The John Stevens era is over in Los Angeles, as the Kings have fired their head coach.
This isn’t a surprising move, as the club’s announcement of the firing just 13 games into his second season behind the bench is intended to show action in the face of something going horribly wrong.
General manager Rob Blake announced Willie Desjardins, former Vancouver Canucks coach, as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season and also ousted assistant coach Don Nachbaur. Marco Sturm was hired as his replacement.
“I’m looking to get the compete and the passion back,” Blake said. “We need our players emotionally involved. It’s difficult to win when you’re not. We expect Willie to bring that passion and that excitement to this team.”
This is Blake’s second coaching change in 19 months.
Stevens was intended to be the guy in Los Angeles after taking over from Darryl Sutter in 2017. He spent seven years as an assistant under Sutter and Terry Murray, serving on the Cup-winners in 2012 and 2014.
But a lot’s changed since then and today’s Kings find themselves at the bottom of the standings with a miserable 2.15 goals per game.
The good news was that Stevens’ Kings were on a two-game win streak, defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday.
The bad news is that Stevens’ Kings have been outscored by an incredible 45-28 margin and are still 4-8-1. Nobody’s scored fewer goals.
That’s a big feat on a team that includes the likes of Anze Kopitar and the newly-minted Ilya Kovalchuk, but that’s also part of the problem. The club often – and I mean often – looks lethargic and behind their opponents by several paces, which is why they were blasted from the post-season so rudely last season by a better, faster Vegas Golden Knights team.
Granted, injuries have been a problem for Stevens and the Kings.
But how much of a difference does a Dustin Brown make, really? He could chip in on the scoreboard, but that differential is so conspicuous at this point that the talent is just not getting it done.
Maybe Desjardins, who couldn’t pull the Canucks to the playoffs but did coach Canada to bronze at Pyeongchang, will make a difference. But honestly, it’s more likely Sturm, who’s coaching Germany in the Deutschland Cup, who’ll make the bigger change behind the bench. And maybe that’s a start, especially if the “unchallenged” roster remains more than a few steps behind the opposition.