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Stevens fired as coach of Kings, Desjardins named replacement

Los Angeles last in Pacific Division

by Dan Greenspan / Correspondent

LOS ANGELES -- John Stevens was fired as coach of the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.

Willie Desjardins was named his replacement for the remainder of this season. Assistant Don Nachbaur was also fired and replaced by Marco Sturm, though Sturm will not join the Kings until after the Deutschland Cup concludes next week to fulfill his obligations as coach of Germany.

The Kings are 4-8-1 this season, last in the Pacific Division, and have lost seven of their past nine games (2-7-0). They defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 at Staples Center on Saturday.

Desjardins' debut will be Tuesday when the Kings host the Anaheim Ducks (10:30 p.m. ET; FS-W, PRIME, NHL.TV).

General manager Rob Blake had been monitoring the Kings since training camp and was not seeing enough emotion and commitment from players, an issue he believes Desjardins can help resolve.  

"It hasn't gone the way we expect it to and we haven't played the way we expected to, so fast forward here today," Blake said. "What Willie will bring, what we want to bring back is we got to get the compete level up on our players. We got to get the passion back in the game, and we expect fully that he can right that and get us back in the right direction."

Desjardins, 61, was coach of the Vancouver Canucks for three seasons (2014-17), going 109-110-27.

Blake did not rule out player personnel changes moving forward, adding that "We're going to create a desire for these players to play well here." 

Stevens, 52, had been with the Kings since the 2010-11 season and was hired to replace Darryl Sutter on April 23, 2017. An instrumental figure in building the Kings' defensive identity and structure, which helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014, Stevens went 45-29-8 in his first season as coach before Los Angeles was swept by the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference First Round. 

Stevens also coached the Philadelphia Flyers from 2006-09 and is 171-148-43 as an NHL coach.

Blake, in his second season as general manager, said it was "awful" and "terrible" to tell Stevens he was fired around 10 a.m. Sunday. However, Blake believes it was one of the few options available to shake up a team that president Luc Robitaille said in August has a three to four-year window to contend for the Stanley Cup.

The Kings signed forward Ilya Kovalchuk to a three-year, $18.75 million contract (average annual value $6.25 million) July 1 to help boost an offense that was 16th in the NHL last season with 2.89 goals per game. But Los Angeles is last in goals scored (28) and goals per game (2.15) and lost six in a row from Oct. 13-25. Goalie Jonathan Quick is also out 3-6 weeks following knee surgery.

"You look at training camp, you look at the regular season to where we are now, those expectations have not been met," Blake said. "We have really good players. We have players that can make plays. We expect them to make plays and we expect them to play with that level of compete, and it hasn't been (there). There's an accumulation of a lot of it through the season, but we need to get that straightened around immediately."

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