Following in the footsteps of Chicago, Columbus and Phoenix, the Blues have turned things around under new head coach Andy Murray with an 8-2-1 stretch heading into Saturday afternoon’s game against Los Angeles.
“I think what’s basically happened is that Keith Tkachuk has played like Keith Tkachuk, Bill Guerin has played like Bill Guerin, Manny Legace has played like the Manny Legace that played in Detroit last year not the Manny Legace who played here at the start,” Murray said Friday.
He also credited Doug Weight, Eric Brewer, Barret Jackman and Martin Rucinsky as other veterans picking up their games.
“You go through our lineup and guys are just doing what they should have done earlier,” said Murray. “We have a veteran-laden team. We need those guys to be good and they have gotten the job done for us.”
The Blues are 8-4-3 overall since Murray was hired on Dec. 11.
Still, he refuses to take any credit for the turnaround the team has undergone since he replaced Mike Kitchen.
“Mike Kitchen is a good coach and a good guy and I think the players realized that they let him down,” said Murray. “I think there was a feeling of guilt to begin with. . . .
“I don’t know if we’re doing things much different than what Mike would have like them to do. I attribute a lot of it to the fact that when you change a coach, all of a sudden the onus shifts to the players.”
Murray isn’t a self-promoter so it’s not surprising to hear him say that. It’s also interesting to see how things have worked out for the former Los Angeles Kings coach.
He was among the two final candidates for the coaching vacancy in Columbus but fellow veteran coach Ken Hitchcock got the job over him in late November.
“When things don’t work out I’ve always been of the opinion that something better is coming up,” said Murray, who coached Canada to IIHF men’s world titles in 1997 and 2003. “I’m not necessarily saying that this is a better situation than Columbus, but things happen for a reason.
“I was not meant to get the job in Columbus. I guess I was meant to get the job here.”
The Blues are still last in the Western Conference at 15-21-7 but started the weekend 10 points out of a playoff spot – not totally out of reach with 39 games to go but still a daunting task.
The word “playoffs” has made its way in the dressing room.
“I think the players are using it,” said Murray. “I told them if they want to check the standings that’s fine. Really our only focus right now is to try and get better and if we get better, you might be playing something in March.
“That’s what we have to try and do, have something meaningful to play for in March.”