For­mer Cap­i­tals coach Bryan Mur­ray dies of can­cer at age 74.

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY MATT BONESTEEL matt.bonesteel@wash­post.com

Abe Pollin had never met Bryan Mur­ray be­fore he hired him to be the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals’ eighth coach in eight sea­sons in the 1980s. Nev­er­the­less, Pollin said he sensed Mur­ray would be the one who could turn around the for­tunes of a fran­chise that had found noth­ing but mis­for­tune over the course of its trou­bled early ex­is­tence.

“I’m a peo­ple per­son. I go with what my heart tells me and what my gut tells me. My gut tells me that Bryan Mur­ray’s the guy that’s go­ing to bring the Cap­i­tals out of their dol­drums,” the Cap­i­tals’ owner told The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Bob Fa­chet upon hir­ing Mur­ray, then 38, in Novem­ber 1981.

Pollin was right. Mur­ray, who died Sat­ur­day at the age of 74 af­ter a lengthy bat­tle with in­cur­able colon can­cer, al­most im­me­di­ately turned the Cap­i­tals into a con­stant pres­ence in the Stan­ley Cup play­offs, lead­ing the team to its first seven post­sea­son ap­pear­ances.

Said NHL Com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman: “Bryan Mur­ray’s strength and char­ac­ter were re­flected in the teams he coached and the teams he built over decades of front of­fice ex­cel­lence . . . . As we mourn Bryan’s pass­ing, we cel­e­brate his many con­tri­bu­tions to the game — as well as his courage.”

The Cap­i­tals had led a mis­er­able NHL ex­is­tence over their first years in the league be­fore they pro­moted Mur­ray from Her­shey of the Amer­i­can Hockey League early in the 1981-82 sea­son. He was the team’s eighth coach in eight sea­sons, and though the Cap­i­tals didn’t make the play­offs that first year, they fin­ished with a 25-28-13 record with Mur­ray at the helm. They had just one win when he took over.

Things changed for good in 1982-83, the first sea­son Mur­ray was paired with Gen­eral Man­ager David Poile. The Cap­i­tals won 39 games and ad­vanced to the play­offs for the first time, even tak­ing a game from the mighty New York Is­landers be­fore suc­cumb­ing to the even­tual Stan­ley Cup cham­pi­ons in the Pa­trick Di­vi­sion semi­fi­nals.

The next year, af­ter lead­ing Wash­ing­ton to its first 100-point sea­son and first play­off se­ries win, Mur­ray won the Jack Adams Tro­phy as the NHL’s coach of the year.

But with play­off trips came the play­off dis­ap­point­ments that now are stan­dard in Wash­ing­ton and, af­ter the Cap­i­tals won just 18 of their first 46 games in the 1989-90 sea­son, they fired Mur­ray and re­placed him with his brother Terry.

Bryan Mur­ray went on to coach the De­troit Red Wings, Florida Pan­thers, Ana­heim Ducks and Ot­tawa Se­na­tors, lo­cated about an hour south­east of his Que­bec home town. Mur­ray led the Se­na­tors to the 2007 Stan­ley Cup fi­nals, in which they lost to the Ducks.

Mur­ray also was a GM in Ana­heim, Florida, De­troit and Ot­tawa.

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