The NHL didn’t see its first coach firing in 2017-18 until the final day of the regular season. This season? We barely made it to November.
The Los Angeles Kings became the first team to ax their coach this season, firing John Stevens on Sunday. They also let assistant coach Don Nachbaur go, according to a club release.
“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,” team president Rob Blake said. “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.”
Stevens’ replacement behind the bench is Willie Desjardins, who will serve with an interim label. Desjardins has a lengthy coaching résumé and last served as a head coach for the Vancouver Canucks from 2014-17. Former NHL winger Marco Sturm will replace Nachbaur.
The firing of Stevens is a bit odd considering the Kings are coming off a 4-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night. That being said, it has hardly been a successful start for the team. They’ve lost seven of their past nine and are sitting in the basement of the Western Conference through 13 games.
Los Angeles has struggled mightily to develop an effective offensive system and its average of 2.15 goals is currently worst in the league. The Kings’ goal differential of minus-17 also ranks dead last in the league. On top of that, they’ve also struggled to find consistency on special teams.
Stevens took over for Darryl Sutter in 2017 and was able to lead the Kings back to the playoffs last season, due in large part to strong defense and goaltending. Ultimately, the Kings could barely muster any postseason offense and were quickly swept by the eventual Western Conference champion Vegas Golden Knights in the first round.
The team’s offensive woes carried over to this season and, as a result, Stevens is now out of a job.
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