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Kings Fire Terry Murray, Now What?

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Here’s the final sentence I wrote after the Kings’ 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday: “The Kings are a disappointment, and if they’re not careful they might wind up like the Ducks.” Fast-forward two days later, and here they are.

Head coach Terry Murray was dismissed as head coach Monday afternoon right after the team wrapped up practice in Boston in preparation for their game against the Bruins tomorrow. Assistant coach and former Philadelphia Flyers’ head coach John Stevens will take over the head coaching responsibilities on an interim basis.

General manager Dean Lombardi flew in to Boston not only to fire Murray face-to-face but also to reportedly give the team a scorching.

“The message was ultimately [the players] are accountable,” a shell-shocked Lombardi told the media in a conference call. “Ultimately the coach had to pay the price.”

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Lombardi didn’t get into details about how long the interim tag will be placed on Stevens or any coaches he had in mind to fill the vacancy, but he did say that it was a “very short list” of possible replacements. Among possible replacements are former San Jose Sharks coach Darryl Sutter and Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato.

One can only hope that this will serve as a wakeup call to the players I enumerated Saturday night and the Kings channel the 2003 Florida Marlins. If you recall the Marlins fired manager Jeff Torberg after starting the season with a 16-22 record. After Jack McKeon was hired, they eventually finished with a 91-71 record, the National League wild card and ultimately the World Series championship.

This team needs to be better, and they just learned the wages of their sins was the firing of a 61-year old Murray who always had their back in public. Murray, despite their swoon in recent weeks, have been optimistic about their play, their compete level. But as Lombardi said, “With the expectations it becomes more results oriented. It’s comes down to wins and losses.”

And now for Lombardi the focus of those expectations shifts over to him. It’s up to Lombardi to make the coaching decisions that will take the team over their first-round playoff hump. It’s up to Lombardi to make the personnel moves to give some more scoring options on the wings.

As I echoed on Saturday, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. But it’s early enough in the season for the Kings to start the reboot and still be a serious contender. Currently they are 13-12-4 with 30 points and 12th place in the Western Conference. However they are only two points out of a playoff spot and three points out of the Pacific Division lead.

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Hope is not dead for the Kings, but the players and Lombardi will need to step up to the plate before things start spiraling down the drain.