On Wednesday January 4th, The NHL conducted a media conference call with Kings head coach Andy Murray. Check out the transcript from yesterdays call.
DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon with the National Hockey League's public relations department, and I'd like to welcome you to today's call. Our guest is Los Angeles Kings head coach Andy Murray. Thanks to Andy for taking time today to answer your questions, and thanks to Mike Altieri of the Kings for arranging this call.
Hired in June of 1999, Murray is the Kings' all-time leader among coaches in games with 452 and wins with 204. Among current coaches, only Lindy Ruff in Buffalo, Pat Quinn in Toronto, Barry Trotz in Nashville and Marc Crawford in Vancouver have longer tenure with their current team than Andy has with the Kings. The Kings currently sit first in the Pacific Division, second in the Western Conference and are tied for fourth overall in the National Hockey League. With 54 points (26-14-2), they are 8-1-1 in their past 10 games and boast the NHL's current Defensive Player of the Month in goaltender Mathieu Garon and ninth leading scorer in the League, Pavol Demitra. Los Angeles hosts Phoenix tomorrow night at STAPLES Center before heading out on a four-game road trip that will take them to San Jose, Anaheim, Boston and Buffalo. Again, we thank Andy for taking the time to join us today and answer your questions.
Q. Your team is very exciting to watch this year, lots of goals scored. With that in mind, does the goals-against concern you going into the second half of the season, or do you just love the way your team is playing right now?
ANDY MURRAY: Well, I think you always generate offense by playing good defense. I actually don't think our goals against is that bad. Certainly, having Mathieu playing net for us, his play has dramatically improved over the course of the season, so that's a positive outlook for us.
But we continue to stress the forechecking, aggressive-type game, and we think that when you have the puck and you're forcing the other team to play in their zone that you're going to be better defensively and obviously get more scoring chances. We play an attacking-style hockey, and we think our fans enjoy that, that's what they expect of us and I think that's the way the game should be played.
It's a battle every night. We've played 42 games right now, and we know we've got a lot of tough games left.
Q. The health of your team, are you going to get Aaron Miller back and Val Bure, do you expect to have them back in the next month or so or sometime around the Olympics?
ANDY MURRAY: I'd like to think that we might get Aaron Miller back before that. With Val Bure, it's very difficult to say. Obviously he has not played any games for us at all this year. We would certainly like to get them back, and we'd like to have about eight or nine guys back for tomorrow night's game as well, but I don't know if that's going to happen.
We've been hit by that injury bug again. They are injuries that happen during the course of the game. They are strains, you know, Jeremy (Roenick) blocking a shot with his finger in his best game of the year in Vancouver that just seem to be unavoidable.
Q. How important, this might sound like an obvious question, or how pleased are you about the play of your goaltender Mathieu Garon and was that an area, goaltending, that you were a little concerned about in the preseason?
ANDY MURRAY: We were concerned about a lot of things before the season started, because you first of all didn't know how your team was going to adapt to the new rules, how the new rules were going to be interpreted by the referees. We had so many new players, we didn't know what our chemistry would be like on our team. We had two goaltenders that I had never really seen play live other than the one game that Mathieu played against us in Montreal here a couple of years ago -- or pardon me, with Montreal a couple of years ago in L.A.
To be very honest with you and something that's forgotten here is the start that Jason (LaBarbera) gave us at the start of the year was a big impetus and really helped us get off to a solid start, and in some ways, I think really pushed Mathieu a little bit in the background and Mathieu was determined to get his games in. When Jason had to leave for some unfortunate family reasons, Mathieu really stepped up.
I would agree with you, it was an unknown. Our scouts told us that they were good goaltenders and they would be able to come in and play well. I've been told that you believe what your scouts tell you. We were optimistic but didn't really know. So it certainly, it's been gratifying, the way that both of our goalies have played.
Q. I know that when you were in Edmonton on the 23rd of December, your power play at that time was struggling, I know that, and it was a tough go, as well. What do you see out of your power play, what has to get better?
ANDY MURRAY: Well, I think it has gotten better lately. Mattias Norstrom would probably tell you it's because we've put him on the power play and he's prepared to shoot the puck.
