Bye, bye, brothers
Florida fires GM Bryan Murray, coach Terry Murray
Updated: Thursday December 28, 2000 8:53 PM
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) -- Preparing for the team's possible sale, the struggling Florida Panthers cleaned house Thursday, firing their coach and general manager and trading a veteran center who never lived up to a fat free-agent contract.
Coach Terry Murray and his brother, vice president and general manager Bryan Murray, were dismissed by team president Bill Torrey after the Panthers won just six of their first 36 games.
Duane Sutter, a scout for Florida the past three seasons, became the fifth head coach in team history. Torrey took over as interim GM.
The Panthers also traded center Igor Larionov to Detroit for defenseman Yan Golubovsky, who will report to their Louisville affiliate. Larionov joined the Panthers in July after signing a $1.8 million free-agent contract.
Founding owner Wayne Huizenga has had the struggling franchise on the market for months.
"There are interested parties," Torrey said at a news conference. "This clears the deck for a new owner to come in and make his own personnel decisions."
Torrey made the moves just hours after the Panthers' latest defeat, a 5-2 loss to Philadelphia. As has become customary at the National Car Rental Center, where the Panthers have won just twice, fans chanted "Fire Murray! Fire Murray!"
"Obviously this is a difficult time for our franchise, a time when some good, dedicated people have been relieved of their duties," Torrey said. "It's only the record that counts. A heart beats in both of them, just like a heart beats in a team. Unfortunately our team's heart this year hasn't been good enough."
Even with Pavel Bure, the NHL's leading scorer this past season, Florida is 6-18-7-5 and has just one win in the past 14 games. Attendance has sagged in the team's two-year-old arena.
"We will do whatever we feel we have to do to turn this thing around and give our fans something to cheer about," Torrey said.
Assistant coaches Billy Smith and Slavomir Lener were retained. Terry Murray was the fifth NHL coach fired this season, which is less than half over.
"It's tough when you see your coach let go," said center Rob Niedermayer, echoing sentiments voiced by several teammates. "You never want to see that. But when you lose, there are always going to be changes. We've got to get this turned around. We have to take responsibility. We're the ones out there."
Bryan Murray was in his seventh season with the Panthers. He hired Terry Murray in 1998.
"When I hired my brother as a coach, nobody would let that go," Bryan Murray said. "It seemed to me from that point on, the shots we took -- and we took lots of them -- even in a couple of good years, it was always 'the Murrays.'"
Terry Murray was 79-85-31-11 with Florida and has a record of 360-283-89-11 in 12 NHL seasons.
A year ago the Panthers finished second in the Southeast Division with the best record in franchise history, but they were swept in the first round of the playoffs by New Jersey. The team began this season with more talent than a year ago, Torrey said.
"There's far more skill and ability in that locker room than we have seen displayed," he said. "Our will, our determination, our energy and our discipline can improve significantly."
Sutter, one of six brothers to play in the NHL, has experience as an assistant coach and as a minor-league head coach. He was in Edmonton on a scouting trip when he learned that he had gotten the coaching job.
"It's now to the end of the year. Then it will be reassessed," he said. "Anytime you get an opportunity to coach in the NHL, you take advantage of it."
Larionov, 40, helped the Red Wings win two Stanley Cups. But he
proved a poor fit with Bure and took only 15 shots, scoring five