You can call him the voice of reason.
While some fans wanted to pull their hair out as Kings coach Terry Murray calmly stood behind the bench during two disastrous losing streaks last season – lost points that ended up costing the team home ice advantage in the playoffs, but more on that later…GM Dean Lombardi didn’t share the same opinion.
Once the season was over, Lombardi praised Murray’s composure and calmness when reflecting on those tough times.
If nothing else, Murray has at least been consistent in most areas since talking over as coach here in Los Angeles a few years ago. He drives his points home (defense-first, shot mentality, etc.) until they’re heard and his demeanor is usually led by a large degree of patience.
Meanwhile at Hockey Fest yesterday, many of the players were running around talking about the team being talented enough to win the Pacific Division or the Western Conference. Some sounded like they were on the verge of saying ‘Stanley Cup or bust.’
And it may very well be true that this year’s roster has the depth and mix to win it all. However, Murray didn’t want any part of that when we chatted for a few minutes following this morning’s Rookie Camp drills.
“We’re looking to be a playoff team,” Murray began, after I asked for his expectations. “In this league today, with 30 teams, and this Conference – which I think is the most competitive of the two – at the end of the day, on the last day of the season last year, you had Dallas out and Chicago in. The year before it took a shootout for the Flyers to get in and they ended up going right through to the Stanley Cup Finals. It is that close, that competitive and that level of a playing field right now. So, our goal is to be a playoff team. We want to shoot for home ice advantage. We recognize the importance of it.”
He continued… “The nice thing though, is we’ve had two years of making the playoffs. So, now we know the path going into this year. We’re comfortable, we’re more mature and we’ve added some veteran players to help us get through that process. Now, we have to go walk that path and feel good about it every night. We want to be a contending team right through the whole season.”
When I pressed for an actual prediction, I should have known where he was going…
“I said we know the importance of home ice advantage. That’s something you ought to shoot for. Where you finish in the standings, if you can get into that home ice advantage area, that’s a real good thing – you’ve had a good year and it’s a great thing to take into the playoffs. I’m not going to be a guy who’s going to stand here and guarantee anything because I can’t do that. I never have and I never will. But, I know we have high expectations and that’s exciting. We’re a team that coming out of the (upcoming) training camp, we want to have good team confidence. When you have that, you can hit the ground running and have a great start to the year.”
As usual, his message was on point.
Get home ice advantage first.
That means he’s looking for spots 1-4 in the West.
Back to what I said earlier, isn’t that pretty consistent with his message towards the end of last season?
Hope the players were listening this time.