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December 13. 2011 10:18PM

Ian Clark's On Hockey: L.A. would do well to consider Monarchs coach

BOSTON -- WHY NOT Mark Morris?

The Los Angeles Kings fired head coach Terry Murray on Monday, naming assistant coach John Stevens as the interim coach. The Kings, who played in Boston against the Bruins Tuesday night, had lost four straight games and continue to struggle scoring goals.

Multiple reports on Tuesday indicated that the Kings had requested permission to speak with Darryl Sutter, the former Calgary Flames coach and general manager. Kings general manager Dean Lombardi has history with Sutter, having worked with him with San Jose for several years.

Meanwhile in Manchester, where Morris coaches the Kings affiliate, there had been no communication from the Kings, not even so much as a “stay the course” message.

“I haven’t heard anything. Everything is purely speculation at this stage,” said Morris, who made the trip to Boston for the game. “I’m just like everybody else, watching NHL Network to see what’s happening.”

Lombardi clearly has his sights set on Sutter and Stevens is not the long-term answer. But the question has to be asked, why not Mark Morris? Now in his sixth season behind the Monarchs bench, Morris has guided the team to a winning record in each season, with two trips to the conference finals in the postseason. Morris’ record with Manchester is 230-151-47.

Morris has proven to be an excellent teacher of the game to young players, building on his experience as head coach at Clarkson in the college ranks.

Morris has also shown an ability to get the most out of teams not blessed with the amount of veteran talent afforded other AHL teams. Franchises like Hershey always have players with NHL experience numbering in the hundreds of games. Manchester does not.

So why not Mark Morris? The answer is that Lombardi knows he’s down to his last shot. Coaches and players can only take the blame for so long before the man bringing in those coaches and players is removed from the equation.

Lombardi will be on a short leash himself at this point so he’s going back to the well with Sutter, a man he trusts. Sutter isn’t exactly a proven commodity. His career coaching record is a solid 409-320-131, but he is under .500 in the playoffs at 47-54, though he did lead the Flames to the finals.

If Sutter is the man for the job, he’s got plenty of talent to work with. For whatever reason, players like Dustin Penner just did not respond to Murray. Sutter built San Jose into a winner and could be able to do the same in L.A.

But if it doesn’t work out, then the question will need to be raised again. Why not Mark Morris? In the meantime, Morris will keep the Monarchs on course knowing that nothing is guaranteed in pro hockey, especially your job. Just ask Murray.

“He’s a good hockey man and a good person,” Morris said. “Unless you’ve been in that situation, when you’re relieved of your duties, you can’t imagine the feelings you have as a person and a proud coach and someone who has made hockey their life. It’s a very lonely time until you move on.”

@Body Copy tagline diamond:.

WITH captain Zdeno Chara out of the lineup with a lower body injury Tuesday night, the Bruins were forced to alter defensive pairings and power play assignments.

Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg started the game and rookie Steven Kampfer was inserted into the lineup, though his ice time was limited as Claude Julien opted to shuffle pairings of Joe Corvo, Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid with an occasional appearance by Kampfer.

On the power play, where Chara’s presence and intimidating shot are sorely missed, Julien went with the former Monarch Corvo and Seidenberg on one unit while playing four forwards with Ference on the other unit. Rich Peverley played the other high point opposite Ference in those situations.

The penalty kill combos were Seidenberg/Boychuk and McQuaid/Ference. Chara could return to the lineup as early as tonight’s game in Ottawa.

@Body Copy tagline diamond:.

The Manchester Monarchs will play at Portland tonight at 6:30 p.m. The Monarchs return home Friday night for a key matchup with St. John’s. Both Manchester and St. John’s are tied at the top of the Atlantic Division with 34 points.

The Monarchs are still without three forwards: Rich Clune (lower body injury), Justin Azevedo (arm) and Cam Paddock (suspension). Needing some bodies, the Monarchs got some help from the Kings as right wing J.D. Watt was called up from Ontario in the ECHL on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old Watt has played in 22 games for the Reign this season, recording a goal and six assists. Watt has some AHL experience, having played in 10 games for the San Antonio Rampage last year.

@Body Copy tagline diamond:.

Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is iclark@unionleader.com.


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