“This is a critical time in our season and our results to date have fallen well below our expectations. With that in mind, this was a difficult decision but one we feel was necessary,” said Blake. “We have a great deal of respect and appreciation for John’s time with our organization. He was a key part of our past success, and we have tremendous gratitude for his many contributions.”
Despite picking up a 4-1 victory Saturday over the Columbus Blue Jackets, the victory didn’t do anything to allow Stevens to keep his job as the team remained 4-8-1 in the team’s first 13 games, giving them the worst record in league with the Florida Panthers the only other team that has nine points (although they have played two less games). Stevens, in just his second year as head coach of the team, took the team to the playoffs last year as the fourth-seed in the Pacific Division, but were swept in the first-round of the playoffs as the Vegas Golden Knights exposed their lack of speed.
Los Angeles responded by adding 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk through free agency this offseason and was expected to make a renewed run for a Stanley Cup title with the likes 30-somethings Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty (he’s actually just 28), Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Trevor Lewis, Nate Thompson, Dion Phaneuf and Alec Martinez. The team was expecting some of their young players to step up, but players such as Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson have struggled under Stevens’ tenure and haven’t developed into the goal scorers that everyone had hoped for. The team also has been without Quick, their star goaltender, for much of the season and there is no word on how much time he might miss with his most recent injury. Throw in the lack of development of some of their prospects and the team was heading down the wrong path with many of their veterans under contract for three of four more years.
Desjardins, who has 20+ years of coaching experience, has been acting as Team Canada’s men’ head coach, including leading the team in the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, Korea. He served as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks for three seasons between 2014 and 2017, compiling a disappointing 109-110-27 record. He also led Team Canada to gold at the Spengler Cup in December of 2017. Desjardins also served eight years as head coach in the WHL with the Medicine Hat Tigers where he won two championships in eight seasons there.
The team also released fired assistant coach Don Nachbaur from his duties, who served as the team’s assistant since last season. The team has brought in current German National Team coach and former Kings player Marco Sturm. The team did retain assistant coach Dave Lowry.
One has to wonder what Stevens chances will be to get another head coaching position. He served as head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers between 2006 through 2009, reaching the Eastern Conference finals once and a second playoff appearance. He has a combined record of 171-148-43.
Helene Elliott was the first to report the coaching change.