The Los Angeles Kings have fired head coach John Stevens and replaced him with Willie Desjardins as interim head coach.
Desjardins takes over a Kings’ team with the league’s worst record at the moment. He has a wealth of coaching experience, although his only NHL head coaching experience was as the head coach of the Vancouver Canucks for three seasons from 2014-17.
Desjardins has the track record to turn a team around quickly, having taken over a Canucks’ team on the decline that missed the playoffs the previous season under John Tortorella and guiding them to the playoffs in his first season. It became clear after that that the Canucks were in need of a rebuild, and Desjardins was let go following two seasons of missing the playoffs. The aging Kings could be following a similar model in using the label “interim” for Desjardins.
Desjardins was known for distributing even amounts of icetime among his four forward lines in Vancouver, which worked well at times during the regular season, as the Sedins were not as effective if they played 20+ minutes per game. But he was criticized for using this model during the Canucks’ 2015 playoff series against Calgary, which they lost in six games.
It will be interesting to see if he uses this model in LA, where Anze Kopitar has averaged over 22 minutes and Dustin Brown nearly 20 minutes since the beginning of last season. Kopitar and Brown were each able to accomplish career seasons under Stevens last season. Same goes with Drew Doughty, who averages nearly 27 minutes per game, although the Canucks did not have a comparable defenseman on their roster when Desjardins was coach.
Willie D's mainly defensive style should benefit the goalies, though. At the time that Stevens took over as coach, it is believed that his focus would be to shift the team to a more offensive approach than what was used by Darryl Sutter. But slowing the game down might be a better approach for the old-school Kings if they are going to turn this season around.
Players this helps, in order:
Jonathan Quick (when he returns)
Adrian Kempe (averaging under 13 minutes of icetime)
Tanner Pearson (averaging just over 14 minutes of icetime)
Players this hurts, in order: