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Kings want to increase scoring, but can Stevens make it happen?

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If sheer exposure to a team translates to make that team better, then no candidate can lift the Los Angeles Kings quite like John Stevens.

The hockey world tends to lose track of assistant (or “associate”) coaches far more easily than the main guys, and that is the case with Stevens. Seriously, Stevens has been with the Kings since 2010-11. How many Kings fans occasionally forgot he was there?

(Be honest.)

Anyway, Stevens has been able to keep an eye on the Kings for some time, so does he really have a chance to make them better? That remains to be seen, but give Stevens and new GM Rob Blake credit; they at least seem to offer some specifics about improving Los Angeles’ offense beyond “score more goals.”

The presser starts around the 8:00 mark:

Stevens provides a fun line about wanting to “lead the league” in goalie interference challenges which …

*gets interrupted by Bruce Boudreau GIF*

No, but really, LA Kings Insider transcribed some of the more interesting bits about how management believes that they’ll approach zone entries and attempting to score from the center of the ice. Here are some choice bits via Rosen’s transcription:

Blake: “We were at the bottom of controlled entry, goals off of controlled entry … We were near the bottom at getting the puck to the slot whether we were skating it or passing it so there were a lot of things that, the way goals are being scored now, that we weren’t having success in.”

Stevens: ” … Analytics tells you we don’t get enough scoring opportunities from the middle of the ice and that’s clearly an area where, whether it’s quickly off a transition forecheck and you’re going to try to get to those areas, you’re going to have people there more, and spend more time around the net. But it’s clearly an area we’re going to focus on.”

***

OK, so there’s a blueprint. But roster construction matters as much as system – let’s not forget that the Kings remained a possession mammoth until the end and that Darryl Sutter remains a respected coach – and that’s where the real questions come in.

Simply put, there are some reasons to wonder if things might actually get worse.

The Kings will find out if Anze Kopitar merely experienced a down year or if this is the new reality as he turns 30 in August. Jeff Carter could hit the wall some expected him to already hit. Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are two rare Kings scorers who are in their primes … but they’re not going to be nearly as cheap after getting new deals this summer.

Ultimately, Stevens can only do so much. Blake will need to be creative to help this team … be more creative.

But hey, at least they have a plan that seems a bit more concrete than only spewing out buzzwords like “being tough to play against.”

Kings hire John Stevens as next head coach

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The Los Angeles Kings moved fairly quickly when it comes to replacing Darryl Sutter, and they did not have to go very far to do it.

The Kings announced on Sunday that John Stevens will take over as the team’s next head coach. The team will have a press conference on Monday.

Stevens has been an assistant coach with the Kings since the start of the 2010-11 season and spent four games as an interim head coach with the team during the 2011-12 season after Terry Murray was fired, and before Sutter was hired. Following the arrival of Sutter, Stevens went back to his role as an assistant, remaining in that position until now.

“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,” general manager Rob Blake said in a statement released by the team.

“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.”

Prior to his time with the Kings, Stevens served as the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers between 2006-07 and 2009-10, reaching the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2007-08 season.

He has a 122-111-34 record as an NHL head coach.

The fact the Kings are promoting from within (something they already did with the general manager role) is a pretty clear sign that even though they are seeking a different direction, they are maybe not quite prepared to go through a complete teardown of the organization.

They have missed the playoffs in two of the past three seasons, and have not won a postseason series since 2014.

Elliott would be ‘first to admit’ playoffs went poorly: Treliving

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The Calgary Flames were not blown out of the water by the Anaheim Ducks.

They were swept, yes, but all four games were close. The Flames should’ve at least won Game 3, which they led 4-1 before losing, 5-4, in overtime. In the first two games, it was penalties that hurt them.

Goaltending hurt them, too, as much as GM Brad Treliving was loath to pin the loss on one player.

The reality is, Brian Elliott finished the postseason with an .880 save percentage, the lowest of the 16 starting netminders in these playoffs. He played well at times during the regular season, but his first year in Calgary was ultimately a frustrating one.

“I think everyone would agree, Brian would be the first one, that he’s capable of playing much better,” Treliving said today. “The playoffs didn’t go the way he would like them to go. He’d be the first one to admit it.”

Read more: Flames are back to square one in search for starting goalie

Elliott and backup Chad Johnson can both become unrestricted free agents this summer; however, Treliving would not say what he intended to do about the position. Other potential UFAs include Ben Bishop and Scott Darling. Perhaps Marc-Andre Fleury will be available, too.

Before making any decisions, Treliving wants the sting of the playoff loss to wear off first.

“Emotion and frustration, I haven’t seen them ever be helpful in decision-making,” he said.

Like his two goalies, Treliving doesn’t have a contract extension either, and naturally there’s been talk he could land elsewhere if the Flames don’t buck up to keep him. The Buffalo Sabres have an opening at the GM position, if you didn’t hear.

