Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Free-falling Kings fire coach Andy Murray
LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Kings fired coach Andy Murray on Tuesday night, one day after the struggling team lost for the fifth time in seven games.
General manager Dave Taylor made the announcement and said that John Torchetti will be interim coach Wednesday.
"This is a drastic step, but we're looking to turn things around," Taylor said in a conference call. "If we did nothing, I felt we were going to continue in this downward direction."
Assistant John Van Boxmeer was also fired. He was the other finalist for the top job when Murray was hired in June 1999.
Assistants Mark Hardy and Ray Bennett kept their jobs.
The Kings (37-28-5) entered Tuesday tied with Edmonton for seventh in the Western Conference playoff race, but the Oilers have two more games remaining than Los Angeles - including a home matchup with ninth-place Vancouver on Tuesday night. The Canucks started Tuesday just one point behind the Kings and Oilers.
"It's a little odd that we're nine games over .500 and we're making a coaching change, but we do have high expectations for our team," Taylor said. "We know we have to play better down the stretch."
Taylor made the move one day after the Kings were beaten 5-0 at home by Colorado, which fueled speculation that Murray's job was in jeopardy.
"I'll be fired up tomorrow because if I expect my team to be energized and ready to go to work, I'd better make sure I'm energized myself," Murray said Monday night. "I've got some friends who are in the car business here, and I'm not ready to get back into that business yet, so I want to keep coaching."
Taylor said he had been thinking about firing Murray and Van Boxmeer over the last 20-25 games.
"Our team had competed at an outstanding level in the first half of year," he said. "Coming out of the Olympic break, I was hoping with rest that we might be able to turn things around. We've played at a .500 rate since then, which is not good enough."
Murray made the jump to his first NHL head job from coaching at Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault, Minn., a prep school south of Minneapolis. He also served as an NHL assistant with Philadelphia, Minnesota and Winnipeg, and coached Canada's national team.
Los Angeles reached the playoffs in his first three years before missing the following two seasons.
During the NHL's break for the 2002 Olympics, Murray was seriously injured when the truck he was driving slid off an icy Wisconsin highway. He missed five games while recovering from post-concussion syndrome.
Torchetti went 10-12-4-1 as the Florida Panthers' interim coach at the end of the 2003-04 season. He hasn't been working in the NHL this season, but had been scouting games on his own.
Taylor said he will be interviewed for the permanent job.