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Monday, December 12, 2011
Kings' players to blame for Terry Murray firing

By Dan Arritt

Make no mistake, the firing Monday afternoon of Kings coach Terry Murray lies squarely on the slumped shoulders of the 25-man roster.

That was the message general manager Dean Lombardi reportedly unleashed during a team meeting shortly after firing Murray during a road stop in Boston, where the Kings are scheduled to play Tuesday night. Lombardi later shared that opinion during a conference call with reporters.

“They’re the ones who are accountable for this,” Lombardi said of the players. “Unfortunately, the coach had to pay the price.”

That includes the young players, the older ones, the forwards and the defense. They all share blame for putting their coach out of a job and sending a once-promising season into disarray.

“It’s right across the board,” Lombardi said.

Role call, please:

Drew Doughty, the 22-year-old defenseman who was signed to the team’s richest contract after sitting out the preseason, has two goals and six assists in 24 games, a far cry from the pace he set two years ago, when he finished with 16 goals and 42 assists in 82 games and was a finalist for the Norris Trophy. Second-year forward Kyle Clifford has taken a step back in performance, as has second-year defenseman Alec Martinez.

“The young player presents a different challenge for the coach today,” Lombardi said.

Lombardi then took a turn with the veterans, singling out Jarret Stoll, Justin Williams, Dustin Brown and Matt Greene for failing to perform to previous levels.

Williams, who scored 22 goals in 73 regular-games last season, has four in 29. Stoll, who formed a potent line combination with Williams for much of last season, has two goals more than a third of the way through the season, 18 less than he scored last season. And then there’s Brad Richardson, Dustin Penner, Trevor Lewis, all struggling to produce to their potential. It’s no wonder why the Kings are last in the league in scoring.

“I know players who have established themselves are going to have ups and downs, but they should be in the neighborhood of what they have done in the past,” Lombardi said. ”I don’t think any players on this team are old, or on their downside, so it’s collective.”

Mike Richards, who was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia in the offseason, has been the lone exception, but he has missed the last four games with a possible concussion and doesn’t appear close to returning. The Kings are 12-2-2 when Richards scores at least a point this season and 0-4 with him out of the lineup.

Anze Kopitar got off to a hot start but hasn’t scored a goal in the last eight games. Jonathan Quick established a franchise record with three consecutive shutouts, but has allowed 44 goals in the 17 starts since. He had his worst outing of the season in a 4-2 loss Thursday against the visiting Minnesota Wild.

Outside of Richards, the most consistent player this season has been rookie defenseman Slava Voynov, who didn’t even make the team out of training camp.

John Stevens has taken over as interim coach after serving as Murray’s assistant the last two. Whether he can turn the train around will depend on how well the players react to the change, Lombardi said.

“In the end, it comes down to the players,” he said. “I don’t think you’re going to [make a coaching change] unless you think you’re going to get some improvement.”