LA Kings’ John Stevens the first coaching casualty of NHL season

The Los Angeles Kings fired head coach John Stevens on November 4th and replaced him with former Vancouver Canucks’ bench boss Willie Desjardins. Assistant coach Don Nachbaur was also given his marching orders and his job will be taken over by Marco Sturm. Desjardins is being called an interim coach as he’s only been given until the end of the season to turn things around. In addition, Sturm is currently coaching in Germany and won’t head out to Los Angeles until mid-November. The move may have been a bit of a surprise to some fans, but it wasn’t a total shock considering the team is off to a 4-8-1 start and sits in the basement of the Pacific Division.

The Kings have been beaten in seven of their past nine outings, but the timing of the announcement was a little odd considering it came after they downed the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 at home just a few hours earlier. Desjardins will get his feet wet behind the Kings’ bench on November 6th when they host the visiting Anaheim Ducks. Los Angeles GM Rob Blake said he believes the 61-year-old Desjardins can kick start the team and get some better results before the side falls too far out of the playoff race. Desjardins last NHL stint saw him go 109-110-27 with Vancouver between 2014 and 2017.

Blake hinted that more changes may be coming though if he doesn’t see an improvement in play soon. The 52-year-old Stevens was hired by the Kings in 2010/11 and worked as an assistant to former head coaches Terry Murray and Darryl Sutter, winning the Stanley Cup in 2011/12 and again in 2013/14. He then took over the reins from Sutter for the 2017/18 season. Stevens guided the Kings to a 45-29-8 mark last year, but the team was swept in four games in the first round of the playoffs by the Vegas Golden Knights. Stevens had previous NHL head coaching experience as he also guided the Philadelphia Flyers from 2006 to 2009 and his career record now stands at 171-148-43.

Blake said he felt terrible firing Stevens, but something had to be done to shake the team up and it seemed like the most sensible option. The squad has been under performing as the Kings have scored just 28 goals so far this season for an average of 2.15 per game, which is last in the NHL. This comes as a surprise since they signed free agent Russian sniper Ilya Kovalchuk in the offseason to a three-year deal worth $18.75 million. The team scored 2.89 goals per game last year to rank 16th in the league, but instead of improving they’ve actually gone south. In addition, their chances of winning low-scoring games isn’t that good at the moment since number one goalie Jonathan Quick is on the sidelines due to recent knee surgery.

But according to Blake’s comments to the media, he believes the players simply haven’t been performing as well as expected and as well as they should be and that needs to be rectified as soon as possible. And that’s why the Kings’ players who don’t have no-trade or no-movement clauses in their contracts will need to pull up their socks under Desjardins. If they don’t they could find themselves shipped out of town as well. If there is a bright side to the coaching change in Los Angeles, it’s the fact that goaltending coach Bill Ranford and assistant coach Dave Lowry still have their jobs…at least for the time being.

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