It's fun kind of funny, putting Norstrom on our power play who is not really noted as a power play guy, he's kind of sparked our other guys because all he is doing is he is getting the puck and shooting it right away and gives us opportunities on rebounds. And so I think that's kind of conveyed a message to the rest of players that wanted to play that finesse-type power play that really you don't get very many goals scoring that way.
So that was a dramatic game in Edmonton and one that we were just terrible at on the power play and it ended up costing us the hockey game where we could have had a two-goal lead in the third period with a two-man advantage.
I think it's simplifying it, and it sounds like a cliche, but let's just play shot-and-rebound hockey and try to make sure we get somebody in front the net obscuring the goaltender's view. I have to say, of late, our power play has been a lot better.
Q. What do think are the key reasons for Demitra and (Craig) Conroy's success so far, both individually and together, and what made you think they would work out well together on the line?
ANDY MURRAY: I think the first thing is that they are both good hockey players. Pavol Demitra is a proven p oint producer in the National Hockey League. He's the kind of guy that should be able to get you 70, 80 points a year, and he did that at St. Louis. So he's set a standard of himself, so that's what we should have expected for us.
And Craig, certainly his personality, he's a positive guy, he's a high-energy guy and he's been a real glue player on our team. He didn't score that many goals two years ago with Calgary. And probably if you looked at our team this year I think people thought that Jeremy Roenick would be our No. 1 center and either Derek Armstrong or Craig Conroy would be our second line center. I think that's what happened now with J.R. hurt and not being on top of his game early in the year, Craig got on opportunity.
And we thought that from the outset that Pavol would be a good fit there with Craig because Pavol is real smart and goes to the net hard and handles the puck well. We felt that the two of them would be a good combination, and we had them together all training camp and they have played basically -- well, they have played the whole season thus far together.
Q. One thing I've noticed, your team has continued to play, what do you call it, a two-on-two or pressure forecheck, sort of that pressure game. I've spoken to a couple of other coaches today, and some of them have noticed that some of you have stayed with that, the pressure forecheck, but other teams have reverted back to the old 1-2-2 as the season has gone by as they have adjusted to the new NHL. Have you noticed that as you're breaking down the opposition? And one team I'm thinking of is Anaheim; it's helped them win more games lately.
ANDY MURRAY: I don't know what all those numbers mean, 1-2-2 or whatever. Our idea is shoot the puck up the ice and make sure we've got strong support and we play above the puck.
I don't know, I think the teams that always played aggressive like Edmonton and Calgary and so on, they are still playing that way. I think some of the other teams have played a bit more of a patient game are playing that way.
I haven't seen a trend throughout the year. I just think it's the character and the profile of your team. We have always tried to be an aggressive forechecking team here because we think that if you're playing in the other team's end, it's a lot further for them to go to get one in your end.
So I don't know if I had seen a certain team's backing off, I watch a lot of games out here being able to watch the games early in the day on the East Coast. But I haven't noticed that, and maybe it's more on the East side. Again, with the schedule the way it is, we don't see those teams all that often. But I think the teams that we're playing in the West for the most part, they are playing the kind of game they have always played, Vancouver plays a similar game to us and Edmonton comes at us. Randy (Carlyle) has got Anaheim playing real aggressive, and Dave Tippett in Dallas does the same thing.
So I think in the West here, teams are playing kind of the way they have always played.
Q. Not to bore anyone on the call here, but because of all of the international hockey you've also coached, what would be the point of trapping with no red line? And I know a lot of European teams do it, but if you're giving up the red line, I've never understood, maybe you can explain this to me, why you would trap and give up the red line, because all the team with the puck ha s to do is jump it in.
ANDY MURRAY: I think what the guys try to do that run a good trap here, they try to trap you before the red line so that they force you into situations where you organize the puck or where you can't make possession plays into the zone.
You know, I just find that when you play that defensive style of hockey, you're back on your heels and I think maybe we call it the pioneer spirit in Canada in the way that our country was settled and so on that we are -- we go for it and that's what we're made of and that's the only way that I've ever known how to play and coach. So you try to stick to your philosophy.
