Murray’s stats best, but he’s gone

The LA Kings have fired their coach. It was not an unexpected move, as the team has been in the doldrums and not scoring for what seems like weeks. They’ve scored just eight times in their last five games, and they show as the league’s worst team in overall scoring, with just 2.21 goals a game.

What’s funny is the way they announced it. The email title simply says “Kings make changes.” The text says “Kings coach Terry Murray relieved of his duties” and indicates that current assistant John Stevens will take over. Polite, sure, and that’s deserved by Murray, a class guy.

The press release also indicates that Murray has been highly successful with the Kings, reaching 100 victories faster than any other coach in team history, and that his record is well above .500 at .560, best in team history. So what gives?

He has also led the team to the playoffs in the past two years, something that they hadn’t been able to accomplish under their prior coach (Marc Crawford) nor since the start of the millennium.

So again, what gives? The expectations are higher this time. The GM came in a handful of years ago promising changes. He made them. Then he promised results. He got them, but not enough, since the team exited the playoffs without much of a whimper twice running.

This year, nothing less than what’s often called a “deep run” in the playoffs would do, and so with Murray’s inability to lead them to wins, that’s in jeapordy, or at least, those in charge are seeing the endgame, and they realize that this time, it’s serious.

For weeks, however, defenders of Murray have been saying you can’t teach scoring. At Inside Hockey, I’ve been saying that Murray is killing his superstar, Anze Kopitar, with his burden to play defense.

Now we’ll see if a new guy in charge gives the team a charge. Whoever it is, whether Stevens stays or someone else comes in, they need to do one thing: dump the defense-first system and let the boys play.

If they win, we’ll know that all the carping has been on target. If they don’t, what’s next? Trades. And if that doesn’t work? A new GM. And then we’re right back to 2005 and another generation of frustration.

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