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A good year for Andy Murray since being hired by St. Louis Blues

Nearly everything about the St. Louis Blues seems to have changed in the 12 months since Andy Murray took over as head coach because one thing that hasn't is the way he goes about doing his job.

Murray is notorious for the long hours of preparation he puts in and the way he communicates a game plan to his players. He was fired by the Los Angeles Kings in March 2006 and spent time as an advance scout for the Montreal Canadiens before being hired to coach the Blues last Dec. 11.

The time between coaching jobs didn't change Murray's approach.

"I think I'm coaching the same way I've coached with the national team programs, with Shattuck-St. Mary's and university hockey and the way I coached in L.A.," he said Monday on a conference call.

Those various jobs span the three decades Murray has spent coaching hockey. He's had success every step of the way.

Murray employs a tough style that is "demanding not demeaning" and puts a lot of responsibility on the players. After arriving in St. Louis, he found a group of men that felt as if they had let down Mike Kitchen, the man Murray replaced behind the bench.

The Blues have gone a combined 43-28-10 since - including 16-10-1 so far this season. His message to the players has been simple.

"Basically we just tried to sell a belief system that if we played hard every night and competed that we would have an opportunity to be successful," said Murray. "Losing is misery ... I think the players were just fed up with the way they were feeling here."

There's been a general feeling of happiness in St. Louis this season.

Including Sunday's 9-5 loss in Colorado, the Blues have allowed more than three goals against in just two games all season. A stat like that has prompted some to label Murray a defensive coach, but he doesn't think that it's entirely accurate.

"All I really talk about with our guys is offence and playing an aggressive forecheck and just making sure we're smart and don't get caught out of position," said Murray.

That formula hasn't just yielded results in the NHL. Murray guided Canada to the gold medal IIHF World Hockey Championship in Russia last May, making him the only man from this country ever to coach three teams to that title.

Canada won all nine games at that event and many of the players felt as though Murray was one of the main reasons they left Moscow with a gold medal.

The coach, in turn, is still seeing some of the positive impact the tournament has had on his Blues. Jamal Mayers, Jay McClement, Eric Brewer and Barret Jackman all played for Canada in Russia.

"I think there's a real carryover," said Murray. "At every world championship that I've been at, when there's been a success level, the players have come back the next year and have always performed well.

"When you end the season winning a gold medal, it makes you feel good about yourself. I think it helps you as you go into the summer."

Murray hopes to be guiding the Blues in the playoffs this coming spring.

They currently occupy a post-season position in the Western Conference standings but know that the toughest part of the season is still to come.

"We got lots of games to play," said Murray. "As I've said before, if this was an NFL schedule we'd feel all right about things. It's going to be a battle - just take a look at our conference, it's so tough."

Murray's one-year anniversary since being hired by St. Louis coincides with Tuesday night's game against Edmonton.

Playing games against the Blues is no longer as easy as it was when he took over the NHL's worst team last December.

"I think we play hard every night," said Murray. "Most teams know that when they play the Blues it's going to be a tough game."



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