The Los Angeles Kings have hired associate coach John Stevens as their next head coach.
Stevens has been on the Kings’ coaching staff since the 2010-11 season and for the 2014-15 season, he was promoted to associate coach. He coached the Philadelphia Flyers from 2006-07 until being fired 2009-10. There he went 120-109-34 and made the Eastern Conference Final in 2008. He also coached the Kings for four games in 2011-12 after the team fired Terry Murray and before it hired Darryl Sutter.
Stevens will replace Sutter, who was fired along with general manager Dean Lombardi on April 10. That decision promoted Rob Blake from assistant general manager to general manager and gave president of business operations Luc Robitaille an expanded role that included hockey operations.
Though the Kings won two Stanley Cups with Sutter and Lombardi, the team had missed the playoffs two of the last three years and became somewhat stale offensively.
At Blake’s introductory press conference he talked about trying to find a way to make the defensive minded Kings more offensive and the last several weeks he has reportedly been talking with Stevens about coaching philosophies before coming to this decision.
“John and I had very productive dialogue this last week in relation to his head coaching philosophy and specifically how he would implement a strategy to activate our players offensively while maintaining the defensive philosophies we have come to be known for,” Blake said according to a release posted on the Kings website. “I am confident that we are both in agreement on how that can be executed. With that said, we believe John has the ideal qualities to lead our hockey club. His wide array of coaching experience, including success as an NHL head coach and his inherent knowledge of our players and those in our development system, is very appealing to us. We are confident he is the best person to lead our hockey club forward.”
According to the release, goaltending coach Bill Ranford will remain with the team.
Whether Stevens is the right guy to turn around the Kings’ struggling offense is unclear. In a recent story, the Los Angeles Times noted that Stevens was initially hired to help out LA’s defense.
With Stevens helping out Sutter on the defensive side of the puck, the Kings won two Stanley Cups based around their grinding system, but since LA’s last Cup win in 2014, the team struggled to find offensive and defensive balance.
Los Angeles scored 2.60 goals per-game, which ranked 20th in the NHL during that timespan, and allowed 2.40 per-game, which ranked second over that stretch in the three seasons after 2014. This past year the Kings’ scored 2.43 goals per-game, which ranked 25th and allowed 2.45, which ranked fifth.
Still, Stevens has a good rapport with the players and keeps some level of familiarity with them while they’re still in their Stanley Cup window of opportunity. The Kings have said they still believe that forwards Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter, defenseman Drew Doughty and goaltender Jonathan Quick can make a few more Cup runs.
“The culture is in place and I respect that culture 100 percent,” Blake said at his introductory news conference “It’s a culture that you know has success. Sometimes you can come into maybe an organization and they haven’t won and they say they have this culture and that, but it has been proven here. Like I said, the core players like Kopi and Drew and Jeff – they’ve been molded with that culture. It’s not coming out of them, so we’ll build on that.”
Los Angeles will officially introduce Stevens at a Monday news conference at Staples Center.
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