Treliving was quiet about that as well.

“My situation, that’ll get dealt with when it gets dealt with,” he said. “That’s not for today.”

Looking back on the season as a whole, the Flames did make considerable progress, going from 77 points to 94 and a spot in the playoffs. Things didn’t go well against the Ducks, but that doesn’t cancel out all the positives.

“As difficult as the last 48 hours have been, there’s lot to be proud of and there’s a lot to look forward to,” said Treliving. “I think this organization, this team, is on the cusp of being there.

“But our message to the players is, ‘It doesn’t happen because we think we are. It doesn’t happen because we’re going to be a year older or a year wiser. It happens because we’re going to put the work in.'”

Flames are back to square one in search for starting goalie

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The Calgary Flames thought they’d solved their goaltending problem. They thought they were in good shape. Finally.

They thought wrong.

The way their series with the Ducks just went, it is tough to imagine Brian Elliott getting a contract extension and returning next season.

Elliott, a pending unrestricted free agent, started all four games against Anaheim. He lost the first three, then only lasted 5:38 of Game 4 before being replaced by journeyman backup Chad Johnson.

Read more: Elliott ‘still can’t explain’ soft opening goal in Game 4 loss

Elliott finished the playoffs with an .880 save percentage — a big reason the Flames were swept.

Now, if his regular season had gone smoothly, Elliott’s playoff numbers could perhaps be excused. But his regular season did not go smoothly. It started horrifically, got significantly better after Christmas, then trailed off again down the stretch.

It’s unfortunate, really, because Elliott had hoped to be so much more for the Flames after being acquired from St. Louis.

“I’m going to do my best to be the backbone of the team,” he said over the summer, “and try to be a leader and just do whatever I can to be the rock for the guys on the back end and let the guys do the rest of the work.”

At 32 years old, Elliott is no spring chicken either. So, instead of giving him another chance, the Flames may look to sign 30-year-old Ben Bishop or 28-year-old Scott Darling. Both are pending UFAs.

Or maybe they get Marc-Andre Fleury from Pittsburgh. He’s only signed for two more years, which could provide a bridge to youngsters Jon Gillies, Mason McDonald, or Nick Schneider.

It’s all up in the air for GM Brad Treliving — that is, assuming he’s still the GM.

Treliving is like his two goalies. He doesn’t have a contract extension either.

Iginla ‘definitely’ wants to keep playing after Kings stint

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Jarome Iginla feels rejuvenated after his late-season trade to the Los Angeles Kings, and the 39-year-old forward would like to play in the NHL again next season.

Iginla confirmed his hopes in a conference call Wednesday, three days after the Kings’ season ended.

Los Angeles acquired the 20-year veteran on March 1 to aid in its ultimately fruitless playoff push. Iginla had six goals and three assists in 19 games for the Kings, his fifth NHL franchise.

Before the trade, Iginla occasionally felt worn down by a miserable season with the Colorado Avalanche. The chance to reconnect with Darryl Sutter, his former coach in Calgary, and to play in meaningful games again rekindled his passion for hockey.

“I would like to (play next season),” Iginla said. “But at the same time, I’ve got to wait and see what the options are. So it’s not 100 percent, but I definitely would like to. But I’ve got to wait and see what options, and where things are at.”

Iginla was a definite improvement to the low-scoring Kings’ offense, and his speed even impressed his younger teammates on a sometimes plodding team. He scored three power-play goals and four game-winning goals during his six weeks in Los Angeles, which faded from the playoff race late and finished 10th in the Western Conference.

Iginla said he would definitely consider returning to Los Angeles, but nobody knows what the Kings will be seeking. They fired Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi on Monday, appointing Hall of Fame defenseman Rob Blake as their new GM.

“I don’t know if they’re an option from their point of view,” Iginla said. “They have to take time and do what they do in their analysis and stuff. But from my point of view, that would be an option. I did enjoy it. It was great for me.”

Iginla might want to join a team closer to Stanley Cup contention as he continues to chase his first NHL title. Yet he wouldn’t be surprised by a quick rebound from the Kings, who won championships in 2012 and 2014 with largely the same core that has won just one playoff game in three seasons since.

“It is a top organization,” Iginla said. “You go there and you see the core that they have with (Drew) Doughty, (Jake) Muzzin, some of the young (defensemen), one of the best goalies in the world (in Jonathan Quick), some of the best centermen in the world with (Jeff) Carter and (Anze) Kopitar. I know it’s a tough time there right now, but if anyone can turn it around quickly, they would be one of the organizations with that kind of core that can bounce back and have a great year.”

Iginla has 625 goals and 675 assists, giving him an even 1,300 points in 1,554 career NHL games. He spent his first 15 1/2 seasons with the Calgary Flames before suiting up for Pittsburgh, Boston, Colorado and Los Angeles over the past five years.