After yesterday’s stunning overhaul in Los Angeles — the firing of GM Dean Lombardi and head coach Darryl Sutter, who combined to win a pair of Stanley Cups — attention has now turned toward the future.
Lombardi’s role has been filled by the tandem of Luc Robitaille (president) and Rob Blake (VP and general manager).
Their first job will be to find Sutter’s replacement.
Based on multiple reports, the primary goal is to get the team playing faster. There’s been a huge emphasis on speed — specifically, the Kings’ lack of it — and while that’ll be partly addressed with personnel addition/subtractions from Blake and Robitaille, part of it will also be addressed with systems, philosophy and a new style of play.
Sutter was a proponent of hard, heavy hockey that relied on big, physical forwards and a strong forecheck. He had tremendous success with it but, as the rest of the league trended towards skill and speed, the Kings failed to adapt.
The result was an anemic offense this past season, one that finished 25th in the NHL with 2.43 goals per game.
So with that in mind, who might be on the coaching shortlist? Some ideas:
On paper, Stevens ticks a lot of boxes. He’s got extensive experience, having served as a head coach in Philly and an assistant in L.A. for the last seven seasons. That’s a tremendous amount of familiarity with the Kings organization, an organization that might not want to lose him. Stevens has been in demand over the last few summers, and has reportedly been in the running for a few head coaching jobs, including the Carolina gig that eventually went to Bill Peters.
Of course, the 50-year-old’s familiarity with the Kings might be why he won’t get the job. The club had a massive shakeup yesterday, and it’s safe to assume Blake and Robitaille will want to go in a different direction from Sutter. Hiring his longtime assistant doesn’t exactly accomplish that.
Stothers is another nod to familiarity, albeit in a different fashion than Stevens. Stothers has been the head coach of L.A.’s AHL affiliate for the last three years and enjoyed tremendous success, winning the Calder Cup in 2015 while sending a number of minor-leaguers to the bigs. This year alone, Adrian Kempe, Paul LaDue and Johnny Brodzinski all made their NHL debuts.
Stothers is an interesting candidate because, as Sutter stressed last summer, some of the Kings’ young prospects need to make an impact at the NHL level. Who better to integrate the kids than the guy that’s coached them for the last few years?
Yes, Granato only recently left the NHL for his dream job at the University of Wisconsin and yes, he was named a finalist for national coach of the year. So it would seemingly take an awful lot to leave the Badgers (of note, he inked a five-year, $2.75 million contract with UW.)
With that said…
Granato, at least in terms of the aforementioned checkbox, makes sense for the Kings. He’s got a wealth of NHL experience, serving as the head man in Colorado with lengthy assistant stints in Detroit and Pittsburgh. He’s also got deep ties to both Blake and Robitaille, having played together in L.A. (the three all went to the ’93 Stanley Cup Final together).
Granato was on hand at Blake’s jersey retirement ceremony, and both he and Robitaille — along with Barry Melrose — were honored on the same Legends Night back in ’14.
ESPN’s Scott Burnside floated the idea of Caps assistant Todd Reirden, which makes sense. He’s been described as a head coach in the making… Gerard Gallant’s name has come up though, to be fair, his name has been attached to almost every coaching vacancy since his dismissal from Florida last year… Dallas is believed to already have a shortlist to replace Lindy Ruff, consisting of Gallant, Ken Hitchcock and recently dismissed Canucks bench boss Willie Desjardins. Per TSN, Stars GM Jim Nill wants to make a decision quickly, meaning the two leftover candidates could be courted by the Kings.