Kings and Blackhawks coaches ousted after
Photo By: USA Today
Photo By: Ap Photo/Gene J. Puskar
Dan Sanford, Staff Writer
Among many unexpected happenings from the first month of the season, two National Hockey League (NHL) coaches were fired this past week. One was to be expected, the other was a bit of a shock and was not well-received. These bench bosses came from two teams who claim a combined five out of the last eight years’ Stanley Cups - the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks.
John Stevens, former NHL defenseman and head coach for the Los Angeles Kings, was fired Sunday after a putrid 4-8-1 start to season. Although there have been worse starts that left no one fired, the Kings had reason to be optimistic after returning to the playoffs last season, even though they were swept by the upstart Vegas Golden Knights, and signing the much-coveted Russian free agent Ilya Kovalchuk. However, this start, for a time, was tied with the Florida Panthers for the lowest point total in the NHL standings; the Kings now possess the lowest point total in the NHL at 11. Stevens’ assistant coach, Don Nachbaur, also lost his job last Sunday.
While the Kings search for a new head coach, assistant coach Willie Desjardins was named as the interim head coach. Desjardins previously coached the Vancouver Canucks from 2014 to 2017, leading them to one playoff berth in 2015, where they fell to the Calgary Flames in the first round after six games. However, Desjardins has a less-than-spotless reputation with the Canucks. At the time of his firing, he had a losing record of 109-110-27 in the regular season, despite a second-place finish in their division to qualify for playoffs. So, Kings fans have reason to worry, but Desjardins’ head role is supposed to be temporary.
Joel Quenneville, former NHL defenseman and the Chicago Blackhawks’ head coach, had a legacy of victory behind him. Quenneville took over as Chicago’s bench boss in the 2008-09 season and led the team to the Stanley Cup Finals three times, all of which the Blackhawks won. He went 452-249-96 during the regular season, and Chicago made the playoffs in nine of ten full seasons with Quenneville.
The end of last season saw the Hawks finishing in last place of the Central Division, despite possessing top-end talent in Patrick Kane and hotshot rookie Alex DeBrincat. And after a recent six-game losing streak, Blackhawks’ general manager Stan Bowman had enough and fired Quenneville, wanting a culture change in the team.
However, several sports media pundits, including those from the Chicago Tribune, have found this decision questionable, identifying Bowman as the primary problem for Chicago’s downfall. Many have claimed Bowman’s regime has worked out poor trades, made weak free agency signings, and maintained an aging, declining defensive staff. People have also questioned their handling of Corey Crawford, who missed much of last season after suffering from vertigo.
Jeremy Colliton was hired as Quenneville’s replacement, and he did not receive a welcoming first impression, as Chicago was down 3-0 to the Carolina Hurricanes a mere 20 minutes into his tenure. It has also been mentioned that Colliton is surprisingly young for his position at 33 years of age. When asked about it in an interview, he did not think it was a problem, but only time will tell.
The Kings could attempt to court the services of a successful, proven NHL coach, like Quenneville. He seems to have more potential to build a successful team than than Willie Desjardins. As for the Hawks, fans have called for their owner to remove Stan Bowman as GM. As mentioned, only time will tell what it is in the best interests of these respected and storied franchises.