When Lokomotiv started the 2014-15 KHL season with three wins in their first nine games, a change was needed. Head coach Sean Simpson and assistant Colin Muller were fired on Saturday, with Anatoly Khomenko taking over as interim coach. But the team wanted to bring back someone they were familiar with.
Enter Dave King. Again.
The 66-year old King was hired by Lokomotiv as their new head coach on Wednesday. He had been working briefly as a consultant with the team until visa issues were worked out. (King will retain his role as Senior Advisor to the Arizona Coyotes coaching staff after the KHL season.)
When King was brought in last spring to coach Lokomotiv, he knew what success would do for the area.
“All of us in the hockey world have an attachment to this team because of what they went through,” King said after he took the job, receiving a leave of absence from the Phoenix Coyotes, where he’d been working as the team’s development coach. “The plane accident makes it a special organization and it is a long recovery process from that. We have a young team, a good group and a great organization, so that made it intriguing to me.”
King didn't have much time to save the season. There were four games to go and Lokomotiv was clinging to the eighth spot in the Western Conference. He guided them to four straight victories to begin his tenure there, and that was just the start of things. A stunning run through the Gagarin Cup playoffs saw Lokomotiv knock off two-time defending champion Dynamo Moscow and then Ilya Kovalchuk’s free-spending SKA St. Petersburg, to reach the conference final.
It was a run that inspired the hockey world, three years after the tragic plane crashed that killed the entire Lokomotiv team, including King’s friend, head coach Brad McCrimmon. They fell to Lev Praha in five games and King went back to his job with the Coyotes, but he left an impression.
Currently, Lokomotiv sit 10th in the Western Conference through 11 games, so there's plenty of time left for King to deliver a sequel to last spring's amazing playoff run.
- - - - - - -