Happy Friday, Insiders!
Day 2 under Jim Hiller’s direction had the Kings on the ice for nearly an hour.
That’s been a theme over the last two days, coming out of the NHL All-Star break. The Kings skated for close to an hour yesterday and went perhaps a few minutes longer today. Part of that is getting the group back in shape coming off the break, which saw the team off for seven days. Part of that is learning new drills and new concepts, with Hiller running a new practice approach than Todd McLellan did, or any other coach for that matter. Don’t expect to see the longer practices continue as the Kings get back into the grind of the season, but on the first two days, the Kings had a pair of really strong practices to get back into it.
“Normally we’re going to be short, we’ll be intense,” Hiller said today. “I think why some of these are taking longer is we’re going to the board every time, we’re spending time on the board, we’re explaining the drills, the concepts within the drills. Once they understand the drills, we’ll know we’re doing this and that’ll shave off I don’t know how many minutes just in and of itself, but these are longer by design. We had the time off and I wanted to re-emphasize and get some intensity down low. Today you saw some battling and stuff like that and that’s the reasoning for the length.”
Energy has been a constant word that’s come up amongst the players, both when describing practices over the lasts two days, as well as Hiller as a coach and as a person within the locker room. Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty both spoke yesterday, unprompted, about the energy they felt during practice. Mikey Anderson echoed similar thoughts, feeling some “really good energy” during practices yesterday and today. He’s hopeful that carries over into tomorrow’s game, which seemed to be another consistent theme.
As for working under Hiller, several players have weighed in on their new head coach and the coaching staff as a whole, with a lot of positives coming about someone who is familiar with the group from his time as an assistant, but also willing to change things up a bit, even if not on a larger scale.
I think he puts a lot of emphasis on hard work and working for your teammates. He also likes to have some fun too, which is great. I’m sure it’ll be a little different now that he’s the head coach, but yeah, he’s a smart hockey mind. Mainly for me, he worked with us on the power play and our power play used to struggle before he got here and then he came in and the power play was really good last year and this year it’s probably the middle of the table. Really smart hockey mind, he’s a really good guy and I’m looking forward to see what’s going to happen.
I think you’re right [about Hiller’s communication ability]. With Jimmy, I think it’s different from assistant [coach] to head [coach], you can talk a lot as an assistant coach, they make sure you’re doing good mentally. With DJ Smith and Yawns as well, I think they all kind of work together and they’ll work in the room with all of us now. It’s a big move and it’s on us now.
Communication would be one thing, he likes to talk with everybody and now with Smitty coming in too, he’s intense, but a very chatty guy. It’s hard not to get along with them…..First go-around for him on this level, but he’s coached for a long time, he’s been around good coaches and winning teams. I’m sure he knows what he’s doing and in everybody’s mind, we know we can turn this thing around.
Every time Jimmy talks, people listen, and I think he’s going to do well here. Bringing in a guy like D.J. too, he’s been a head guy before and he can also take control and he knows what he’s talking about, very upbeat, loves to be in the room talking with the guys. I think between the two of them it’s going to be a good dynamic for sure.
He came in and worked with the power play, I haven’t done a whole lot of stuff with him because of that, but I think when he came in, he added some new energy for the group, specifically the guys that are on the power play. A different voice to kind of do what they needed to do. Over the last two years now, he’s added really good energy, I feel like for especially that group, but for the team, just a different guy to talk to and get to know. He’s had a good impact for the organization.
Hiller has built a reputation here as a strong communicator, someone who is willing to work with players on the ice and be communicative off the ice. Doughty also pointed to his willingness to work 1-on-1 with younger players, especially the team’s younger forwards, sending clips and teaching how to do certain things and how to play the right way.
“He’s really good at that.”
As Danault pointed to, there are differences between being an assistant coach and a head coach, and how exactly those come out through Hiller will play out in time. Danault also pointed to a notion that a few others have as well. He took the onus on himself and the players in the room to go now. Doughty said bluntly that the players feel responsible for the coaching change and it’s on the group now to make things right.
As for today’s skate, how about seeing Viktor Arvidsson in a full-contact jersey for the first time since October. Arvidsson did not really take part in line rushes but was in a white jersey and showed a willingness to mix it up in the corners during some smaller-area drills. A lot of battle from a player who is always open to that and as Hiller said, he was frustrated not to score when he did even during the drills. That’s the player and competitor he is.
“It was nice to see, it was great to see,” Hiller said. “You guys have all watched Arvy, he’s got a ton of energy. Arvy loves hockey, it killed him not to be out there with the guys. To see him in a regular jersey and in some of the competitive drills we did at the end…..I reminded him he had two great chances to score and he didn’t score, he’s still pissed about it…..it’s just good to see it’s good for everybody.
Initially, Rob Blake indicated that we could see Arvidsson back on the upcoming four-game roadtrip on the East Coast. So, not getting any hopes up with regards for tomorrow against the Oilers, but man is it good to see number 33 back with the group.
For those who did take line rushes, the alignment looked to be generally in line with what we saw yesterday. Hiller indicated that right off the bat, he’s not expecting to make a ton of adjustments as it pertains to personnel. When Arvidsson eventually returns, I am certain that will change, but for now, the lines appeared to generally be status quo from the group we saw in Nashville.
Byfield – Kopitar – Kempe
Moore – Danault – Fiala
Laferriere – Dubois – Anderson-Dolan
Grundstrom – Turcotte – Lewis – Kaliyev
Anderson – Doughty
Gavrikov – Roy
Englund – Spence – Clarke
Rittich / Talbot
Cam Talbot was back today after he was given an extra day off following the All-Star Game in Toronto. Otherwise, status quo as far as personnel and alignment.
Now, it’s finally onto a game tomorrow. Lots of excitement to get back in game action and certainly an early test with the Edmonton Oilers. More to come tomorrow as Hiller debuts as an NHL head coach and a motivated and energized group returns to action on home ice.