Murray Out; Payne In

January 02, 2010

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Jeff Ponder

Murray Out; Payne In

I guess Blues management frequents NHL Hockey Online.

Blues President John Davidson announced that the club has relieved Head Coach Andy Murray of his coaching duties (something I eluded to just three days ago).  The team has in turn named Davis Payne the interim head coach. 

“I would like to thank Andy Murray for the job he has done here the past four seasons,” Davidson stated Saturday morning. “He was an integral part in turning the St. Louis Blues around. He is a true professional and I wish him the best of luck in the future.”

Murray registered a 118-102-38 record as leader of the Blues, including one playoff berth for the better part of four seasons.  The Blues' best time behind Murray came last season, when the club catapulted from the NHL cellar all the way to the sixth seed in the playoffs.  In that stretch, the team went 27-10-7, which put them as one of the hottest teams in the league before losing to the Vancouver Canucks in four games in the opening round of the playoffs. 

Things seemed to stay sour this year for the young club after their dismal playoff performance.  The Blues have recorded just 40 points in 40 games this season, putting them nine points out of the final playoff spot.  Production from players have seemed to drop as well.  Reigning Blues' leading scorer Brad Boyes posted 33 goals last season; he has just nine at this moment.  Seven-time All-Star Paul Kariya was expected to put up big numbers after an injury-riddled 2008-09; he has just eight goals and 19 points.  Probably the biggest disappointment is 21-year old Patrik Berglund.  Expected to pick up from his 47-point rookie season, Berglund has just 12 points in 34 games played.  He has been a healthy scratch at times and has even seen games where he plays less than ten minutes a game on the fourth line.

There had to be a change in the Blues organization; it just made more sense to release the 58-year old coach.  But the Blues, much like their roster, have decided to bring in the youth.

The 39-year old Davis Payne has been the head coach of the Blues' AHL affiliate, Peoria Rivermen, since July 2008.  With Payne leading the way, the Rivermen have posted a 62-44-3-6 record.  He was also an important piece for the team to return to the playoffs last April after a two-year drought.  Payne was also an assistant coach in Peoria before being placed at the helm, and was an ECHL head coach before that.  Needless to say, Payne has a lot of experience with younger players.

“Davis is very knowledgeable of the players in our organization and we feel he is the best candidate to coach our team,” added Davidson. “He has nine winning seasons at the minor league level which includes an ECHL Championship in 2006.”

With Payne behind the bench, the young players in the Blues organization could be seeing more playing time.  Currently, veterans Eric Brewer and Barret Jackman are leading the team in time-on-ice per game (Brewer with 22:51 and Jackman with 22:34), but that could be a trend that changes over time.  In one of Murray's final games as coach, youngster Erik Johnson was a healthy scratch due to a poor performance as of late, despite veteran Eric Brewer posting a team-worst -10 and playing in every game that he is physically able to.  With Payne calling the shots, that type of favoritism may be a thing of the past.

Payne has only been brought in on an interim-basis with low expectations, but the same was said for other AHL coaches that were brought in midway through an NHL team's season.  Joe Sacco was brought in during the off-season to coach the Colorado Avalanche after coaching their AHL affiliate Lake Erie Monsters for two years.  The Avalanche, after finishing last season 30th in the league, are currently first in the Northwest division and third in the Western Conference.  Dan Byslma was hired as the interim for the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 15th, 2009.  Just five months later, the Penguins are skating around Joe Louis Arena with the Stanley Cup in Detroit. 

Maybe there is something to say for AHL coaches taking over NHL clubs.  The league has changed over the years and maybe these younger coaches have adapted to the newer style.  Murray did his job valiantly; it was just time to get some new blood behind the bench.

Don't underestimate Payne; he wants a NHL job and he will do whatever it takes to keep it.

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  1. Hey Jeff, Jim here.

    Do you ever get discouraged from writing after working your ass off and never getting responses?

    I've only been going at this for about a year now, and I've joined multiple blog sites to promote my work, but it never seems to 'pay off'. I spend more of time commenting on other blogs and contributing my witty banter, but it never comes back to my own blogs.

    What's a brotha to do, man? Do I call it quits and just give up on what I like doing because noone shows any interest or appreciation for what I contribute to the hockey world?

    Goon SquadGoon Squad on Monday, 18 January 2010, 17:08 PST # |

  2. Goon - don't ever give up man.  I say that if you enjoy doing it, keep doing it.  Plus, you never know who is reading your stuff.  I read a lot of random peoples' blogs just to get outside opinions of certain things.  You really don't know who you may be influencing.


    If you want to find a sure-fire way to see if you are reaching anyone, type whatever name you usually post with in quotations on google, including words like "NHL," "Hockey," or a team name.  For example, when I type in "Jeff Ponder" NHL, a lot of stuff comes up on something I wrote during last playoff about the Wings-Pens series.  My blog was posted all over various hockey websites, especially Wings and Pens sites.  I got A LOT of feedback about it.  Even though it was mostly negative, I really enjoyed reading it.  But isn't that the human way; only comment on things if you are angry about it.  I always say you never get good publicity if you aren't a well known source.

    Jeff PonderJeff Ponder on Monday, 18 January 2010, 19:06 PST # |

  3. I don't know if you've ever read my work or not, but I don't think it's the type of shit that inspires people... least not in a good way.

    I guess I'll just go with the old saying that "bad publicity is STILL publicity".

    Thanx for the advice, my friend.


    Goon SquadGoon Squad on Tuesday, 19 January 2010, 22:24 PST # |

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