I think that the good traps, they try to do it before the red line, but I still think that when you're playing that way, you're telling your team that we've got to play defensive. And in our mindset here, no matter who we've got in the lineup, is that we've got a way to play and we're going to go after teams, and if our lineup is not the normal one where we have as good of players, it's even more important that we get after the other team and give them less time.
Q. What's been the key variable or variables of the Kings' recent success through all of the injuries to key players?
ANDY MURRAY: Well, to be very honest with you, I think it's the fact that we spend a lot of time working with our players and our organization. I look at Noah Clarke, who we just called up for the last game, and Noah, I think he's been in about five or our summer development camps when he was going to college. We always bring our college guys in, our junior players and he's played a couple of years for our team in Manchester and he's been to some of our rookie camps.
We have not changed our philosophy for seven years here. We have a way that we play that we believe in. We don't vary whether we win or lose. I think what you do when you change your system every game or you change your lines every game, you end up making excuses for your players and that it was the system that was wrong or the line combinations that were wrong. In reality it's normally a lack of commitment or a lack of accountability on the part of the players. That's not shirking any responsibility as a coach, but my responsibility I think is to keep things fairly consistent and just demand the best from them every night, because by getting best for them, I know it's the best for them as individuals, as well.
So I think we've stayed fairly consistent in our approach. We play the same system in Manchester, Bruce Boudreau coached there for seven years there and coached the way we like to coach up here. And now that Jim Hughes is here, he's doing the same thing.
So it's kind of fun when we bring our guys up and just go over our system with us, they get a smile on their face because they know what we are talking about.
Q. When he was with the Blues, Demitra was known to disappear in the playoffs. What message do you think you can give him to inspire him for the playoffs?
ANDY MURRAY: Well, speaking as a team that has not been in the playoffs for a couple of years, we want to have that opportunity to see how he plays in the playoffs. You know, that's the first task that we've got here is to make sure that we're a playoff team. Doesn't matter where we're sitting right now is we've got so many tough games ahead of us, we're not taking anyt hing for granted.
We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. And really right now, with the parity that we have got in the National Hockey League, I think the games are more intense than I've seen in my seven years with the Kings organization, and every night is a battle. And I mean, there are a lot of playoff atmosphere situations. Our back-to-back games with Dallas this past weekend were just so much intensity, so much physicality, the building was so electric; I think it was a lot like playoff hockey, and Pavol Demitra played very well in those games.
Our first thing is get to the playoffs and we'll see how he plays.
Q. In your opinion why would a marquee player like that who played so well during the regular season disappear in the playoffs and just -- from your perspective?
ANDY MURRAY: I don't really know because I wasn't even worried about the St. Louis Blues the last few years. I'm only concerned about how Pavol Demitra plays for us. I wouldn't know why he wouldn't perform as well and I never talked to him about it, don't plan to talk to him about it until we get to that particular environment ourselves.
Q. I'm doing a story on Jeff Giuliano who has some local connections in New Hampshire most recently with the (AHL Manchester) Monarchs, he has been up and down early sometimes this year, how has he developed since he's been with you guys consistently for the last few weeks?
ANDY MURRAY: He's one of those obviously feel-good stories that you have as a coach. And you know, Jerry York of Boston College who knows a lot about the game and a lot about people talked about him as being the best captain he's ever had in his college hockey years. Dave Taylor may not agree with that because he played for Jerry at Clarkson, but he really liked Jeff. And Jeff was signed to an East Coast League contract, played in Reading and didn't get even an L-deal until this year with our organization. But we just appreciated how hard he worked, and he came into training camp this year and played very well in training camp.
You know what we try to do is we told the players who were the last guys to go down this year that if they went down there and played well, they would be the first guys called back up. What we try to do when we call players up, we don't just call up the guys that getting the most points or whatever. We talk to our coaches down there and we bring up players to fill specific roles. We're not going to bring up a first-line player to play him on our stopper unit or our energy unit. We're going to put him into the slot that he's familiar with to give him a chance to be successful when he comes up, and that's what we did with Jeff. Jeff is a hard-working stopper or energy line player and he's done that exactly with us.
