The advantage to firing your coach at the beginning of the offseason is that there are usually a whole bunch of candidates available. It’s no different for the Los Angeles Kings, who got rid of Darryl Sutter on Monday and now will presumably take their time finding a replacement. Ken Hitchcock has been hired by the Dallas Stars, leaving Vancouver, Florida, LA, and Vegas as teams seeking a new head coach.
So who will the Kings go after? Here are no fewer than nineteen names for your consideration.
John Stevens, associate head coach, Los Angeles Kings. Why is he the favorite? Well, the Kings have to choose whether to promote a replacement from within or to search outside the organization. And if it’s from within... well, Davis Payne has been handed his walking papers, and no one else has head coaching experience, which Rob Blake indicated as a priority. And ownership’s selection of Rob Blake as GM indicates that they’re not averse to staying close to home.
Stevens also gets a bump based on events from three years ago. (Yes, a lot changes in three years, and yes, this has a heavy Dean Lombardi effect, but bear with me.) On June 18, 2014, the Kings re-signed Davis Payne (assistant) and Bill Ranford (goalie coach) to new contracts. More importantly, they gave Stevens a promotion to associate head coach, at a time when Carolina and Pittsburgh had coaching vacancies to fill. It was enough to keep Stevens on board.
Does it guarantee he’ll be the next coach? Of course not. But does it make him more likely than anyone else? To me, yes, it does.
Gerard Gallant , former head coach, Florida Panthers
Gallant has been the leading candidate for a few different gigs now. Ever since an unceremonious dismissal on November 27, 2016, by now-demoted GM Tom Rowe, he’s been on the market. Rowe cited Gallant’s desire for size, in contrast to speed, as a factor in his dismissal. Gallant would fit, but does the Kings’ braintrust want a more drastic change from Darryl Sutter? If Gallant likes Vegas, it might not matter.
Gerard Gallant was in mix for DAL job. Now that Hitchcock hired in DAL, I'd expect Gallant as leading contender to be 1st head coach of VGK.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) April 12, 2017
[EDIT: Good call, Bob. Gerard Gallant is headed to the Vegas Golden Knights.]
As @FriedgeHNIC mentioned on the pregame show tonight,Gerard Gallant will be named head coach of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights tomorrow— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) April 13, 2017
Lindy Ruff, former head coach, Dallas Stars
Now this would be a change in style. Ruff was fired after a disastrous 2016-17 in which the Stars earned just 79 points. Their goaltending was catastrophic, and their defending was only slightly less so; only Colorado gave up more goals this season. If LA thinks that the personnel was a larger problem than the system in Dallas, they might look at the most experienced coach available. We’d certainly see more goals.
Dan Bylsma, head coach, Buffalo Sabres
Bylsma is the only coach on this list who has a head job in the NHL right now. That might not be true much longer.
Wow. Tim Murray does not commit to Dan Bylsma as his head coach beyond "today." "There will be a full review top to bottom."— Tom Martin (@4TomMartin) April 12, 2017
Bylsma is a former King who coaches a defensive style and likes dump and chase, and as Elliotte Friedman noted, he played with Rob Blake at Bowling Green University. He also has clashed with his younger players, including Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, and has weathered criticism for playing veterans over the Sabres’ young talent. Players also reportedly don’t love his structured style. LA might benefit Bylsma; will Bylsma benefit LA?
Paul MacLean, assistant coach, Anaheim Ducks
MacLean coached in Ottawa and won the Jack Adams in 2013. He also has a terrific mustache and doesn’t have to move far. In terms of style, he had varied success with the Senators playing an uptempo style which put an emphasis on team speed. It varied primarily based on possession, so MacLean might have luck with the Kings’ personnel.
Also, how badly does Drew Doughty want to be allowed to play like Erik Karlsson?
Willie Desjardins, former head coach, Vancouver Canucks
Like MacLean, Desjardins had to make do with a patchwork roster, and like MacLean, he got fired when things went south. Canucks Army defended Desjardins yesterday, crediting his “X’s and O’s” ability and chalking up his stylistic changes (to a more defensive style) to a sheer lack of options. It’d be a bit of a surprise to see him get another shot at a head gig so soon, but Dallas reportedly expressed interest as well.
