While the other candidates have adopted a wait-and-see attitude, Bryan Murray has made it clear that he wants to become coach of the Washington Capitals.
Murray directed the Capitals' practices at Fort Dupont Sunday and yesterday. In between, he returned to Hershey, where he coaches the Capital farm team.
Today, Murray is to be back here again, for an interview with team owner Abe Pollin. Don Cherry, Fred Shero and a fourth contender, identified by reports in New York as Phil Esposito, also are to meet with Pollin, after which a decision will be made on a successor to Gary Green. The new coach may be named before Wednesday's home game against Pittsburgh.
An attempt to reach Esposito at his office in New York resulted in the information that he is on vacation. Asked if there was a telephone number at which he could be reached, the reply was, "Where he is, there are no phones."
"I think there is a good chance it (hiring a coach) will be resolved in the next two or three days," said Roger Crozier, the acting general manager and acting coach, who asked Murray to run practices because of the press of other work.
Part of that work became clear yesterday, when Crozier called up defenseman Jay Johnston and right wing Tony Cassolato from Hershey. Defenseman Paul MacKinnon was demoted and there is a good chance right wing Roland Stoltz will be Hershey-bound by Wednesday.
"I'd like to think my chances are pretty good," said Murray, named last season's minor league coach of the year by the Hockey News. "Being in the organization, knowing the personnel, knowing the young guys coming up should be an advantage. One thing I don't have, obviously, is an NHL background, but coming into a situation like this, I'm not sure whether that's good or bad.
"I want the job. I've coached 18 years and this is something I've strived for, although I never really felt I would ever be in position to be inquired about. I have a phys ed (physical education) and a collegiate background and I think that's a benefit in understanding today's athletes.
"I feel there is potential here. The guys need work and they need to upgrade the tempo of the game. But in the two days I've been here, the guys have been willing to work and they have pushed themselves."
Murray has pushed them, too. He concedes he is not hesitant to drive his players, whether they like it or not, if he considers it necessary. Accordingly, at points in yesterday's practice, he halted the proceedings to make the following comments:
"I hope you don't play against the opposition like that," accompanied by a demonstration of how to cross-check players away from the front of the net;
"It's nice to try to hit, but not five guys on one man;"
"Make a pretty good effort or get off the ice, either one."
Murray joined Crozier behind the bench for Saturday's 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers and was shocked by the players' need for conditioning.
"They put out a fairly good effort, but in the second period they just didn't have the wheels," Murray said. "And you could see how accustomed they are to losing by their reaction to the Ranger goals. It was almost like they were expecting them. We need to change the attitude. I've been in this situation before and once you make changes, like a new power-play setup, and you get a result, you are able to change the attitude."
Crozier met with the players after practice yesterday, because "it is only fair to keep them up to date. I don't want anybody hanging in limbo, not knowing what's going on. The players have to know what we're trying to do."
Meanwhile, Jack Button, the director of player recruitment, represented the Capitals at yesterday's meeting of NHL general managers in Chicago.
"I was going to go, but with trying to line up interviews with coaches and other business, I couldn't get away," Crozier said. "But Jack went, to give everybody the message that we are in the market to do whatever is necessary to get on a winning path. Whatever is here at our disposal -- players or draft choices -- we are willing to discuss it with anybody."
Crozier said he had no inkling of what his status will be when the coaching crisis has been resolved.
"I've always been taught to be loyal to the organization I work for," Crozier said. "I am vigorously trying to find people to fill these holes. The coach has to be settled immediately. If they see fit to get a general manager, too, I'll go try to find somebody for them."