|Coach Murray during drills (photo: K. Spatz)|
During a recent conversation with Kings coach Terry Murray at their training facility in El Segundo we not only talked about prospects and Dustin Penner’s off-season training, he also shed a little light on his power play plans for next season.
As many Kings fans recall, Murray and his coaching staff came under heavy fire last season for the lack of success the team had with the man advantage during the regular season – a paltry 16.1% conversion rate, ranked 21 out of 30 teams. Then, somewhat miraculously, they found their groove in the playoffs, converting nearly 21% of the time.
Still, ‘Fire Jamie Kompon‘ was something lighting up message boards and social media sites once the season ended.
Murray deflected some of the heat during his end-of-season wrap up meeting with the media, saying Kompon wasn’t responsible for the power play.
And GM Dean Lombardi somewhat confused the issue earlier that same day when he said “Ask me about it again in a week,” while being questioned about the coaching staff’s approach to the power play.
At a meeting with season ticket holders about a month prior though, Lombardi said there were many things wrong with the power play – “We need to gain the zone more with possession, battle in front of net and the team is short on skill.” Later, he was more direct on one of those points – “(You need) really skilled players to become unpredictable on the power play and we’re a little short there.”
So, with the ‘personnel’ piece of the equation receiving significant upgrades over the last few weeks, it now begs the question – Where does the system and structure go from here?
“There’s a million different systems you can put in place or patterns or structure in the offensive zone. But, at the end of the day, it’s about your best players taking it over and doing the job,” Murray began by saying. “We have some young guys who are going to be a year better – we have (Drew) Doughty, Jack Johnson, (Anze) Kopitar and we’re going to add in Mike Richards and Simon Gagne. We have lots of guys that have the ability to execute and now it’s a matter of going and doing it. Maybe we’ll get a little more movement in the offensive zones to create some more opportunities.”
Then, Murray went back to a familiar script when describing what the power play could really use – “A little better shot mentality. We’ve been talking about that right from the day that I got here. Shooting the puck more, hitting the net. I think from our blueline, sometimes we just don’t get that puck through (to the net) the way you’d like to see it get though in critical situations. So, that’s something we’ll work on through training camp (in September) and talk a lot about and keep pushing it.”
It’s no surprise that’s still a concern for Murray. The Kings averaged 28.2 shots per game in the playoffs, just 15th best out of the 16 teams who qualified for post season play. That number was on par with their regular season average (28.8) also, which placed them 23rd in the 30 team league.
As for the players he’ll have available to him next season, “Personnel wise, we have some people who are pretty skilled guys,” Murray said.
Specifically, how does he plan to use Richards? Well, Murray says he hasn’t spent anytime on that just yet. However, he pointed out that the skilled centerman can play just about any position on the power play – “He can play the backend and he does a very good job back there on the power play. He’s also a guy you can play right down on the goal line or in front of the net. He’s a gritty guy to be able to do that.”
In conclusion, Murray said that given the new tools at his disposal, he’ll spend some more time on sorting out what he wants to do with the power play prior to camp – where they’ll work things out on the ice.
When it came time to talk about his plans for the line combinations though, he had a more definitive plan. More on that later.
Reminder – coming up tomorrow – Richards will be introduced to the media at a special luncheon hosted by Lombardi and the Kings. MayorsManor will be on hand for all the festivities and you can follow the action live via a video feed on LAKings.com and/or with continuous updates at www.twitter.com/MayorNHL.
If you have a question you’d like to submit for the Q&A with Mike Richards, please send me an email (address available at the CONTACT tab up above). All reasonable questions will be considered.
GM Dean Lombardi on the LA Kings poor power play – end of season comments