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Team moves on from Desjardins; coaching searches draw focus



About the Kings:

LA Kings Vice President and General Manager Rob Blake released the following statement today:

“Today we thanked Willie Desjardins for his effort and dedication while serving as our interim head coach. We wish Willie and his family nothing but the best going forward. The process for hiring our next head coach is underway and we look forward to conducting a thorough search for the right person to lead our team. ”

Desjardins, 27-34-8 after his appointment as Interim Head Coach on November 4, is 136-144-35 in 315 NHL games, which also included a tenure in Vancouver from 2014-17. Though his appointment behind Los Angeles' will be associated with his action of Ilya Kovalchuk and Jonathan Quick's on-camera rebuke in Carolina, it was stepped into what was a situation of the reality of an impending rebuild clearly developed, and in the second half of the season the team traded its best defense man in 201

8-19, a defenseman who'd been playing in a top four role, and two defensive-minded role playing forwards.

Desjardins is also not without blame after a dismal season in which fault can be found across a number of departments. From management to coaching to personnel, there were shortcomings across the board that should stir up accountable introspection and reinforce the importance of culture, team identity and buy-in. These are broader themes that an interim coach might have trouble cultivating, and certainly Desjardins were able to kick it to any noticeable degree greater than John Stevens did the start of the season. But it does not deserve undue blame for a situation in which it became clearer that the depth and dimension of the team's challenges were greater than any questionable allotment of ice time.

Technically there are eight coaching vacancies – Los Angeles, Anaheim, Ottawa, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Edmonton, Buffalo and Florida – But St. Louis will be expected to retain interim coach Craig Berube, and reports surfaced Sunday afternoon that Florida will move to their Joel Quenneville after dismissing Bob Boughner earlier in the day.

Though any team would benefit from a coach of his stature, the Kings and Quenneville has never really been a cohesive or realistic marriage. Quenneville, the most high-profile name in this summer's coaching class, hasn't communicated his intent publicly. But teams are ahead in their current competitive cycle with openings, while Los Angeles is embarking on a intended reshaping of its roster and will not position itself as a contender in 2019-20 – though they do have an intriguing amassment of skilled young prospects whose development will influence the length and fortune of the rebuild.

Because of the fixed number of coaching vacancies and the desire to best position an organization for the draft and free agency while installing organizational doctrine and detail, teams with openings will be motivated to move quickly. As of two weeks ago the team was still in the process of putting together an extensive list of potential head coaches that might be considered, although Todd McLellan has always appeared to be the front runner, and there has been communication between the parties.

Looking to become faster, more skilled and more offensive, the Kings will be looking for a coach who aligns with their philosophical thrusts. McLellan was successful in performing concerted structure and tightening defensive play during the Oilers' breakthrough 2016-17 season, though his most successful success came with the Sharks from 2008-15, when his teams combined to rank in goals for, sixth in goals against, McLellan, who coached General Manager Rob Blake with San Jose from 2008-10, was 434-282-90 in 806 games as Head Coach of the Sharks and Oilers

Lots more to come on this topic Monday, when Rob Blake will be among those to speak in the final organized media availability of the season.

– Lead photo via Jeff Vinnick / NHLI


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