We've sat here a lot of nights watching video and just amazed at his work ethic and determination and just hoping that it rubs off on a few of our other players. He's an inspiration to watch play the game. And the big thing for him is to make sure that he plays at that level all the time, because I don't think Jeff could be an effective player because of his skill set unless he played as hard as he possibly could. He's done that on a nightly basis and certainly won this coaching staff over.
Q. Did he show any sort of discouragement when he was going back and forth against -- the term he u ses, kind of the yo-yo guy? Did that affect his play at all?
ANDY MURRAY: That's good, I'll have to call him the yo-yo guy. No, he didn't. Coming from where Jeff was, he's probably in a situation where to get one National Hockey League game in or an exhibition game in which he was able to get in the fall in training camp was probably a real experience for him.
I think the players in our organization realize that if they play hard down there and they are working - and reading an article on (Manchester Monarchs center) Connor James the other day in the paper - I think our players realize that we are not trading for players when we have injuries. We're rewarding young players within our organization, and Jeff is a pretty good example of that. I think whether he's the yo-yo man or whatever, he's been a National Hockey League player so far in his career and that's just outstanding.
Q. Is the NHL finally turning the corner in that they are going to let coaches coach from the start of the season to the end of the season, unlike the NFL in firing all of its coaches? Are they a little more patient now? You've been around seven years and they mentioned a lot of other coaches that have been with other teams for a while. And the other question I have for you is they have a very good trainer in Los Angeles in Peter Demers, yet you have a lot of injuries. As a coach, do you just expect that you're going to lose a couple hundred man games every year and suck it up?
ANDY MURRAY: The first question on the coaches, I think it's -- I've never, ever felt secure in the coaching profession, and at this level or whether I was coaching a national team or whatever, I think you're judged on your nightly performance. So it pushes me all the time because I don't want to be -- I've got lots of friends back home in Souris, Manitoba and places like that that I feel are living just a little bit through me right now and we can kind of share it. If they have had the same opportunity I had, they would probably be doing a good job here.
I don't know, I know this organization has been very patient previous to my coming here. They had been through a lot of coaches in a short period of time. I think that you have to have success, and I think obviously not having made the playoffs last year and sitting where we're sitting right now, I still don't feel very comfortable because I know that we've got to get this hockey club into the playoffs, and that's what should be expected of us.
I think there maybe is a little bit more patience, but as Barry Trotz will tell you, Barry would probably not be there if he had not turned it around. Certainly I realize that when we had that struggle in late November and early December that our coaching staff was under the gun as well. Dave Taylor is a great person and a good guy, and I don't want to put him in a position where he has to come out and tell me, "Coach, we're going to have to go in another direction." If you have success and it's recognized, I think there's a chance for longevity. Maybe they are a little bit more patient.
On the injury front, I don't know. It's just so difficult to look at our injuries and how they are happening and we're not getting strains or anything in practice; we're getting groins in. Middle of hockey game, Dustin Brown gets hit the other night by Brenden Morrow, and originally I thought it was a bit of a cheap shot but then you get time to watch it correctly you really it was just Brenden Morrow doing what he does and just a good, solid hit, and probably Dustin Brown the same thing.
We don't even talk about the number of games, I couldn't tell you right now. I think we've got ten or 11 guys out of the lineup and we just plug other guys in and move on. Pete does a great job, our training staff is outstanding. We bring all of our injured guys in at seven in the morning so that they can get treated and get out of here before the healthy players get here, because we don't want anyone sticking around and we don't our injured guys sticking around and occupying our trainers when we trying to get guys ready to play games.
I think we are doing the right things, but it's just the circumstances and I thought we maybe served enough of a penance over last few years that this year might be a little bit better but so far it has not worked out that way.
But we look at it that we're excited when we bring a new player into the lineup or we bring a young guy up from Manchester; it excites me and it's great. We work with these guys all in the summer camps and I'm happy to see them get the opportunity. I don't spend much time thinking about the guys that are out of the lineup.