The Los Angeles Kings have informed interim coach Willie Desjardins that he will not be brought back. The team will look for a new head coach immediately. The Athletic’s Lisa Dillman also adds that the team is currently working on a coaching hire, but nothing is imminent.
“Today we thanked Willie Desjardins for his effort and dedication while serving as our interim head coach,” said Los Angeles Kings general Rob Blake, in a statement. “We wish Willie and his family nothing but the best going forward. The process for hiring our next head coach is underway and we look forward to conducting a thorough search for the right person to lead our team.”
Desjardins was brought in on Nov. 4 when the team fired head coach John Stevens after a miserable 4-8-1 start to the season. This came after the team reloaded their team with free agent Ilya Kovalchuk in hopes of challenging for another Pacific Division title. The team hired the veteran Desjardins as well as coaching hopeful Marco Sturm to stabilize the team in hopes the team could bounce back and compete. Instead, injuries and struggles from many of the team’s veterans led to the team struggling and the Kings ended up with a 31-42-9 overall record, good enough for the second-worst record in the NHL behind the Ottawa Senators.
Desjardins has put together an impressive resume, including plenty of international tournament and junior league success, but has also found himself in a number of tough NHL coaching positions over the years, including the aging Kings. He also coached a struggling Vancouver Canucks team for three seasons, compiling a 109-110-27 record.
Despite having a good chance to nab one of the top two prospects in the 2019 NHL draft in Jack Hughes or Kappo Kakko (depending on their lottery luck), the team is still heavily encumbered by multiple long-term deals of players over 30 and will likely have to deal with a overburdened salary cap for a number of years in the future, which could make it difficult to truly compete in the next couple of years.
The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta was the first person to report this.