After a brutal start to their season that has seen the team wallow in the last place in the Western Conference with the worst record in the NHL, the Los Angeles Kings have fired head coach John Stevens and assistant Don Nachbaur, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Stevens had hoped that a 4-1 victory over Columbus yesterday would mark a turnaround for the club’s fortunes, but it was not enough to save his job. The Kings currently hold a 4-8-1 record.
“This is a critical time in our season and our results to date have well below our expectations,” said General Manager Rob Blake.
“With that in mind, this was a difficult decision but one we felt was necessary.”
This is just Stevens’ second season as the head coach of the Kings. He was the assistant to former head coach Darryl Suter, and the pair led the team to the Stanley Cup Championship in 2012 and 2014. Last season, the team fired the hard-driving Suter and hired Stevens to replace him, as Stevens was familiar with the players and management team and his softer authoritarian style was considered the antithesis to Suter. Club President Luc Robitaille and General Manager Rob Blake sought a more up-tempo, attacking style than the slow, stingy, defensive game favored by Suter. The team was successful last season, going 45-29-8 despite losing star goaltender Jonathan Quick to injury for long stretches of the season. Their playoff hopes ended in a whimper, however, as they were swept by the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the playoffs.
Despite playing at a higher tempo, the team never did gain traction on the attack, continuing to rank low in scoring and most offensive categories. The team brought sharpshooting Russian winger Ilya Kovalchuk back to the NHL this season in an effort to bolster the team’s attack, but those hopes have yet to materialize. To make matters worse, Quick was again injured and missed time, and even when he was available the team’s once-vaunted defense had apparently disintegrated. The Kings rank last in the NHL in goals per game and their scoring differential ranks 31st.
The star-laden core of the team, as well as many longtime role players, is aging and their window for another championship is closing, leading management to push for results now as they can’t afford to be patient and allow the Kings to play through tough stretches.
The team has announced that former Vancouver Canucks coach Willie Desjardins will replace Stevens as head coach, with German national team head coach and former NHL star Marco Sturm taking over as his assistant.