Murray's master stroke on display with Panthers MacLean has been protege since GM's Wings days

June 04, 1996|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

When Bryan Murray got the word to vacate the coach's office of the Washington Capitals midway through the 1989-90 season, he shrugged and said, "It's all part of the game. I'll always have a great feeling for the Caps because they gave me the opportunity to coach in the NHL."

Thing is, the man who led the team out of the bondage of a 138-323 record in its first eight seasons to a 318-218 mark over the next eight meant every word he B. Murray said. It may be recalled that his assistant and brother, Terry, took over at USAir Arena, so Bryan latched onto Doug MacLean as his right-hand man.

Whereas Murray had made making the playoffs an annual thing for the Caps, he did the same thing in Detroit as coach and general manager of the Red Wings.

And MacLean, after serving as a college coach, an NHL assistant and coach of Washington's top affiliate in Baltimore (Skipjacks), had all the jobs save for head coach in the Detroit organization before Murray was sent packing again because of the Wings' postseason failures.

While Washington didn't have much playoff success under Murray, winning three of 10 series, usually against superior teams, in subsequent years the Caps have a series mark of 4-7. Maybe, after all, it wasn't the guy behind the bench.

The next prominent figure in Murray's career was Bill Torrey, the man credited with putting together those New York Islanders juggernauts that won four straight Stanley Cups in the early 1980s, Torrey was heading up the expansion Florida Panthers, and he grabbed Murray as his general manager to do what he had done in Washington and Detroit.

And in just their third season, and with MacLean in his first season as coach, not only did the Panthers finish fourth this past season in the 14-team Eastern Conference, they beat Boston and top seeds Philadelphia (1) and Pittsburgh (2) and will go against Colorado for Lord Stanley's goblet beginning tonight.

When Murray got the GM's job, he said: "We're going to build the team through a youth movement."

After one go-round with MacLean as coach, Torrey said: "Doug's style will bring exciting young players to the ice determined to do whatever it takes to win."

One look at the way the Panthers played while coming from behind to beat the Penguins in Games 6 and 7 to emerge as conference champions suggests that a lot of people in Miami know what they're talking about.

Pub Date: 6/04/96

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