Dec 12, 2011, 8:58 PM EDT
Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi might not work in a hockey fishbowl like Brian Burke does, but he’s just as fiery as the oft-quoted Leafs executive. Lombardi is also intensely loyal, so it should be no surprise that he hammered home how difficult it was to fire head coach Terry Murray in a conference call transcribed by Rich Hammond.
“I don’t think words can ever describe how hard something like this is,” Lombardi said. “You’re talking about, first off, a really good man. As far as a coach, if you look at what he’s done for us, he really stabilized this franchise, pointed it in the right direction. He taught these players a lot. When they look back, they’re going to realize they learned a lot from him.”
Lombardi’s guarding his choices
Lombardi said that he hasn’t spoken much with interim head coach John Stevens and justified suspicions that the Kings might hire a different bench boss. He said that there’s “no timetable” for that move and evaded questions about Darryl Sutter’s candidacy by simply implying that there’s a “very short list” of the possible choices he has in mind.
Making players accountable
As much as he lingered on the difficulty of canning Murray – even if he admitted that it was building in that direction rather than hitting him like “a ton of bricks” – Lombardi was critical of the players. Perhaps most interestingly, he deflected some of the criticism of the work of the team’s younger guys and looked at the group as a whole.
“I saw it with Marleau, Stuart and Nabokov, but it’s collectively across the board here,” Lombardi said. “You can’t just say it’s the young players. The Stolls, the Williams, the Greenes, the Browns, certainly have to look at themselves as much as the young players.’’
Dustin Brown ranks as one of the players who will be called upon to respond the most. He doesn’t have the all-world skills of Drew Doughty or Anze Kopitar, but he wears the captain’s “C” on his chest and needs to do more. He’s currently on a four-game pointless streak, so a coaching change might just light his fire like it did for David Backes, a similarly bombastic captain who’s currently on climbing the two-way forward ranks in St. Louis.
This time around, Murray was the fall guy. If the Kings’ disappointments continue, then some of those criticized players and even the outspoken GM could be next, though.
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