One of the biggest moves of Los Angeles Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi’s tenure was the blockbuster deal last summer that brought Mike Richards west from Philadelphia. It cost the Kings its top prospect, center Brayden Schenn, as well as emerging winger Wayne Simmonds. It was unknown at the time if this trade was worth the price, as Lombardi had long deemed Schenn untouchable during other trading periods.
If that wasn’t Lombardi’s defining transaction last year, then firing Head Coach Terry Murray and hiring old friend Darryl Sutter was. Murray had brought the Kings along nicely since he took over, putting in place a sound defensive structure that made the Kings a threat to two top teams in the first round of the playoffs (Vancouver and San Jose) in consecutive years. But he struggled in the first half of last season, and the Kings underachieved in an uncharacteristically bad way. The Sutter move was critical for the team’s resurrection and ultimately its Stanley Cup championship.
Both Murray and Schenn are now a part of the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms. They are both hoping this experience can get them back to the NHL quickly when the lockout ends. Schenn had a solid rookie campaign for the Flyers, tallying 12 goals in 54 games played. He broke out in the postseason, with nine points in 11 games before the Flyers were bounced in the second round. The 21-year-old pivot is making a strong case for himself this season. He is third in the AHL in scoring, with 22 points (9G, 13A) in 18 games thus far. He trails only NHL All-Star Jordan Eberle and phenom defensemen Justin Schultz, both part of the Edmonton Oilers organization.
Murray is also hoping for a strong season with the Phantoms. Murray got fired from the Kings stuck on 499 career wins, good for 18th all time. He ended his tenure on a four-game losing streak, so perhaps his chance for the elusive 500th win has already passed. But with a strong stint in the AHL, I find it hard to believe that he will not get another shot in the NHL. As he showed with the Kings, Murray’s defense-first philosophy and teaching ability with younger players presents an attractive package for teams that fit that description. While the Phantoms are currently just 9-9 and 4th in the Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference, Murray has a talented squad and should make a push for a playoff spot as the season moves forward.