It’s time for Murray to truly sing the Blues


Last spring, Andy Murray was a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, given to the NHL’s coach of the year.

Last Saturday, he was fired after the St. Louis Blues’ losing streak reached four games and their home record hit a league-worst 6-13-3. He was fired and replaced by minor league coach Davis Payne.

Murray can squeeze a lot out of not very much, a trick he pulled off with the Kings and repeated last season in leading the injury-thinned Blues to a 25-9-7 record over their last 41 games and No. 6 seeding in the West. But he doesn’t know when to stop squeezing, or that pushing his players in morning skates and sliding cryptic memos under their doors doesn’t substitute for real communication.


Murray is a good short-term hire and he will coach again, probably after a turn somewhere as a TV analyst.

“We just lost too many games we were in a position to win,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Early in the year, we had difficulty scoring. Recently, the defensive play hasn’t been as good. . . . We’re a .500 team and we haven’t played good enough. I’m responsible for the record. Ultimately, that’s what I’m judged on.”

Murray, who was hired by the Blues just over three years ago, was the second NHL coach fired this season. The first was John Stevens, dismissed by the Philadelphia Flyers and replaced by former Carolina coach Peter Laviolette on Dec. 4. Murray won’t be the last to go; Ken Hitchcock of the flailing Columbus Blue Jackets might be next.

The Ducks, one of the NHL’s biggest flops, haven’t shown an inclination to fire Randy Carlyle, perhaps because they realize no one could do significantly better with their mediocre goaltending and lack of depth on defense.

Except for Lindy Ruff, now in his 13th season as the Buffalo Sabres’ coach, and Barry Trotz, who has coached the Nashville Predators since they debuted in the 1998-99 season, NHL coaches have short shelf lives. Teams tend to get caught in a cycle of hiring a disciplinarian, firing him after he burns out players and replacing him with a “players’ coach” who will be dumped for not being strict enough.

A pattern emerges after looking at the last 20 Stanley Cup-winning teams. If a coach hasn’t won the Cup within his first four seasons with that team, he likely won’t win there at all.

Dan Bylsma had four months’ tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins when they beat the Detroit Red Wings last spring. Mike Babcock was in his third season with the Red Wings when they won the Cup in 2008, Carlyle was in his second season with the Ducks in 2007, Laviolette coached part of a season in Carolina but was finishing his first full season with the Hurricanes when they beat Edmonton in 2006. John Tortorella won with Tampa Bay in 2004 at the end of his third full season there and Pat Burns was in his first season when New Jersey won in 2003.

Scotty Bowman wasn’t new to the Red Wings’ bench when he won in 2002, but Bob Hartley was in his third season in Colorado when the Avalanche won in 2001. Larry Robinson survived four bad seasons with the Kings and had eight regular-season games’ experience with New Jersey before his Cup run in 2000. Hitchcock was ending his fourth season in Dallas when he won in 1999. That brings us back to Bowman, who led the Red Wings to victory in 1997, his fourth season, and repeated in 1998.

Marc Crawford was in his second season coaching Quebec/Colorado when the Avalanche won in 1996. Jacques Lemaire was in his second season with New Jersey for the Devils’ 1995 triumph. Mike Keenan ended the New York Rangers’ 54-year Cup drought in 1994, his only season with them. Jacques Demers was in his first season coaching Montreal when the Canadiens beat the Kings in the 1993 final.

Bowman had replaced Bob Johnson as the Penguins’ coach when they won in 1992; Johnson was in his first Pittsburgh season when he won the Cup in 1991. John Muckler was in his first season coaching Edmonton when the Oilers won in 1990, and Terry Crisp was in his second season when the Calgary Flames won in 1989.

The moral: win soon or you might not win until you move elsewhere on the coaching merry-go-round.

Slap shots

The rink used for the successful Winter Classic between the Boston Bruins and Flyers at Fenway Park will stay up for a few days, but the NHL is already considering sites for next Jan. 1. Possible matchups are the Washington Capitals against the Penguins at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field or Capitals-Rangers at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field, the New York Mets’ home.

“This has become a hallmark event for us,” Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “It is a cornerstone of the strategy we began over three years ago.”