The Lightning's musical-chairs coaching search hums along and may continue another week or so.
But the man everyone expected to be sitting in the coaching seat when the music stopped decided he doesn't want to play anymore. Ted Nolan, last season's coach of the year, has withdrawn his name from consideration.
A new candidate emerged, however, when Lightning general manager Phil Esposito said he wanted to speak with former Flyers coach Terry Murray about the opening.
"I have had no conversation with Phil or anyone, and this really comes out of leftfield," Murray said from his New Jersey home Monday. "So I really shouldn't say anything now. But I will say that I am interested in coaching again. When I was fired in Philadelphia last season, it came as quite a shock to me. And I certainly wasn't ready to give up coaching. It's something I still want to do."
Murray led the Flyers to the Stanley Cup finals last season but was fired after Philadelphia was swept by the Red Wings. He became Philadelphia's pro scout, and the Lightning would need permission from the Flyers to talk to Murray.
"I've heard a lot of good things about him from around the league and I know good things about him," Esposito said. "Yes, he's someone we're considering."
Murray reportedly fell out of favor with some of his players during the Cup finals, but he does have an impressive 281-198-58 career record in stints with Washington (1990-94) and Philadelphia (1994-97).
"I think Terry Murray is a good fit for any team," said Lightning forward Mikael Renberg, who played for Murray in Philadelphia. "He's especially good at working with younger players. I like him. I like him a lot. He's a great coach, in my opinion."
Esposito also said International Hockey League coaches Chris McSorley (Las Vegas) and Jeff Brubaker (San Antonio), as well as interim coach Rick Paterson, are on the list of candidates to replace Terry Crisp, who was fired Sunday.
The list, though, still is a work in progress, partly because of Nolan's surprise withdrawal. After speaking to his wife, the former Buffalo coach decided Sunday night he didn't want to move his family from its Canadian home.
"It had nothing to do with a contractual disagreement or anything like that," Nolan's agent, Robin Burns, said. "There wasn't a problem with money or the terms. Tampa Bay was willing to pay Ted his fair market price. It had nothing to do with anything like that. But when Ted looked at his family situation and the timing and his children and things like that, Ted chose to not continue."
Burns added that neither the Lightning's unstable ownership situation nor the state of the team had any bearing on Nolan's decision.
Ironically, Burns also represents Murray, but he said he had not discussed Murray with Esposito.
Meantime, if possession is nine-tenths of the law, Paterson is in a sweet position. Yet, after coaching the Lightning to a 3-1 loss to Los Angeles on Sunday, Paterson is in the awkward position of trying to win a permanent job knowing he eventually may return to the ranks of assistant.
"All I can do is work hard and do the best job I can no matter what my title is," Paterson said. "I'm here to help the Tampa Bay Lightning win games. That hasn't changed. I really can't worry about everything else. I have an opportunity, but really, the best way to take advantage of that is to prepare this team the best I can and to win."
Paterson and Murray appear the leading candidates. McSorley and Brubaker, meanwhile, also might be in line for a possible assistant's opening should Paterson become the permanent coach.
McSorley, brother of NHL defenseman Marty, has assembled an impressive minor-league resume. He is the East Coast Hockey League career wins leader and never missed the playoffs in five seasons. He led Toledo to back-to-back ECHL titles in 1993-94. At the same time, he coached in the Roller Hockey International and won championships with Anaheim in Buffalo. In his first season with Las Vegas, he led the Thunder to the Turner Cup championship.
Brubaker, 39, was the ECHL's career wins leader before McSorley. He coached Greensboro to winning records six straight seasons and three appearances in the ECHL finals. Brubaker, an enforcer who played eight NHL seasons (1979-89) with seven teams, is coaching his second season in San Antonio.
"I don't have a timetable," Esposito said of hiring a coach. "But we play Wednesday, then we're off for a week, then we go on the long (four-game) road trip (that ends Nov. 11). I'd like to name someone either in the week before we go or by the end of the trip or sometime in there. We'll see."