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Murray's the right man for Kings

by Mel Bridgman

The Los Angeles Kings are headed in the right direction!

The influence of hockey from the City of Brotherly Love to the City of Angels is just what this team needs. The Kings hired Terry Murray, an assistant coach with the Flyers for the past four seasons, to become the team’s new coach last week. He’s a perfect fit.

“We were looking for a teacher for the young players; someone who will patient with them, yet someone who will also be demanding of them; and someone who will be calm under pressure,” Kings Assistant General Manager Ron Hextall said. “Terry met every criteria. He has developed young players; he is patient; he has won; and he has lots of experience in pressure situations.”

Murray may not be a household name in Los Angeles yet, but the fans should be prepared for exciting changes.

Murray’s coaching experience is impressive. He has been in charge in Washington, Philadelphia and Florida, amassing 10 seasons of experience. Murray’s teams have finished the regular season as one of the top 10 teams by points in the NHL seven times. His teams have earned more than 100 points twice and he was on pace for another 100-point season during the shortened 1994-95 season. Murray’s winning percentage is .600 and his teams have reached that lofty mark on five different occasions. In comparison, the Kings have done it only three times in their entire history. 
For Murray, the foundation of his success comes from his time in Philadelphia.

“The Philadelphia Flyers do things the right way all the time.” Murray said. “Their culture was established way back in the 1967-68 season. They have been a top team in the league year after year.

“We want to establish a positive hockey culture in Los Angeles. We need to create a solid foundation made up of our young players and keep them together so they can grow together, so we can win for a long time.”

There is a quite a nucleus of good, young players already on the Kings’ roster, like Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov and Jack Johnson. More are in the pipeline.

As exciting as that may be for the fans, a youth movement can be extremely rough on a coaching staff, as they help the kids get over the hurdles on the way to NHL success.

“Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to be able to take two steps forward,” Murray said.  “Our players will need to show the fans that they are competitive every night. We will want the players to play at a high skill level.

“We need to establish positive experiences. The coach here needs to teach and to reinforce the positive things. We want to establish a hockey mentality here so the players come to the rink every day to learn something new, to improve themselves.”

"Sometimes you have to take a step backwards to be able to take two steps forward. Our players will need to show the fans that they are competitive every night. We will want the players to play at a high skill level."
-- Kings coach Terry Murray

As the young players take more responsibility on the team, there will be inevitable growing pains.  But Murray has been in those situations before. 
The Kings are all about building a winning culture and have looked into very detail to make it work.

“We also took into consideration about playing in a warm weather climate like here in Los Angeles,” Hextall said. “Terry has coached in that environment in Florida.”

But there will be adjustments.

“Travel will be a big adjustment for Terry,” Hextall said of the major difference between the Western and Eastern Conferences. “We looked at that the other morning. There will probably be less practice days than back East. The Western Conference also has more top teams in the NHL than in the East.”

“The hockey culture in the East is a different mentality than the West," said Pat Quinn, who coached in both Philadelphia and Washington. “I think you need to be mentally tougher in Los Angeles and players need to be much more disciplined in their daily lives. There is no reminder every moment of your life you are a hockey player.

“Terry was always a hard worker, disciplined, smart and well prepared,” Quinn said. “I imagine as a coach he is the same way.”

The Pacific Division may be the toughest in the NHL with Anaheim, San Jose and Dallas, three of the top five clubs in the Western Conference. For the Kings, that’s both good and bad.  Sure, it will make it that much more difficult for the Kings to make the playoffs, but the competition also figures to make them better.

As this new journey starts, patience will be important for all involved around the team. It will be critically important for ownership, management and coaches to have a clear vision of both their short-term and long-term goals. And they must stay the course even in rough waters. 

There is an inherent conflict between a general manager and a coach which can be widened with losing. The general manager starts thinking the coach is not using the players properly and the coach may feel the players brought in are not good enough. And the media is ready to expose or widen any gap between the two of them.

What can the fans expect to hear from the new coach? Plenty about responsibility and accountability. They will hear about improvement. They will not hear that winning half the games on a road trip is good because that goes against Terry Murray’s grain. Accepting any loss is not in his makeup.

This will be an exciting time for the Kings fans in Los Angeles.

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