Blues president John Davidson said Murray received a long-term contract after negotiations in New York on Sunday. Murray was fired by the Kings last March.
“We realize we’re a team that’s got a long way to go,” Davidson said. “We just felt we needed to take a step like this to move forward.”
Davidson said he wants Kitchen, hired on an interim basis in February 2004 when Joel Quenneville was fired, to stay with the organization. But he said it was time to make a coaching change.
The Blues were 21-46-15 last season, in Kitchen’s only full campaign as head coach, finishing with an NHL-low 57 points and missing the playoffs for the first time since 1979.
“You look at this thing and we realize we’re a team that’s trying to rebuild,” Davidson said. “We just want more, that’s all.
“We’ll see where it goes with Andy. We need a more concerted effort.”
Kitchen is the fourth NHL coach to be fired this year, joining Trent Yawney (Chicago), Gerrard Gallant (Columbus) and Ken Hitchcock (Philadelphia).
Kitchen had compiled a record of 38 wins in 131 regular-season games since becoming Blues coach.
The Blues are 7-17-4 with 18 points this season and have lost seven straight. Davidson said Murray will be on the bench Tuesday night at home against the Chicago Blackhawks.
St. Louis hasn’t won since earning consecutive shootout victories at Columbus and Detroit on Nov. 22-24. They have earned one point during the slide and the effects had begun to show.
Kitchen expressed frustration with the state of the team after ceremonies to retire Brett Hull’s No. 16 jersey resulted in a desultory 5-1 loss at home to the Red Wings on Dec. 5.
“How can you not get ready for tonight’s game?” he said that night. “You just look around.
“You’ve got a full building, there’s a lot of electricity in the air, and they’re not ready to play? Come on!”
Davidson said the move didn’t surprise Kitchen, who joined the organization in 1998 and spent 6 1/2 seasons as an assistant coach. Before that, Kitchen was a Toronto Maple Leafs assistant for nine seasons.
“I’m sure Mike’s had a tough time sleeping for a couple of weeks,” Davidson said. “You could see it on his face, how much the guy cares.”
Murray is the Kings’ career leader with 215 coaching victories and 480 games, but was let go with 12 games to go last season when Los Angeles was in a playoff race. The Kings were 37-28-5 and tied with Edmonton for seventh in the Western Conference when he was dismissed, and then failed to reach the postseason under interim coach John Torchetti.
Murray also has extensive international hockey experience, having guided Canada to gold medals in the 1997 and 2003 world championships.
Murray also has extensive international hockey experience, having guided Canada to gold at 1997 and 2003 world championships, the only coach in this country to accomplish that feat.
Murray also led Canada to a silver medal in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and has a record six gold medals as a coach for Canada at the Spengler Cup.
Prior to joining the Kings, Murray guided the Canadian national team to a 77-29-14 record over two years. Murray has also been a coach with the Winnipeg Jets (1993-’95), Minnesota North Stars (1990-’92) and Philadelphia Flyers (1988-’90).
The Blues’ run of 25 straight playoff appearances ended last season after the previous ownership stripped the roster of talent to facilitate a sale. St. Louis stars Chris Pronger and Doug Weight, among others, among others were traded away.
New ownership headed by David Checketts, the former Madison Square Garden president, re-acquired Weight this season and added Bill Guerin, Martin Rucinsky and Jay McKee to the mix.