McLellan, 56, was in the final season of a five-year contract earning him roughly $5MM per season, according to CapFriendly. He’d signed a one-year extension prior to this season, which the Kings will still owe him.
The veteran NHL head coach oversaw the Kings’ return to relevancy after their late-2010s retool, posting a 164-130-44 record in 338 appearances and guiding them to playoff berths in back-to-back seasons for the first time since a five-year run between 2010 and 2014. A team with Stanley Cup aspirations this year has now fallen out of the divisional playoff picture, though, going 3-8-6 in their last 17 games and narrowly occupying a Wild Card spot.
Most pointed to the Kings’ lack of stable goaltending entering the season as a reason why their record might crumble. Interestingly enough, that hasn’t been the case. While he’s going through a recent rut, veteran Cam Talbot has given Los Angeles above-average play with a .911 SV% and 2.5 goals saved above expected (per MoneyPuck) in 32 appearances. Since a mid-season recall from AHL Ontario, backup David Rittich has been excellent, with a .925 SV% and a 5-1-3 record in 11 games.
They’ve also dominated possession. Their expected goals share and Corsi share at 5-on-5 play both rank third in the league, but despite that, their offense has struggled to produce with subpar shooting talent. Their 152 goals scored rank 16th in the league at the All-Star break – exactly in the middle of the pack.
That would still assign blame to a roster construction issue and not a coaching one, given the team’s systems under McLellan, have been conducive to dominating play. The team’s biggest offseason swing, a trade and subsequent eight-year, $68MM extension for Pierre-Luc Dubois, has crashed and burned. The 25-year-old has 10 goals and 20 points in 48 games, far below expectations. He’s averaging under 16 minutes per game and has a team-worst -16 rating.
Nonetheless, Los Angeles will turn to a different voice to ensure they maintain their playoff spot and don’t slide further down the Western Conference standings. Hiller has been on the Kings’ staff since the beginning of last season after being let go as an assistant by the Islanders in the 2022 offseason. Prior to a three-year tenure on Long Island, Hiller served as an assistant in Toronto from 2015 to 2019 and spent the 2014-15 season as an assistant on the Red Wings’ bench. Before ascending to the NHL coaching ranks, he spent nearly a decade as a head coach in the WHL with the Chilliwack Bruins and Tri-City Americans.
Hiller’s NHL career was short-lived, but 40 of his 63 games came wearing a Kings jersey in the 1992-93 season when the Wayne Gretzky-led team advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. Hiller was involved in a major mid-season trade with the Red Wings that year, heading to Detroit along with future Hall-of-Famer Paul Coffey in a deal for winger Jimmy Carson.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.