Bryan Murray, one of the most successful coaches in the NHL in the 1980s, lost his job in the wake of an eight-game losing streak that has left the Caps last in the Patrick Division, with an 18-24-4 record.
Terry Murray, 39, has been coach of the Capitals' American Hockey League affiliate Baltimore Skipjacks for the past two seasons.
Bryan Murray had coached the Capitals since the 1981-82 season and led them to the playoffs seven times. In his eight seasons with Washington, he compiled a record of 343-246-83. The Capitals, however, were never able to advance beyond the division final in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Caps finished first in the Patrick Division for the first time last season with 92 points, but lost to the Flyers in the division semifinals.
"The contributions of Bryan Murray to this organization have been as much or as many as any other person or player who has ever played or been a part of this organization," Poile said in making the announcement at an early evening news conference.
"The Washington Capitals won the Patrick Division championship last year. The expectations then were great and the expectations now are still great," Poile said. "My decision today has been based on the 46 games of this regular season and not the last eight games."
Poile said he was not happy with the play of the Capitals, who have the fourth-worst record in the NHL, are second-to-last on the power play and are 12th out of 21 teams in goals-against average.
Poile decided to fire Murray yesterday morning and informed him of the decision after the Capitals' practice.
"There's no doubt in my mind that Bryan Murray will be a coach in the National Hockey League, and probably very soon," Poile said. "We didn't get rid of a bad person today; we didn't get rid of a lousy coach."
Bryan Murray could not immediately be reached for comment.
"I'm quite surprised. I didn't expect it all," defenseman Kevin Hatcher said. "Hopefully it will give us a lift, but it's hard to say right now how it will affect us."
Terry Murray was with the Skipjacks in Ontario last night, but Poile said Murray would travel back to Maryland in time for the Capitals practice today. Washington plays host to the first-place New Jersey Devils tonight.
Murray has a lifetime AHL coaching record of 56-63-5. The Skipjacks are in second place in the AHL Southern Division with a record of 26-17-1.