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Kings hire John Stevens as coach

Replaces Darryl Sutter, who was fired after Los Angeles missed playoffs

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings sent the message that they believe only a short reset is needed to compete for championships again by hiring John Stevens as coach on Sunday.

If newly promoted general manager Rob Blake felt a more profound change was required, the Kings would have looked outside the organization, hired a different coach and plotted a different strategy. Instead, they kept the search tightly focused on one inside candidate: Stevens, who's been part of the Kings' coaching staff for the past seven seasons.

"John and I had very productive dialogue this last week in relation to his head coaching philosophy and specifically how he would implement a strategy to activate our players offensively while maintaining the defensive philosophies we have come to be known for," Blake said.

"I am confident that we are both in agreement on how that can be executed. With that said, we believe John has the ideal qualities to lead our hockey club. His wide array of coaching experience, including success as an NHL head coach and his inherent knowledge of our players and those in our development system, is very appealing to us. We are confident he is the best person to lead our hockey club forward."

Highly regarded goaltending coach Bill Ranford will return. The Kings will hire at least two other assistants; one will take Stevens' spot and the other will replace Davis Payne, who is not returning.

Stevens has been with the organization since the 2010-11 season. This will be his second extended stint as an NHL coach -- he went 2-2-0 with the Kings in December 2010 after Terry Murray was fired and before Darryl Sutter was hired. Stevens also coached the Philadelphia Flyers for parts of four seasons from 2006-09. In 2008, the Flyers reached the Eastern Conference Final before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Stevens also had success at the American Hockey League level; he guided the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers' top affiliate, to the Calder Cup in 2005.

He is 122-111-34 as an NHL coach.

The Kings had a major housecleaning one day after their season ended after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in three seasons. They fired longtime general manager Dean Lombardi and Sutter, the architects of their Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014. Blake was promoted, as was Luc Robitaille, who will oversee the business side and the hockey operations as team president. They've been emphatic that the roster does not need a major overhaul, that with nucleus on hand, the Kings should still be competitive.

That figures to be far easier for Stevens than it would have been for an outsider. He has the complete book on his players, their strengths and weaknesses, as well as the support of the leadership group.

Stevens, 50, has been a coach-in-waiting for some time and was strongly considered for the Vancouver Canucks' job after Alain Vigneault was fired in 2013. In 2014, the Kings promoted Stevens to associate head coach, and it seemed as though a clear succession plan was in place.

Historically, many NHL coaches have had more success in their second job after being fired from the first one. Glen Gulutzan guided the Calgary Flames to the playoffs this season after failing to make the postseason as a first-time coach in two seasons with the Dallas Stars.

The Kings hope the same will be true for Stevens, who has been a vital part of the Kings' two Stanley Cup championships and considerably broadened his resume since his days as a rookie coach in Philadelphia.

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