Terry Murray, Jack Johnson

Kings coach Terry Murray apologizes for calling out fans

1 Comment

After having a day to digest the Kings’ lackluster shutout loss to the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, Los Angeles Kings head coach Terry Murray was much more even-keeled in his assessment of his team’s play from the night before. More importantly, he was much more apologetic for his comments directed at the dissatisfied fans at Staples Center who booed the Kings off the ice after the 2nd period (To be fair to the fans, the Kings had just been outshot 30-6 through 40 minutes of play). After the game, Murray held one of the shortest press conferences of the year and ended the discussion with this bomb:

“You know what the most disappointing, frustrating thing was? At the end of the second period, we were booed off the ice by our fans. That is the most embarrassing thing I have ever been through. That’s the worst I’ve ever been through, in all the years I’ve been coaching. I’ve been behind the bench almost 3,000 hockey games in the NHL, and booed off the ice by your own fans at the end of the second period, here after this road trip, going 4-0 in hard places, very disappointing.”

It doesn’t matter which industry we’re talking about, criticizing the paying customer isn’t part of the “Best Practices” guidebook. Whether it’s okay for a fan to boo their own team or not is a completely different subject, but it’s beside the point. From the moment Murray uttered those words directed at the fans, the countdown started towards an apology.

As Murray cooled down and had some time to think about his comments, he told reporters today that he shouldn’t have thrown the fans under the bus. Here’s the predictable backtracking from the Kings’ head man:

“I overreacted probably, in saying … you don’t want to drag them into the reason why, but I did. There’s nothing I can do about it now. It’s never the right thing to throw stuff at your fans. I know that. It was a night to forget.
———–
“These fans, I’ve said that many times, we’ve got great fans. I know that. They mean a lot to this hockey club. They’ve got a lot of energy and a lot of emotion to our games and have helped us through a lot of difficult times. The atmosphere in our building right from the middle of the year last year right through the playoffs has been incredible because of the fans.”

This entire incident has followed the normal trajectory of emotion. After having an incredibly successful 4-0 road trip against Western Conference playoff contenders, they came home and laid a gigantic egg against the 13th place team in the West. By the time the game was over, there wasn’t a single happy person associated with the Kings within the confines of Staples Center—coaches, fans, and players alike. Emotions were running high for fans after the 2nd period and they were running equally as high for the coach after the game.

For their part, different players reacted differently to the booing. Enforcer Kevin Westgarth said that he hears it after failed power plays and “(the fans) have to know we’re probably more ticked off than they are.” First-year (in L.A.) defenseman Willie Mitchell didn’t think it was that bad when he compared it to his time in Vancouver as he joked, “You want to see a good boo, you look there.” Then star defenseman Drew Doughty was brutally honest with his feelings after the game:

“Booing us kind of pisses me off as a player, because every night we’re out there playing our hardest, obviously for the team but, at the same time, for them. For them to boo us off the ice, or whatever the case is, like I said we’re not just playing for us, we’re playing for them. We’re going to battle for them, and for them to boo us shows a lack of respect from them, but it’s a part of the game. Fans boo their teams all the time, so it’s nothing we can be really upset at.”

At the end of the day, no player or coach wants to get booed because it probably means things aren’t going well. By the same token, fans don’t want to boo their team because, well, it probably means things aren’t going well. Fans in L.A. will be happy to see Murray tone down his disappointment with the fans—if the Kings come with a better effort against the Ducks on Saturday night, they’ll tone down their disappointment as well.

Draisaitl’s growth raises questions for Oilers

EDMONTON, AB - NOVEMBER 29:  Leon Draisaitl #29 of the Edmonton Oilers faces off against Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 29, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

It’s easy to forget about Leon Draisaitl.

Mostly because he’s not Connor McDavid, and that’s who everyone thinks of when they think of the present-day Edmonton Oilers.

They also think about the other first overall draft picks: Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, only the latter of whom is still with the team.

But back to Draisaitl — imagine if (insert your favorite team) had a 21-year-old forward with 11 goals and 11 assists in 28 games. You’d be pretty excited about that guy, right?

That’s the season Draisaitl’s currently enjoying. The third overall draft pick in 2014 (yeah, it’s about time the Oilers started to win), he’s scored four goals in his last four games — and no, he doesn’t always get to play with McDavid.

But the two youngsters have looked good together on special teams, and there have been times when coach Todd McLellan has decided to load up the top line.

“Leon has no trouble playing the wing. He’s done it before,” McLellan said, per the Edmonton Journal. “Sometimes you have a little security there too because Connor and Leon both understand how to play low in the D-zone and the first guy back can assume that position. You also have two centers who can take face-offs as long as you’re not exposed on other lines.”

Long term, the Oilers would probably like Draisaitl to center his own line. Where he ends up may depend on what they do with Nugent-Hopkins, the 23-year-old center who heard his name plenty in trade rumors as the Oilers tried to shore up their blue line over the summer.

Though scoring isn’t a huge problem for the Oilers, they could still use an offensive defenseman to help the power play. So far this season, they’ve been making do with Oscar Klefbom and Andrej Sekera, but adding a real specialist could take their power play from good to great.

