Statement from the LA Kings:
— LA Kings (@LAKings) February 2, 2024
And it was going so well, too. The Kings won an NHL record 11 road games to start the season before losing in overtime to the New York Islanders. By Christmas, the team was 19-7-4 and looking good to challenge for top spot in the Western Conference.
Since then, however, they’ve gone 4-8-6, highlighted by an eight-game losing streak wrapped around the new year. Their last game was a 4-2 win against the Nashville Predators, a flattering score that was only accomplished by David Rittich‘s 40-save night and an empty-net goal.
That wasn’t enough to keep McLellan’s job safe, and the move was announced today. “This was not an easy decision, but we felt the change was necessary at this time,” Kings GM Rob Blake said in a statement.
Blake hired McLellan after a disastrous season by the Kings, bringing in the new coach to instill discipline. He wasn’t expected to turn the team around immediately and agreed to a five-year deal. This is the final season of that contract.
McLellan had previously been head coach for the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers. His record with San Jose – where he coached Blake – was 311-163-66. He took the Sharks to three 50+ win seasons, three Pacific Division titles, and two Western Conference Finals.
He was less successful in Edmonton, going 123-119-24 and making the playoffs just once. Edmonton fired McLellan early in his fourth season there, with the Oilers returning to the playoffs each season after his dismissal.
Todd McLellan is being replaced by new head coach Jim Hiller. Hiller has been an NHL assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders, and Detroit Red Wings. This will be his first time as a head coach at this level. There will be more if he can stop the Kings slide, and have a good showing in the playoffs.
He started his coaching career in the WHL as an assistant with the Tri-City Americans when he retired as a player in 2002. He went on to be a head coach in the BCHL and WHL, returning to Tri-City to win Coach of the Year in 2011-12.
Main Photo Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports