Andy's the man in Van

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

Many coaches have failed to do it even once.

Nobody has managed to pull it off twice.

It's safe to say Andy Murray has a permanent place in Canadian hockey history after leading Canada to a World Championship gold medal for a third time.

The son of a car salesman from Souris, Man., Murray completed his international hat trick in Russia, Sunday, prompting one TV commentator to remark: "More Murray Magic in Moscow!"

For us, something else comes to mind. Like, "Andy's the man in Van."

We're talking Vancouver, 2010 -- Canada's next chance to prove it's the world's top hockey power, period. Not just in a tournament featuring players who aren't in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Nothing against what Murray accomplished at the worlds this year, in 2003 and back in '97. In fact, coaching at this event might take more smarts than leading the Olympic team.

But the worlds are often overshadowed by the NHL. They certainly don't get the ink of a Winter Games.

And, unfortunately, the last time the spotlight shone on the greatest hockey tournament of them all, it revealed the ugly side of the Canadian game. The team that went to Turin just over a year ago didn't come within a sniff of a medal of any colour.

Led by head coach Pat Quinn, who'd guided this country to gold at Salt Lake City four years earlier, the Canucks looked unprepared and unfocused.

This just in: Murray's teams, whether in the NHL or at the world championship, never look unprepared or unfocused.

Some of the comments from his players in Russia are as revealing as the medals around their necks.

"Right from Day 1, everyone was given a role," forward Jay McClement, who played for Murray with the St. Louis Blues and at the worlds, told Canadian Press. "It was laid out on the table and it made it a lot easier for us."

Winnipegger Jonathan Toews said what Murray did was get everybody on the same page -- no easy task when throwing together a team at the last minute.

That's half the battle at every international event, particularly the Olympics.

The other half is preparation. And Murray wrote the book on that.

"I couldn't believe it," Toews said. "Every night before a game we'd look at every team's strength. We were so prepared. Playing against teams like the Finns and the Swedes, where there's less NHLers, you've got to prepare a little more. Because a lot of the NHL guys in our dressing room aren't familiar with their other players. Andy and the rest of the coaching staff did a great job all tournament in helping us prepare for our opponents, every game."

It showed. Nine straight wins.

And now Murray is three-for-four at world championships. His only blemish: a sixth-place finish in '98.

That's not a bad batting average to take into Vancouver.

Look, this isn't to say Murray is the only choice for the Olympics.

But he's probably the best.

For now, Murray says his mind is on the Blues, and getting them back into the Stanley Cup playoffs. That, of course, would make him unavailable for next year's worlds.

Hockey Canada might want to pencil him in for 2010, though, and wouldn't that cap one of the great comebacks in coaching?

One year ago, Murray was out of work, fired by the Los Angeles Kings.

He's since performed two minor miracles: one in St. Louis this past season, and one in Russia the last two weeks.

He's already got the attention of Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman. All he has to do now is convince the suits at Hockey Canada that he'd be a better choice for Vancouver than some of the NHL's higher-profile coaches.

"I've never, ever politicked for any job, and I wouldn't do that," Murray told CP.

That's OK.

He's already done all the lobbying he needs to do.


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