The week of news continues, Insiders.
The Kings announced this afternoon that they have hired Mike Buckley to serve as the team’s new goaltending coach at the NHL level. Buckley succeeds Bill Ranford, who was promoted last month into an executive role as the organization’s Director of Goaltending. Ranford had been the team’s goaltending coach for the last 17 years, remaining in his role as different coaching staffs moved in and out of the organization around him. Buckley marks the first hire with the new goaltending structure in place within the organization. The Kings are still searching for a goaltending development coach who will work with goaltenders in the AHL with the Ontario Reign, as well as those within the system. Matt Millar, who had held that position since 2019, moved into a scouting role, working alongside Ranford.
Buckley comes to the Kings with experience with the Pittsburgh Penguins, both at the NHL level and at a development level. Buckley was a part of the NHL staff from 2017-21 as goaltending coach. Prior to the NHL role, Buckley was the organization’s goaltending-development coach from 2013-17 and worked with goaltenders such as Tristan Jarry, Casey DeSmith and Matt Murray, as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton posted the AHL’s lowest goals-against average in three of his four seasons. In 2015, Murray was an AHL First-Team All-Star and the winner of the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award, the AHL’s equivalent of the Vezina for the league’s best goaltender. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup in both 2015 and 2016, with Buckley a part of those teams in his development role. Buckley has also worked with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons for two seasons from 2010-12, in addition to extensive work at the NCAA level as a goaltending coach with both the University of Massachusetts and the University of New Hampshire.
In Buckley’s time with the Penguins, his three most regular goaltenders at the NHL level were Murray, Jarry and DeSmith. Per Natural Stat Trick, Jarry and DeSmith posted positive GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average) during those four seasons (2017-21), while Murray’s 2018-19 season was arguably his best at the NHL level. Goaltending feels like perhaps the hardest position to separate the players from the coach, because it’s one player at a time. It’s also the most difficult position for someone who is not a goaltending expert to apply statistics to and analyze. Over Buckley’s four seasons, the Penguins were a playoff team in each of Buckley’s four seasons with the club and Jarry was an NHL All-Star in 2020.
With the Kings, Buckley’s tandem of goaltenders is currently unknown. Pheonix Copley will likely make up half of that group, after he signed a one-year contract extension ending in 2024. Copley’s goaltending partner remains to be seen, with the Kings in search of that player either through a trade or via free agency. Several options available on both fronts, with varying costs associated. Eric Stephens with The Athletic broke down several names earlier today. More to come, with goaltending coming in as the top priority after the Vladislav Gavrikov re-signing on Wednesday.
From the team’s official release –
Buckley, 46, joins the Kings staff following eight seasons (2013-21) with the Pittsburgh Penguins where he spent the last four seasons as head goaltending coach after being promoted from his initial role of goaltending development coach in 2017. During his time in Pittsburgh, the organization’s goaltenders received accolades at both the NHL and AHL level, including two Stanley Cups (2016, 2017), two NHL All-Star Games (2020, 2022), three All-Rookie Teams (NHL – 2017, AHL – 2015, 2017), three Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Awards as the AHL team with the lowest regular-season goals-against-average (2014, 2015, 2017), one Aldedge “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as AHL Goaltender of the Year (2015), and one Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award as AHL Rookie of the Year (2015).
Over the Penguins two Stanley Cup runs, Buckley’s tutelage helped goaltender Matt Murray produce a combined 22-10 record with a 1.95 goals-against-average (GAA), .928 save percentage (SV%), and four shutouts. In 2016, Murray also became the fourth rookie netminder in league history to lead his team to a Stanley Cup title and tied a then-NHL rookie goaltending record with 15 playoff wins.
The first U.S.-born goaltending coach to win multiple Stanley Cups, Buckley also brings nearly eight seasons of collegiate coaching experience having spent three seasons (2012-13, 2015-17) as goaltending coach for the University of New Hampshire and five seasons (2007-12) with his alma mater, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
In addition to his work with teams, Buckley currently sits as President and Head Instructor at Goaltending Development Services, Inc. in North Andover, Mass., where he trains NHL, AHL, collegiate, junior, high school, prep and youth hockey goaltenders throughout the season and summer months.
A native of Haverhill, Massachusetts, Buckley skated four years (1995-2000) of collegiate hockey at UMass-Amherst before playing five seasons (2000-05) of professional hockey, including three campaigns with the Mississippi Sea Wolves and Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL.