Not a bad first season for Alaska Aces bench boss Rob Murray -- he guided his club to the Mountain Division, Western Conference and Brabham Cup titles, and today he was named co-ECHL Coach of the Year with Gwinnett's John Wroblewski.
Murray, who turns 45 Wednesday, is a former NHLer and 16-year pro player who coached the Aces to a 43-18-11 record.
He and Wroblewski were honored in a vote of their peers around the 20-team circuit.
That's two in a row for the Aces -- Brent Thompson, who guided the Aces to the Kelly Cup last spring, was the ECHL's 2011 Coach of the Year. Murray becomes the third Aces coach to be the league's Coach of the Year in the franchise's nine ECHL seasons. Davis Payne won the honor in 2007.
The Blog has long said being an ECHL head coach is as tough a gig as their is in North American hockey coaching -- the bench boss has to be coach, general manager, salary-cap wizard, practice planner, roster juggler, tactician, strategist, recruiter and about 3,211 other jobs.
Granted, Murray basically inherited a team that Thompson had largely recruited before accepting an AHL job, but Murray also had to step into a Kelly Cup-winning team where nearly all the players were returning -- that's no small task.
All he did was deal with the usual injuries, call-ups and loans most ECHL coaches endure and guide the team to a league-best 43-18-11 record.
Ontario's Jason Christie, who took a franchise that had not qualified for the playoffs in the previous two seasons and seized the Pacific Division crown, finished third in balloting. One of The Blog's favorites, Las Vegas' Ryan Mougenel, was fourth, and Elmira's Pat Bingham was fifth.
Look for more on Murray's honor in Wednesday's dead-trees edition of the ADN.