All indications remain that the new coach will be Darryl Sutter and that Sutter will take over next Tuesday. After facing the Blue Jackets, the Kings will play at Detroit on Saturday and at Toronto on Monday before returning home to face the Ducks next Thursday at Staples Center. Apparently, Sutter has some family and farming responsibilities to wrap up in Alberta but he should be able to sort everything out within the next few days.
Lombardi declined to elaborate Thursday while watching the Kings’ morning skate at Nationwide Arena. “I’m working through the process,” he said.
Though it’s odd to take so long before appointing the next coach — and the Kings’ 3-0 loss at Boston Tuesday was more of the same performance that undermined Murray — Lombardi said he has confidence in Stevens’ ability to run things for a while. “I’m not too worried about with Johnny having their respect,” Lombardi said.
Stevens is expected to stay on when Sutter is appointed, though it’s unclear whether Sutter will want to also choose an assistant.
In the meantime, Stevens is running practices, trying to find ways to produce goals and end the Kings’ five-game losing streak. Players, who have been addressed by Lombardi twice in the past few days, acknowledged Thursday that this hasn't been business as usual.
“It’s the first time for me. I’ve never had a coaching change in the middle of a year at any level, I don’t think. It is weird,” defenseman Jack Johnson said.
“It is what it is and you’ve got to deal with it. When the puck drops you’re still playing hockey. The game hasn’t changed. It’s kind of when we’re sitting around the room and we’re thinking about it, it’s weird.”
Johnson also said the team’s last practice was “one of the best practices we’ve ever had.” Stevens said he’s trying to deal more with emotions and the mind-set of the team than with strategy.
“When something of this magnitude happens, if you look at the last four years and where this team has come from and the success they’ve had, to go through emotionally what they have the last few days, it was just about trying to get some reps in and trying to get some energy and focus on getting things done on the ice,” Stevens said.
“Just trying to build some spirit back up after what they’ve been through emotionally in the last couple days.”