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Ftorek Weighs 2-Year Offer to Coach Kings

December 08, 1987|JERRY CROWE | Times Staff Writer

ASHINGTON — Rob Ftorek will oversee the Kings' practice today at Bayonne, N.J., although as of now he is still coach of the Kings' American Hockey League affiliate at New Haven, Conn.

In fact, Ftorek, the Kings' No. 1 choice to replace the deposed Mike Murphy, will run the Nighthawks' practice this morning before making the 1-hour 40-minute drive to Bayonne.

A voracious ice cream eater who abhors smoking, Ftorek spent the better part of Monday holed up in a Washington hotel room with the Kings' general manager, Rogie Vachon, who is never far from a long, fat cigar.

By the time he emerged, "he needed a gas mask," Vachon said.

He also needs time to weigh the Kings' offer, which co-owner Bruce McNall said by phone from New York is a two-year contract.

"He didn't want to commit himself officially before he talked to Bruce and before he talked to his family," Vachon said. "I think he wants the job, but he wants to make sure everything is in order before he takes it."

And so, Ftorek left Washington and returned home to Guilford, Conn.

After today's practice, he and Vachon will meet McNall for dinner in New York and, if all goes as expected, Ftorek will be behind the bench Wednesday night when the Kings play the New Jersey Devils at East Rutherford, N.J.

"I want the opportunity to talk with them a little more so they have a better idea of who they're getting," Ftorek told John Altavilla of the New Haven Register Monday night. "I want them to know who I am.

"If I'm going to take the job, I'm not going for short term. I want them to know who they're putting stock in.

"There's no deadline. I'm pretty flexible. I always have been."

For the Kings, the matter would seem to require a little more urgency.

With an uncomfortable Vachon behind the bench Sunday night, they were steamrollered by the Washington Capitals, 10-3, dropping their record, worst in the National Hockey League, to 7-17-4.

The loss was the fourth straight for the Kings, who are 0-5-1 since beating the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 25.

"After that nightmare," McNall said of the debacle against the Capitals, "I told Rogie I was firing him from that position permanently."

Ftorek, 35, would seem to hold the upper hand in negotiations.

But, when asked by Altavilla if he would ask for a long-term deal, Ftorek said: "As far as I'm concerned, I'm getting a chance to do something and I wouldn't make a demand like that."

McNall said he didn't anticipate any problem in signing Ftorek, a former NHL and World Hockey Assn. player whose leadership skills are such that he is the only English-speaking captain the Quebec Nordiques have ever had.

"I want to find a coach for a long term, so I want to make sure we find the right guy," said McNall, who was in New York Monday and did not meet with Ftorek. "And I think he wants to know that he'll be given the power to turn it around without me screwing it up.

"Rogie told me he's a very detail-conscious guy and he has very specific things he wants to do with this team to turn it into a winner. And I like that very much. I'm happy that he didn't just come in and take the job."

McNall, though, said he is confident that by the time Ftorek is finished eating his ice cream tonight, he will have accepted the Kings' offer and that an announcement will be made Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the man Ftorek will replace said by phone from Los Angeles that he was "greatly disappointed" in the Kings' decision to fire him.

Murphy, a former King captain and assistant coach who replaced Pat Quinn last Jan. 10 after Quinn signed to become president and general manager of the Vancouver Canucks, was 20-37-8 before being fired Sunday as the 14th coach in the Kings' 21 years.

"I thought that they were a little more committed to the type of person I was, to the character of person I was," he said. "I thought the work habits I brought with me would carry throughout the team and eventually we would evolve into the type of team they've talked about having here."

Could he have done more?

"I feel I did the best job I was capable of doing under the circumstances," he said. "I have no regrets. I'm not sour.

"I'm hurt, as anybody would be who went through rejection like that. But that's (part of) the job."

Unwilling to take full responsibility for the Kings' poor record, Murphy was nevertheless reluctant to discuss what moves the Kings needed to make.

"You just have to look at the games," he said. "You can't give up the quality (scoring) chances that we give up. I don't think you can say one guy has to be changed, or two guys.

"There's an attitude that has to start to come through with all the players. They have to develop a commitment to win the game, regardless of how they have to get it done."

Defenseman Mark Hardy called the Kings a "selfish" team.

"Until we learn to take as much pride in keeping the puck out of our net as we do in scoring goals, we're going nowhere, no matter who's coaching," Hardy said. "We've got to get some discipline on this team."

Apparently agreeing, McNall said that, as convinced as he is that Ftorek is the right choice to replace Murphy, he's not at all sure that one man can turn the Kings into a winner.

"In all fairness to Mike Murphy even now," McNall said, "I'm not at all convinced that the fact that he's gone is the answer. It may be a partial answer. I doubt very much that it's the full answer. I think we need a lot of changes--in morale and maybe in personnel."

Starting today, McNall said, that's something he'll rely on Rob Ftorek to evaluate.

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