the Flyers.
“We’re going to have to have a relationship that begins now and we’ll have to work at it real hard to make sure we are in line with each other,” Murray said. “He’s bringing information from the organization. He’s the liaison from management to Glens Falls. We’re going to be spending a lot of time in conversation coming up with ideas on how to push these players to become NHL-ready as soon as possible.
While Murray will be a great asset at the AHL-level for the Flyers, long-term his goal remains to return to coaching in the NHL some day.
“I’m a coach and I always want to be in the NHL because that’s where it’s at,” he said. “But, I’ve had more than 3,000 games in the NHL, so this is exciting for me. It’s about teaching. It’s about working with young people and a way for me to finally give back.”