The Need For a New VoicePosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
Earlier tonight, the Los Angeles Kings relieved Terry Murray of his duties as the team’s head coach. Murray joins Davis Payne (St. Louis), Bruce Boudreau (Washington), Paul Maurice (Carolina) and Randy Carlyle (Anaheim) as the fifth NHL bench boss to be replaced since the outset of the 2011-12 season. Carlyle was the longest tenured of the quartet; he was in his seventh season as the Ducks’ head coach when Boudreau replaced him. Boudreau had been behind the Washington bench for four years. Murray was in his fourth season in Los Angeles, Maurice had two full seasons plus two partial seasons in his second stop with the Hurricanes while Payne coached the Blues for one full season and parts of two others. Carlyle, Boudreau and Payne were all in their first NHL head coaching gigs with their previous employers while Los Angeles marked Murray’s fourth stop and Carolina Maurice's third (twice with the Canes) as an NHL bench boss. Former Caps goaltender Olie Kolzig is now the team’s associate goaltending coach. Bryan Murray was the Washington coach when Kolzig debuted in 1989-90; Murray was replaced by brother Terry later that season. Kolzig was around when Terry was succeeded by Jim Schoenfeld in midseason 1993-94. Kolzig was still with the Caps when Bruce Cassidy gave way to Glen Hanlon in the middle of the 2003-04 campaign and when Hanlon turned over the reins to Boudreau a quarter of the way through the 2007-08 season. All of which made me wonder what it’s like in the room when the players can sense that a coaching change is virtually inevitable. “Sometimes it’s just kind of a surreal situation,” says Kolzig. “The team’s not winning and it just seems like guys are waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s fine when things are going good on the ice, but as soon as there’s any kind of adversity or you get behind, you just don’t seem to have that perseverance to try to battle back. You just chalk it up as, ‘Well, we’re going to wait to see what happens here. Something’s going to happen.’ And it’s the wrong mindset to have; it’s just natural, though. “Things go from bad to worse and players are just waiting. It’s not a good feeling. Because when it does happen, as a player you feel responsible because you not only let the team down and the organization down, but you’re affecting a person’s way of life. It’s never great when you see somebody lose their job because of the team’s performance collectively. “Having said that, there’s also a new sense of life when someone else comes in, a different voice. Sometimes that alone – we saw it when Bruce came in – can make all the difference in the world. This team compared to the one four years ago is a lot more talented, a lot more mature, and has a lot higher expectations. Hopefully it will have the same effect. I personally think it will. I think Dale is going to demand a lot of accountability. He’s going to expect the guys to play up to their level, and to the standards that everybody expects of this team and the league. And if you’re not going to play that way, then you are going to sit and watch.” I also wondered why a coaching change seems necessary with most clubs every three of four seasons. When Boudreau departed the District late last month, he was the fifth longest tenured coach in the league with the same team. Days later, one of the four (Carlyle) who had been continually employed with the same club longer than Boudreau was let go. “Sometimes,” begins Kolzig, “when teams go through some sort of adversity, as a coach you’re trying to find a new way to motivate the team or find a certain thing to get them out of that funk. I think initially it works, but as the years go on and on, I think it’s tough for that individual to motivate players. Not that they need to be motivated, but whatever it is that gets a team out of a funk. As a player when you’re hearing the same message night in and night out, I think it naturally becomes stale. “It isn’t like college hockey or junior hockey where there is always a turnover every four years. You can only stay as far as junior goes, until you’re 20 years old. So those players aren’t exposed to the coach for an enormous amount of time. The young guys come in and to them it’s a new voice, even though the [coach] has been there for a while. It’s the same in college. “At the pro level, there is turnover like anywhere else. But the core, skilled part of your team is going to be there for a while. And for those guys, sometimes it just gets old for them.” And you know what they say, out with the old, and in with the new. Of the 30 coaches who started the 2010-11 season behind an NHL bench, only 17 are still employed in that same post. That’s a turnover rate near 50% in just over a calendar year. There are a few coaches out there on thin ice at the moment who could push the rate even higher.
Take a look at some of the rosters of the Washington Capitals of a decade or a decade and a half ago. There are still a few of those players – Jeff Halpern, Dainius Zubrus, Andrew Brunette and Sergei Gonchar – whose playing careers are ongoing in the NHL. There are also a great many of them who