According to reports from Pierre LeBrun and Jon Rosen (among others) this morning, John Stevens, longtime assistant and associate head coach, will be the new head coach of the Los Angeles Kings.
LA Kings will name John Stevens their new head coach, source confirms. Monday news conference.— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) April 23, 2017
VP/GM Rob Blake has confirmed that the Kings plan on hiring John Stevens as their next head coach. Release to come later today.— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) April 23, 2017
So there it is. The Los Angeles Kings, who have been all about stability and continuity for so long, made a choice that was all about stability and continuity behind the bench. The Kings made it official this morning:
Kings and John Stevens have agreed to contract terms for Stevens to serve as the club’s new Head Coach ... https://t.co/khRYh3Pc7B— LAKingsPR (@LAKingsPR) April 23, 2017
Stevens certainly isn’t a bad choice, by any means. He acquitted himself well in his first NHL job with the Philadelphia Flyers, though he succumbed to a rather quick-trigger firing in December 2009. He served his time with the Kings as an assistant to Terry Murray and Darryl Sutter, generally earning praise for his calm demeanor and prominent role with two Stanley Cup winners. And after being passed over by the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks in 2013, LA gave him the associate head coach position in 2014, which we interpreted as a potential wink-and-nod that Stevens would be the guy when Darryl Sutter left the position.
LA never expanded their search beyond Stevens, which is going to draw some criticism. After all, firing your head coach and general manager only to hire their assistants isn’t the boldest move to drive change. And there was no shortage of experience available for interviews. But new GM Rob Blake was looking for a subtle shift, not a sea change, and as per the press release, he feels that he gets one with the Stevens hire.
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," said Blake. "I am confident that we are both in agreement on how that can be executed.
We’ll update as the Stevens and the Kings fill out the coaching staff. Bill Ranford remains the goaltending coach, but there are some assistant positions which need filling. Congrats to Stevens; he’s certainly waited long enough for a second chance.