What had been known became club statement-official on Sunday.
LA Kings Vice President and General Manager Rob Blake released the following statement today:
“Today we thanked Willie Desjardins for his effort and dedication while serving as our interim head coach. We wish Willie and his family nothing but the best going forward. The process for hiring our next head coach is underway and we look forward to conducting a thorough search for the right person to lead our team.”
Desjardins, 27-34-8 after his appointment as Interim Head Coach on November 4, is 136-144-35 in 315 NHL games, which also included a tenure in Vancouver from 2014-17. Though his appointment behind Los Angeles’ bench will often be associated with his handling of Ilya Kovalchuk and Jonathan Quick’s on-camera rebuke in Carolina, he stepped into what was a quagmire of a situation as the reality of an impending rebuild clearly developed, and in the second half of the season the team traded its best defenseman in 2018-19, a defenseman who’d been playing in a top-four role, and two defensive-minded role playing forwards.
“It was an honor to coach the team,” Willie Desjardins said. “It’s a great franchise, and it was great to be part of it.”
Any plans towards his coaching future yet?
“No – maybe I should enjoy the win tonight and worry about that in the coming weeks.”
— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) April 7, 2019
Desjardins is also not without blame after a dismal season in which fault can be found across a number of departments. From management to coaching to personnel, there were shortcomings across the board that should stir some accountable introspection and reinforce the importance of culture, team identity and buy-in. These are broader themes that an interim coach might have trouble cultivating, and certainly Desjardins wasn’t able to spark it to any noticeable degree greater than John Stevens did the start of the season. But he doesn’t deserve undue blame for a situation in which it became clearer that the depth and dimension of the team’s challenges were greater than any questionable allotment of ice time.
Technically there are eight coaching vacancies – Los Angeles, Anaheim, Ottawa, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Edmonton, Buffalo and Florida – but St. Louis will be expected to retain interim coach Craig Berube, and reports surfaced Sunday afternoon that Florida will move to hire Joel Quenneville after dismissing Bob Boughner earlier in the day.
There is a real sense today that the process between FLA and Joel Quenneville is much further along than many of us realized. It’s not a done deal, but it’s close. It would not be a surprise if this process closes in the near future.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) April 7, 2019
Though any team would benefit from a coach of his stature, the Kings and Quenneville have never really been a cohesive or realistic marriage. Quenneville, the most high-profile name in this summer’s coaching class, hasn’t communicated his intent publicly. But teams farther ahead in their current competitive cycle have openings, while Los Angeles is embarking on an intended reshaping of its roster and will not position itself as a contender in 2019-20 – though they do have an intriguing amassment of skilled young prospects whose development will influence the length and fortune of the rebuild.
Because of the vast number of coaching vacancies and the desire to best position an organization for the draft and free agency while installing organizational doctrine and detail, teams with openings will be motivated to move quickly. As of two weeks ago the team was still in the process of putting together an extensive list of potential head coaches that might be considered, though Todd McLellan has always appeared to be the frontrunner, and there has been communication between the parties.
The Los Angeles Kings have asked Edmonton permission to speak with Todd McLellan
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) April 7, 2019
Looking to become faster, more skilled and more offensive, the Kings will be looking for a coach who aligns with their philosophical thrusts. McLellan was successful implementing concerted structure and tightened defensive play during the Oilers’ breakthrough 2016-17 season, though his most sustained success came with the Sharks from 2008-15, when his teams combined to rank eighth in goals for, sixth in goals against, second on the power play and first in shots per game over that span.
McLellan, who coached General Manager Rob Blake with San Jose from 2008-10, was 434-282-90 in 806 games as Head Coach of the Sharks and Oilers.
Lots more to come on this topic Monday, when Rob Blake will be among those to speak in the final organized media availability of the season.
— Lead photo via Jeff Vinnick/NHLI