Kings relieve Todd McLellan of his duties, Jim Hiller named Interim Head Coach for remainder of 2023-24 season

The LA Kings have relieved Todd McLellan of his duties and named Jim Hiller interim head coach for the remainder of the season, according to Vice President and General Manager Rob Blake.

“We want to thank Todd for his hard work and dedication to the organization,” said Blake. “He has done a tremendous job in moving us forward and making a positive impact on our group and in our community. This was not an easy decision, but we felt the change was necessary at this time. Jim is a well-respected member of our staff who is familiar with our players. We are confident in his ability to lead our team effectively during this pivotal time.”

With the Kings over the last two seasons, Hiller has been responsible for the forwards and the power play. Hiller was instrumental in revamping the approach of the power play over his time with the organization. Since he joined the staff, the Kings rank seventh in the NHL on the power play, with a conversion rate of 23.8%.

Hiller came to Los Angeles with a track record of improving the performance of teams on the power play. All four NHL clubs he’s worked for have improved on the man advantage within two seasons of his arrival, including the Kings, who rose from 27th in the NHL at 16.1 percent in the 2021-22 season to fourth-best in the NHL last season at 25.3 percent. In his prior stops, Hiller’s lone season in Detroit saw the team jump from 18th to 2nd in the leaguewide rankings, with an improvement of more than six percentage points. In Toronto, the Maple Leafs ranked 2nd, 2nd and 8th over Hiller’s second, third and fourth seasons with the club. With New York, the Islanders ranked third to last before Hiller’s arrival but steadily climbed the league’s leaderboards during his time in charge of that unit.

Looking at the team’s offensive play, the Kings have averaged 3.27 goals per game since Hiller joined the club at the start of last season. In the five seasons prior, the Kings averaged 2.66 goals per game. Now, that’s not exclusively down to Hiller’s arrival. The Kings vastly improved personnel, developed a team-wide identity and saw their talent pool rise. Even when things were good, the Kings were rarely a team that ranked towards the top of the NHL in goals scored. Lots of factors in play, but Hiller’s impact was certainly one of them.

Under Hiller’s direction, the Kings will look to right the ship, with the postseason still well in sight. As of today, the Kings have 56 points in the standings, good for sole possession of the first wild card spot in the Western Conference. With a return to early-season form, retaining that spot or reclaiming a spot among the three teams in the Pacific Division are both well within reach. More to follow here in the coming days.

Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

McLellan has led the Kings since April 2019, when he was hired as the team’s head coach beginning with the 2019-20 season. McLellan joined the organization during a transitional period, after the team bottomed out in 2018-19, and his first two seasons served as a rebuilding time for the Kings, as the team stockpiled young talent in preparation while implementing a long-term plan for a return to contention. Beginning with the 2021-22 campaign, the Kings began to acquire veteran players and under McLellan’s direction, qualified for the postseason in consecutive campaigns. After a strong start here in the 2023-24 season, results did not continue over the last month, with the Kings losing 14 of their last 17 games entering the All-Star break. As Blake notes above, the organization believed that a change was necessary at this time. The Kings posted a record of 164-130-44 under McLellan’s direction.

From the perspective of someone who covers the team each and every day, home and away, I appreciated McLellan’s approach and demeanor to the local media. He was available each day he was requested and gave expansive and detailed answers to the questions he was asked, including the ones he didn’t care to answer. Los Angeles doesn’t have the robust daily coverage that some other markets in the league do, but McLellan was always good to the team staff who was there each day. For that, I will always appreciate Todd as a person and as a coach, for the respect shown to myself and those who were regularly around him. For that, I say thank you.

Photo by Josh Chadwick/Getty Images

General Manager Rob Blake is slated to address the media on Monday, February 5 to address the coaching change. Interim Head Coach Jim Hiller will address the media on Thursday, February 8, the day the Kings return to practice following the All-Star break. More to follow once we hear from those two individuals.

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