Kings Lock Up Coaching Staff: Is Stevens Coach-in-Waiting?

With vultures (and Penguins) circling, the Kings manage to re-sign their coaching staff.

It was no surprise that after the Los Angeles Kings' second title in three years, the team's assistant coaches might be hot commodities. After all, assistants John Stevens and Davis Payne each have NHL head coaching experience, and Ranford has spent eight years tutoring LA's goalies. With teams such as the Carolina Hurricanes and the Pittsburgh Penguins sniffing around...

... the Kings have ensured stability behind the bench before getting to the guys on the bench. The coveted Stevens has received a promotion to associate head coach, while Payne and Ranford have re-signed with the team. Of course, Darryl Sutter will return for his third full season as head coach next season. From the press release:

"Our coaching staff has been an integral part of the success of our team the last three years," said [Dean] Lombardi. "We are extremely pleased that they will remain part of our team and continue together as we strive for excellence."

It's been a good year for all three. Stevens has primarily handled defense, and the Kings won the Jennings Trophy this season for allowing the fewest goals in the NHL. Payne has primarily handled offense, and the Kings scored 88 goals in the playoffs. And the performance of Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones behind Jonathan Quick speaks to what Ranford has done.

So what does this mean for Stevens, in particular? It's unlikely that Stevens would have been passed over for every current head coaching vacancy had he decided to make himself available. So, there might be something larger at work here. Sutter was very close to saying no to this gig back in 2011 (when Terry Murray was fired and Stevens was serving as interim coach). It's speculation, of course, but I don't see Sutter hanging on to this job until the bitter end; he'll leave when it suits him. Robert has suggested that Sutter might have a retirement date in mind; whether or not that's true, the Kings have likely convinced Stevens that LA is the best place for him, and that he's got first dibs on the job once it's available.