The Oilers may also need to shed some salary at some point. It’s nothing urgent right now, but Draisaitl is a pending restricted free agent and McDavid’s entry-level deal ends after the 2017-18 season. You can imagine what the captain’s second contract might look like.

Remember that Edmonton GM Peter Chiarelli has never shied away from making trades, and that June’s expansion draft could be preceded by a number of deals.

Yes, Chiarelli would have to think long and hard about trading an all-situations player like Nugent-Hopkins, but depending on the return, it might be something he’d consider.

Related: With McDavid and RNH, where does Draisaitl fit for Oilers?

Panthers happy to be home after what ‘felt like a one month trip’

Gerard Gallant, former Florida Panthers head coach, gets into a cab after being relieved of his duties following an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
AP
Leave a comment

When the Panthers headed out on the road 12 days ago, they’d won three of their last four games and Gerard Gallant was the head coach.

How things change.

Gallant was fired, quite infamously, after the first of six away games (a 3-2 loss in Carolina). The club proceeded to lose four of its next five, but did a decent job of securing some points with a shootout defeat in Chicago, and back-to-back OT losses in Boston and Philadelphia.

Now, the Panthers are just glad to be back home.

“It felt like a one month trip,” Jussi Jokinen said, per the Miami Herald. “I think it will be nice to go home and spend [Wednesday] with the family, and get our thoughts away from hockey. That will probably be good for all of us.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean things are going to get easier.

The Panthers host the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins tonight, a team that’s won three straight and absolutely torched the scoreboard while doing so. Pittsburgh scored a whopping 19 goals over that span and, quite incredibly, only one came on the power play.

So there’s that to deal with. What’s more, Florida will be without Jonathan Marchessault tonight, while Keith Yandle is a game-time decision.

After the Pens game, Florida hosts Vancouver before heading back onto the road for a three-game swing through Minnesota, Winnipeg and Colorado.

Wings get good news on injury front as Athanasiou, Marchenko ready to return

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 15:  Andreas Athanasiou #72 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 15, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Red Wings 4-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
2 Comments

Detroit has won two straight, and could have two key players back for Friday’s home date with Columbus.

Speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou, who’s missed the last 12 games with a knee injury, has been activated from IR and is ready to go for tomorrow, while d-man Alexey Marchenko — out since Nov. 20 with a shoulder ailment — will either return to face the Jackets, or on Sunday against Philly.

It’s great news for a Red Wings team that’s been hit hard with injuries. Darren Helm, Tyler Bertuzzi, Brendan Smith and Justin Abdelkader were already missing due to various ailments.

Athanasiou, one of the fastest players on the team, was off to a pretty solid start before getting knocked by Canucks d-man Nikita Tryamkin on Nov. 10. He had four goals and five points in 13 games, and was averaging 12:06 TOI per night.

Marchenko, one of the club’s key penalty killers, was averaging over 18 minutes per game prior to getting hurt.

Both returns come at a key time for the club. Detroit currently sits four points back of Philly for the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference — with a game in hand — and now has a big home stretch coming up. The Wings will play their next five at Joe Louis against the Blue Jackets, Flyers, Coyotes, Kings and Ducks.

Not getting any easier: Slumping Avs take on the Bruins in Boston

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 11:  Head Coach Jared Bednar of the Colorado Avalanche (C) looks on from the bench during the third period against the Winnipeg Jets at Pepsi Center on November 11, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Getty
1 Comment

Losers of six straight, five of them in regulation, the Colorado Avalanche will be in tough again tonight.

The Avs will be missing captain Gabriel Landeskog and defenseman Erik Johnson when they take on the Bruins in Boston. Landeskog (lower body) is getting closer to a return, but he’s not ready yet. Johnson (broken leg) is going to be out a while longer.

Meanwhile, the Avs’ season has been slipping away. They’re already 10 points back of a wild-card spot, and it’ll be hard to make up ground against a Boston team that’s gone six straight without losing in regulation.

The Bruins fought back from a 3-0 deficit last night in Washington, where the Capitals eventually won, 4-3, in overtime.

The Avs, meanwhile, are coming off a 4-3 loss in Nashville. They played the Preds close, and had a strong push late, but ultimately couldn’t beat Pekka Rinne on any of their 13 third-period shots.

“For me, that was the hardest we played — that was the best game we played in a couple weeks,” coach Jared Bednar told reporters. “We had some chances to square that game up.”

Bednar, of course, was a late replacement for Patrick Roy, who abruptly resigned in August. The Avs started the season with three wins in their first four, but have gone 6-13-1 since, at times admitting they’ve been “awful.” 

     Read more: Deadline target? Iginla will ‘cross that bridge when it comes’

The Avs play Saturday in Montreal then finish their road trip Sunday in Toronto. For Colorado’s sake, at least those two opponents have their own issues. The Canadiens are suddenly down two centers, while the young Maple Leafs are still learning how to win.

Tonight at TD Garden, the Bruins will be significant favorites, even though they played last night on the road. Boston (15-10-2) has one of the best lines in all of hockey with Patrice Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

That’s the challenge facing the Avs, who better figure it out soon; otherwise, they’ll need a Christmas miracle to get back into the playoff race.