It’s not a big secret that with 30 points and a record of 13-12-4 the Los Angeles Kings have been one of the most underachieving teams in the NHL this season. During the offseason, Kings management dumped plenty of money into the franchise, causing the team’s salary cap to soar to almost $64 million, leaving many to wonder why Los Angeles was not atop the Pacific Division. All of this has put head coach Terry Murray under the spotlight and the threat of getting canned seems to be looming in his future.
But is it too early to make such a big change?
When the season began the words “Kings” and “Stanley Cup” were often uttered in the same sentence but a lot has changed in just over three months. The Kings have struggled to get into any kind of rhythm season and their offense – which scores 2.21 goals per game on average – is the worst in the league. If the Kings can’t pot goals, well obviously they are not going to win too many games.
The team is certainly pleased with the contributions from Anze Kopitar, who is on pace for another stellar season and their big offseason pickup, Mike Richards, who has 20 points in 25 games but it is the less impact players that have not been able to help the team on offense.
One of the biggest disappointments would have to be left winger Dustin Penner. Since coming over from the Edmonton Oilers at the start of last season, Penner has been nothing more than a flop. He was a solid – yet overpaid – forward in Edmonton and the Kings brought him in with the belief that he would solidify the left wing position and become a guy that could put the puck in the net. Last season, thanks to injuries, he played just 19 games and had six points but this year hasn’t been much better. He is one short of his total games played from last season and has just five points – not at all what the team had had hoped for from a guy who averages just over 15 minutes a game.
He is not the only player who has gotten off to a terrible start. Center Jarret Stoll, right winger Trent Hunter and left winger Ethan Moreau all have single-digit point totals, despite the fact that each one has proven in prior years that they possess the ability to score. But when it comes down to it, the coach must be held responsible for the team’s poor play when a they are underachieving and Terry Murray has been around long enough to understand that.
Dumping a coach with a good resume at this point in the season could be catastrophic but then again, it could be just the shakeup the Kings need. During his 15 year career with four different teams, Murray has only missed the playoffs only one time and has been to the Conference Finals three times and the Stanley Cup Finals (1997) once – which ended in a sweep by the powerhouse Detroit Red Wings.
The Kings seem poised to have someone different take over the reign, however. According to the LA Times, the Kings’ front office has had enough of Murray and are “poised to dismiss Coach Terry Murray this week.”
Los Angeles has plenty of experience backing up Murray as assistant John Stevens previously coached the Philadelphia Flyers for four seasons and led them to an Eastern Conference Finals berth in 2008. He could be a decent replacement to finish out the season but who knows what the Kings’ plans are if they show Murray the door.
With their next four games on the road, this could be the make or break road trip for Murray’s tenure in Los Angeles. If he can get through it and make the trip home to face the Anaheim Ducks on Dec. 22 we expect come hell or high water he will be the team’s coach until their last game of the season.
Photo courtesy of The Associated Press.