St. Louis fires Kitchen amid seven-game skid

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Blues hired former Kings coach Andy Murray to a longterm contract.

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues, last in the NHL standings again despite a change in ownership and several player upgrades, fired coach Mike Kitchen on Monday night and replaced him with former Los Angeles Kings coach Andy Murray.

Blues president John Davidson said Murray received a longterm contract after negotiations in New York on Sunday. Murray was fired by the Kings last March.

"We realize we're a team that's got a long way to go," Davidson said. "We just felt we needed to take a step like this to move forward."

Davidson said he wants Kitchen, hired on an interim basis in February 2004 when Joel Quenneville was fired, to stay with the organization. But he said it was time to make a change.

The team planned to introduce Murray at a news conference on today at the team's practice facility.

The Blues were 21-46-15 last season, in Kitchen's only full campaign as head coach, finishing with an NHL-low 57 points and missing the playoffs for the first time since 1979.

Despite the talent added after the new ownership group led by David Checketts, the former head of the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden, took over in late June, the team continued to struggle. The Blues have yet to win back fans disgruntled by the sale process, which came on the heels of the NHL lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 season.

St. Louis is last in the league this season in attendance, drawing an average of 11,142 fans -- or 58.6 percent of capacity -- for its 15 home games. The Blues have scored 65 goals, fewest in the NHL.

"You look at this thing and we realize we're a team that's trying to rebuild," Davidson said. "We just want more, that's all.

"We'll see where it goes with Andy. We need a more concerted effort."

The Blues are 7-17-4 with 18 points this season and have lost seven in a row. Davidson said Murray will be on the bench Tuesday night at home against the Chicago Blackhawks.

St. Louis hasn't won since earning consecutive shootout victories at Columbus and Detroit on Nov. 22-24. They picked up one point during the slide and the effects had begun to show.

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