Jack Capuano, former head coach, New York Islanders
Capuano was longer-tenured than even Darryl Sutter, but it took six years for him to win a playoff round. He then got fired in the very next season. Amid rumors that he lost his players towards the end of his tenure, Capuano received an axe that some thought should have been given to GM Garth Snow. He could find himself working under another first-time GM who used to play in the league, although he’s also been heavily rumored as a potential Vegas coach.
The longer shots
Mike Stothers, head coach, Ontario Reign (AHL)
Yes, Rob Blake wants someone with NHL head coaching experience. But if the Kings simply aren’t impressed with the available options, isn’t it conceivable that they give their AHL coach a shot? I don’t know if they’d do it ahead of John Stevens, but he’s had a ton of success at the AHL level. (Good interview, too.) He might not be the next Bruce Boudreau, but he’s an interesting alternative to the fired head coaches above him on this list.
Michel Therrien, former head coach, Montreal Canadiens
Therrien had a lot of success in his second tenure in Montreal, but a hire of Therrien would probably be the wrong kind of change from Darryl Sutter. Therrien is arguably just as set in his own ways as Sutter. He’d probably love to coach a roster like the Kings’ and he still gets a pretty good goalie even if he doesn’t have Carey Price. (He’s also only 53, believe it or not.) Would he clash with Doughty the way he clashed with Subban? Probably not, but even so, I’m not buying this one.
Todd Reirden, associate coach, Washington Capitals
Reirden is another coach with zero NHL experience, but he’s popped up in articles about the coaching vacancies for Vancouver and, yeah, Los Angeles. Much like LA did with John Stevens, Washington handed him the associate gig to keep him on board, and he responded by once again helping the Caps to a standout regular season. He’s gotten credit for both the team’s strong defense and their top-ranked power play. (And for protecting late leads.)
Kirk Muller, associate coach, Montreal Canadiens
Muller is in a similar role to that of Reirden, but he actually does have coaching experience; he was behind the Hurricanes’ bench for the better part of three seasons before moving to St. Louis and Montreal. He was largely expected to be Therrien’s replacement if Montreal fired him at midseason, but Claude Julien’s availability (and maybe Muller’s inability to speak French) scuttled that. Muller has helped the team’s power play and defense both times he’s been an assistant for the Habs.
Travis Green, head coach, Utica Comets (AHL)
Would the Vancouver Canucks consider letting their AHL coach leave the organization? Probably depends on whether they’re considering him to replace Desjardins. Desjardins was an AHL guy, too; would that give Vancouver pause? If it does, LA has a shot at one of the more buzzed-about first-time candidates.
Bob Hartley, former head coach, Calgary Flames
Hartley won the Jack Adams Award two years ago. He got fired one year ago and is now coaching the Latvian national team. Why? Well, the Flames stopped getting lucky, for one, but the Flames also seemed to get tired of Hartley. LA might seek more of a “player’s” coach after Sutter’s departure; Hartley certainly does not fit that bill. He’s experienced, though!
Kings Teammates of Blake and Robitaille, If We’re Going All in On This 90’s Thing
Tony Granato, head coach, University of Wisconsin (NCAA)
He’s only a year in with the Badgers, but he’s got NHL experience, with one good Colorado stint and one bad Colorado stint.
Rick Tocchet, assistant coach, Pittsburgh Penguins
Tocchet also had a couple years behind the bench (in Tampa) and has had lots of time as an assistant, but unlike Granato, he’s got Cups as a player and a coach, both with Pittsburgh.
Ian Laperriere, assistant coach, Philadelphia Flyers
He’s been an assistant for Philadelphia since 2012 but I’ve never seen him rumored for a head gig, probably because he’s still better known as a heart-and-soul motivator than a X’s and O’s guy.
Since Ian Laperriere's first full season as assistant coach, the Flyers PK has finished 27th, 20th & is currently 22nd. That's down from 7th— jsaquella (@jsaquella) March 30, 2017
Darryl Sydor, assistant coach, Chicago Wolves (AHL)
Sydor was arrested for a DWI in 2015, but he joined Mike Yeo in the St. Louis Blues’ organization after not returning to the Wild in 2016; he’s probably a few years away from head coaching consideration.
Rob Blake’s Old Coach
Marc Crawford, associate coach, Ottawa Senators
Rob Blake’s Old Coach’s Replacement
Terry Murray, assistant coach, Buffalo Sabres
Okay, I think this article is over now.
Let us know who you think the Kings will pick to take over behind the bench. And, of course, let us know if you think we missed anyone.