Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 12/14/11

With each passing loss in Los Angeles, it seemed more and more likely that Terry Murray’s time was running out behind the Kings’ bench. His time indeed ran out on Monday, as Kings GM Dean Lombardi fired Murray and named John Stevens interim coach. Was it the right time to pull the plug on Murray? In a word, yes.

The Kings currently sit three points out of first in the Pacific Division. So close, but yet so far away.

With a 13-12-4 record and riding a four-game losing streak, this wasn’t the start Lombardi and company envisioned before the season commenced. The Kings rank last in the NHL with an average of 2.21 goals per game. Since Oct. 27, the team is 7-10-3. Aside from Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick, there really hasn’t been much consistency on a mostly underachieving team.

The team’s ups and downs were recently compounded with Mike Richards and Willie Mitchell going down to injury. But the fact of the matter is that the Kings’ veterans aren’t getting the job done. Justin Williams is on pace for 11 goals – half of how many scored a year ago – while Dustin Brown is on pace for his lowest point total since 2005-06. Dustin Penner has been a huge disappointment since last February’s trade. Also, Drew Doughty hasn’t been himself offensively after an offseason-long holdout.

Murray, who was hired in the summer of 2008, did a nice job getting the Kings from lottery pick status to playoff contenders in short order. But for the last year and a half, hockey enthusiasts have been left wanting more out of this team. They finished seventh in the Western Conference last season, and had a slight drop-off in points from a breakout 2009-10 campaign. And if the playoffs started today, after being talked up as Cup contenders in September, the Kings would not be participating.

The majority of Kings fans have been wanting the organization to make this move for almost a year now. That said, the attention and pressure will now turn to Lombardi to push the right buttons for the Kings to fulfill their potential. Will he make the right full-time hiring to get the team over the hump? Will he be successful in finding another scorer at the trade deadline? The heat is on Lombardi after a couple of seasons of slight underachievement.

It seemed like things were getting stale in L.A. – not just this year, but even going back to last year when they didn’t live up to expectations then, either. Whether it’s Darryl Sutter or Tony Granato, or someone else, stepping behind the bench, this Kings club needs a kick in the pants and then some.

Firing Murray at this point in the season could be the perfect wakeup call for a team that is talented enough to contend for the Cup.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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