ST. LOUIS -- Blues veteran Keith Tkachuk has a beef with head coach Andy Murray that he wants to get off his chest.
"Whatever I say, though, he's going to say something to me about it," Tkachuk said, wary of voicing his pet peeve regarding Murray in the newspaper. "OK, sometimes he puts out a ratings sheet after the game and it's funny how the only time it's up is when I have a bad game."
Truth is, Tkachuk wasn't really concerned about the repercussions because as teammate Barret Jackman says, Murray "has softened with Walt (Tkachuk)" over the last couple of years.
As Murray enters his fourth season in St. Louis, others might argue that he isn't the dictator he was when he arrived in 2006. The daily meetings, the death stares, the homework sheets underneath the hotel room doors ... very little is said about that anymore.
"I'll always have that tag," Murray said. "If you get a tag early in life as something, it doesn't matter, you'll always have that tag. I've got this tag as being a hard-nosed coach that drives his guys and he's tough on players.
"I'm demanding of them because I want the best for them and the best for our team. I always think I'm fair. The bottom line is I'm concerned about each individual player."
And that's what Blues players have come to realize -- underneath the discipline-heavy demeanor is someone who cares about his players.
"Everything he does, he does for a reason," Tkachuk said. "He does things in a way to make you respond. We're no doubt the most prepared team in the NHL for every game."
In the two-plus seasons since Murray was hired, the Blues are 101-85-32. After being named one of three finalists for the NHL's coach of the year award last season, Murray recently had his option picked up for the 2010-11 season.
Murray remembers bits and pieces of how he picked up certain labels while coach of the L.A. Kings. One time, he quizzed his players on what they were doing right when they were playing their best hockey. "I thought it was very reasonable," Murray said. "I said, 'If you want to write it down, that's fine. If you want to talk about it, that's fine. But tell me how you were playing when you played your best game.
"That got turned into me wanting the players to write an essay. It wasn't an essay. Then it got out and in the blogs that this high school coach is making NHL players write an essay. It was totally blown out of proportion."
Blues President John Davidson, who hired Murray in December 2006, said: "I find it almost comical ... it's always, 'Andy this, Andy that.' ... Andy is a heck of a coach. Players who complained in the past are dead wood. They are players that don't know what it takes to be a champion. But also, Andy is a more experienced coach than five years ago."
In a way, Murray said that he's thankful for the reputation others have built for him. The Blues were 30th in the NHL when he took over and in need of a totalitarian coach. "Maybe I got hired because I was seen as that guy that would push guys and be demanding of them," Murray said. "The bottom line is, you are who you are."
The club signed Darryl Sydor to a one-year, $1 million contract on Friday and assigned defenseman Jonas Junland to Peoria.