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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    Los Angeles Kings fire Todd McLellan, name Jim Hiller the interim coach for the rest of the season

    Los Angeles Kings head coach Todd McLellan, middle, gestures during the third period of an NHL game against the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 27, 2022, in Los Angeles. The Kings fired McLellan on Friday and named Jim Hiller interim coach for the rest of the season. (Mark J. Terrill/AP File Photo)

    Los Angeles — The Los Angeles Kings fired coach Todd McLellan on Friday and named Jim Hiller the interim coach for the rest of the season.

    “We want to thank Todd for his hard work and dedication to the organization,” vice president and general manager Rob Blake said in a statement. “He has done a tremendous job in moving us forward and making a positive impact on our group and in our community. This was not an easy decision, but we felt the change was necessary at this time. Jim is a well-respected member of our staff who is familiar with our players. We are confident in his ability to lead our team effectively during this pivotal time.”

    Los Angeles went into the All-Star break with the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference, but only four points from falling out of a playoff spot.

    The Kings had a 20-7-4 start to the season, with the 44 points tied for the most in team history after 31 games. Since Dec. 28, they have gone 3-8-6. The three wins are tied for fewest in the league in that span and the 12 points are tied for the fifth worst.

    McLellan had seemed relieved that the Kings went into the break with a 4-2 win over Nashville on Wednesday.

    "We still have a long way to go get our game back, but to go into the break feeling a little bit good about ourselves is a real good thing,” he said after the game.

    A big reason for the Kings' recent slump is lack of offense. They are averaging just 2.35 goals per game in their last 17 outings, third-worst in the league.

    Hiller will be tasked with turning around a team whose top two offseason acquisitions have been disappointing. Pierre Luc-Dubois was acquired from Winnipeg but has been shuffled up and down the four scoring lines and has only 10 goals and 20 points in 47 games.

    Goaltender and free-agent signing Cam Talbot is the Kings’ representative at the All-Star Game, but is 0-7-3 with a 3.86 goals-against average in his last 10 starts.

    Los Angeles has not won a playoff series since winning its second Stanley Cup in 2014. Captain Anze Kopitar is signed through the 2025-26 season, but is 36 years old. Defenseman Drew Doughty, another franchise stalwart, has his contract run through 2026-27.

    While the Kings are one of the league’s best road teams — they won an NHL-record 11 straight away from Los Angeles to start the season — they are one of the worst at home. Their 22 points in 23 games on home ice is tied for fourth-worst in the league.

    McLellan was in his fifth season behind the Kings' bench. He led them to the Stanley Cup playoffs the past two seasons before they were eliminated by Edmonton in the first round. On Oct. 31, he became the eighth coach in franchise history to win 100 games and the fifth fastest to do so (219 games).

    He has a career mark of 598-412-134 with his 598 regular-season wins ranking 23rd in NHL history. He was 169-138-44 overall with the Kings. Prior to coaching Los Angeles, McLellan spent five seasons with Edmonton and seven in San Jose.

    Hiller. a 10th round pick by the Kings in the 1989 draft, has been an assistant with the team the past two seasons after eight seasons as an assistant with the New York Islanders, Toronto and Detroit. Prior to his NHL coaching career, Hiller spent 12 seasons in the Western Hockey League and British Columbia Hockey League, including five years as head coach with the Tri-City Americans.

    McLellan is the sixth coach fired this season, following Edmonton’s Jay Woodcroft, Minnesota’s Dean Evason, St. Louis’ Craig Berube, Ottawa's D.J. Smith and the Islanders' Lane Lambert. Mike Babcock resigned at Columbus on the eve of training camp after an investigation into his practice of asking to see photos on players’ phones.

    The Kings don't play again until Feb. 10 against Edmonton ahead of a five-game Eastern road trip.

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