Conroy a coach killer

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

Craig Conroy is taking the bullet.

It's his fault Andy Murray was fired by the Los Angeles Kings.

"I must be a coach killer," Conroy said yesterday.

"My first year in St. Louis, Mike Keenan is fired (in December).

"The day I'm traded to Calgary, Don Hay -- I met him at the morning skate -- he was let go that afternoon. Now Andy.

"I come to a team and the coach doesn't last."

It's hard to believe Conroy's performance his first season in Los Angeles had anything to do with last week's firing of Murray, who was replaced by interim coach John Torchetti.

Heading into tonight's meeting with Calgary, the popular former Flames centre has 19 goals and 44 assists, close to the career highs of 27 and 48 he posted with Calgary in 2001-02.

However, the parallel between that campaign and this one doesn't end there.

After a hot start, the Kings are in free fall and now sit 10th in the tight Western Conference standings. That mirrors the 2001-02 Flames, who wasted a hot start and fell down the standings after the second month.

"It reminds me a bit of that season but, at the same time, we still have an opportunity to make the playoffs," Conroy said. "I believe in our team."

Problem being the Kings haven't made news for on-ice success for what seems an eternity.

Instead, they've spent the past couple of weeks filling the newspapers and airwaves with news of Murray's firing and public potshots.

Team CEO Tim Leiweke told the Los Angeles Times after Murray's firing: "It's probably the right decision but, in part, shame on the players.

"Shame on Jeremy Roenick for not sticking his nose in every night. Shame on the players who laid Andy out to dry. They'd better perform now."

Not to be outdone, Kings winger Sean Avery told the media after Murray's firing: "I can't wait to play tonight under our new coach, that's how I stand. I have no comment about our old coach."

At least the Kings aren't going un-noticed in La La Land.

"We're definitely a media frenzy," Conroy said. "Every day, we give them something. I'm actually a quiet guy now. That was just Avs (Avery) being Avs. He's not going to sugarcoat anything, just say what he thinks.

"I have no hard feelings with Andy but he was with the team for seven years and I think they needed a new voice -- someone to change it up a bit. It sets a tone on the rest of the team. Now it's up to the players."

The way things have gone, making the playoffs could be a tall order.

Their injured list includes stars Pavol Demitra and Jeremy Roenick, while defensively, the Kings have been a nightmare.

They come to Calgary on the heels of a 7-4 shellacking in Vancouver and surrendered four or more goals in seven of their last nine games.

Conroy said even with the collection of offensive talent the Kings have, their fortunes won't change without more commitment to defence.


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