Toughness seemed to be an area of great concerned in terms of the Kings, and Terry Murray talks about it here, in terms of his emphasis on having a well-conditioned team and the importance of having a team that doesn’t allow itself to get pushed around. Here’s what Murray had to say…
Question: When you were hired, you said one of your first priorities would be to talk to the strength coach. Were you able to do that? What were you looking for and what did you hear?
MURRAY: When you play in the NHL, or play at the pro level, you get drafted because you have character and you have skills, but are you physically mature enough to be able to play and compete at a high level? A lot of the time, the answer to that is no, they’re not. So the strength and conditioning coach is a very important part of the coaching staff. He’s got to be able to put a program in place for all these players to get them through the offseason, which is a tremendous opportunity for players to improve. I’ve seen that, going back, every year that I’ve been involved in pro sports. The strides the players can make in the offseason can be phenomenal. The confidence that they can then show, coming into training camp, show in their game. Their game explodes because they can compete physically, they can match up, they’re leaning against guys and battling against guys and they see that they’re coming out with possession of the puck and having success on the ice. Their game just takes off. Chad (Smith) is an important part of it.
Question: Do you get a sense that things here are close to where you’d like them to be?
MURRAY: Yeah, the program is in place. He’s been dealing with the players for a couple years, and we see the players working out when they come in here in the morning. There are several veteran guys who are around, and I know what he’s doing with the young players, as far as an off-ice program is concerned. It’s in the right direction. We’ll see where it all shakes out as we get into testing and on-ice stuff. We might have to make some changes here and there. We’ll see, but the physical strength and development is absolutely critical and we’re trying to accelerate that as quickly as possible,
Question: Toughness was a topic that came up a lot with last year’s team, and a lot of people thought the team wasn’t tough enough to stand up to opponents. Do you have any general philosophies about how you like a team to look?
MURRAY: When you look at these teams, everybody competes. That’s where you hold players accountable, is in competition. Everybody has to compete at a high level, to the best of their ability. As a coach, you’re always probably looking at the top half-dozen teams in the league and you see how they compete and how they get there. They’re battling and working and competing every night, every shift. That’s where you need to get these younger players that we’re going to put in the lineup to that point. That’s a process in itself. Even if your physical size is not the same as other teams that you’re playing against, the competition word is still out there and you have to go after your piece of the ice. You have to go after puck possession and you have to establish your style of game. That’s just part of the game. That’s what it is to be a hockey player. You have to do that, and as a coaching staff we have to make sure that we’re demanding that from our players on a game-to-game situation.