got an early birthday present – an NHL coaching job.
The Los Angeles Kings
hired Murray, who has coached 737 regular-season NHL games but hasn't been an NHL bench boss since 2000-01, as the 22nd coach in franchise history, opting to go with experience to help develop a roster that includes some talented young players and a franchise that wants to bring in even more youth.
"This is the first year I think we will start to get younger. Getting younger and building a franchise requires someone with special skills," Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi said Thursday at a news conference introducing Murray. "Getting young for the sake of getting younger is not the way to build. You have to get young in the right way; you have to get young at the right time."
Murray, who turns 58 on Sunday, guided Philadelphia to the Stanley Cup Final in 1997, but was fired after the team was swept by Detroit. He hasn't been in charge of an NHL team since being let go by Florida after the Panthers started the 2000-01 season with a 6-23-7 record. He got his first coaching job with the Washington Capitals
in 1989-90 and lasted into the 1993-94 season.
Murray has been an assistant with the Flyers since 2003-04. The Flyers finished sixth in the East with 95 points and made the conference finals this past season, while the Kings were last in the West.
"I did think that I would some day," he said when asked if he thought he'd get another NHL coaching job. "I was hoping it would happen at some point. It's a great opportunity."
He said he came to L.A. because of "the opportunity to work with good people; the opportunity to work with a team that has a plan put in place that's been laid out before me. The team has some really good young players right now. We need to bring in the players we've drafted and get them into the process of playing and developing. I also understand that the process requires a lot of doing it the right way — we have to make sure the players we're bringing in are ready to play.
Murray takes over for Marc Crawford and inherits a team that has talented young forwards such as Anze Kopitar, Alexander Frolov and Dustin Brown, as well as young defenseman Jack Johnson and No. 2 overall draft pick Drew Doughty. But the Kings are coming off a season in which they tied Tampa Bay for last in the overall NHL standings with 71 points while using a League-high seven goaltenders.
"We have some very good young hockey players in this organization," said Murray, who added that he and his staff would put in the time "to help these players become the best they can be.”
"We need to get younger. We need to get the young guys going, but at the same time, we need to get the players who are presently young players on this club to start showing the way, to help lead and take over as core players and help the new young players to get their feet under them the right way," Murray said.
Things haven't gone the right way for a while in L.A., where the Kings haven't made the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2003. They’ve won just one playoff series since making their only trip to the Final in 1993. Lombardi said his new coach was walking "into the toughest job in the National Hockey League."
But Murray said there are similarities between the Kings and his previous jobs.
"That's what was very inviting to me," he said. "When I took over the Flyers, they hadn't made the playoffs in five years. Yes, they had some real good players in place, but the fact of the matter is, you have to change the attitudes; you have to get things back on track and doing things the right way.
"Going into Florida, the team had finished in last place. It took a year where we got re-organized, got some new guys in the lineup and got headed in the right direction — and we made the playoffs the second year. So yes, there are similarities in places that I've been. I'm hoping to draw on that experience, bring it here and get things going in the right direction."
Murray has a 360-288-89 regular-season record and a 46-43 postseason mark during stints with Philadelphia, Washington and Florida. His brother, Bryan Murray, is the general manager of the Ottawa Senators.
Murray spent parts of eight seasons in the NHL and WHL as a defenseman before starting his coaching career as an assistant with Washington in 1983. After 1½ seasons as a coach in the American Hockey League, he took over the Capitals during the 1989-90 season. They reached the Eastern Conference Finals before being eliminated.
The Caps made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the next two seasons, but didn't advance past the second round, and Murray was fired 47 games into the 1993-94 season.
Philadelphia hired Murray at the start of the next season, and the Flyers reached the conference finals, the conference semifinals, and the Stanley Cup Final in his three seasons. But after the Flyers were swept by Detroit in the Stanley Cup Final, Murray was fired.
Florida then hired Murray as general manager, and in his second season, he fired coach Doug MacLean and took over behind the bench. In his two full seasons with the Panthers, they missed the playoffs once and lost in the first round.
After being let go by Florida, Murray worked as a scout for the Flyers before becoming an assistant coach in 2003.
Asked what he'd learned over the years, Murray said, "I'm much more relaxed than I was in 1994, when I started with the Flyers. Experience is a wonderful thing I have a better understanding of the game and a better understanding of people because of it."
As an NHL defenseman, Murray played in 302 NHL regular-season games over eight seasons with Washington, Philadelphia, the Detroit Red Wings and the California Golden Seals/California Seals, who originally drafted him in the seventh round (No. 88) in the 1970 NHL Amateur Draft.
He had 80 points (four goals, 76 assists) and 199 penalty minutes during his NHL career and added two goals and two assists for four points in 18 career playoff games.
Murray said he wasn't sure whether assistant coaches Mike Johnston, Dave Lewis, Jamie Kompon, Bill Ranford and Nelson Emerson would be kept on, but added that a decision would be made "real soon — I don't want to delay this."
Crawford was fired June 10 after two years on the job, during which he coached the Kings to a 59-84-21 record.