|Mark Hardy and Craig Johnson|
Could former LA Kings Mark Hardy and Craig Johnson be on the verge of forming a coaching tandem in the ECHL?
According to Ontario Reign President Justin Kemp, Hardy is on the short list of finalists for the open head coaching slot – as he discusses in detail below.
Hardy, a former assistant coach with the Kings for more than 10 seasons, also is near the top in several statistical categories for LA defensemen – including third most games played (616), second most assists, third most points and fifth most penalty minutes. He was also part of the Kings run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1993.
Johnson, most recently, has been coaching youth hockey in Orange County. He originally arrived in Los Angles as part of the epic 1996 trade that saw Wayne Gretzky dealt to St. Louis. After playing more than seven seasons for the Kings, he was a Mighty Duck for one year (2003-04). After a few more NHL stops, he wrapped up his on-ice career by playing a few seasons in Europe.
Hardy was one of the Kings assistant coaches during most of Johnson’s time with the Kings.
Following up on today’s earlier interview, here’s Kemp with an A to Z look at the coaching situation in Ontario, including specific comments about how Hardy and Johnson might fit in…
– On Karl Taylor resigning his head coaching job: “Every one is entitled to a bad year. I don’t take one year and say, ‘It’s time to make a coaching change.’ We’ve only played three seasons and we’ve only had one losing season. So, there wasn’t consideration last year to make a change. But, when you’re coming off a year like last year, you don’t rush right in and sign him to another two or three years. You play it out and see what happens. I think this is one of those cases where it’s a great situation for everyone involved. Karl gets an opportunity to move on and move up, in a situation that I think he’s going to be very successful in. The fans (here) are going to get a fresh start, which I think they’re deserving of and happy with – quite frankly, the organization is too. He did a lot of great things to build this. It’s been three years and we’ve turned a corner. I think it’s a good time for everybody.”
– On Mark Hardy as a candidate to replace Taylor: “I love Mark. We worked with him many years ago in Long Beach. I’ve known him, even prior to that, from the very first team I ever worked for, which was a pro roller hockey team in the RHI. So, I’ve known Mark for a long time and have a great deal of respect for him. He has expressed interest in the position. I told him he was definitely part of the consideration process. I think he’s an exceptional coach and I think he could do great things here. He’s definitely been part of the short list of candidates.”
– Earlier in the day, Kemp said he has submitted a list of the final 3-4 candidates to the Kings for their review. So, was Hardy included in that group? “Yes.”
– On the Kings being aware that he was talking to Hardy: “I’ve run it by them. I’m not going to go too much into what their thoughts are – good or bad. They are in the process of evaluation all of our candidates at this point. That’s sort of the last piece of this process – to see what they feel puts them in the best position to develop their players. Obviously, having somebody here who they’re comfortable with helps us. It probably would mean we’d get more consideration from them if they have a guy who they’re in tune with, as far as development. So, I’ve talked with them about all of our candidates, Mark included.”
– On the likelihood that Hardy gets hired as the coach: “I honestly couldn’t put a percentage on that. We’ll see how it plays out in the next couple of days. But, like I said, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mark and I would love to work with him.”
– On the other candidates: “They all have experience coaching at the pro level – ECHL, AHL, CHL and NHL. It’s a fairly wide range. All the candidates coach a different style of play. So, that’s taken into consideration too. Some of them are very offensive minded. Some are defensive oriented. I’d like something well rounded, if possible. I’m never going to tell a coach what style he needs to put in though.”
– On the possibility of Ontario adding an assistant coach for next season as well: “It’s not a for sure thing. It’s definitely something that if it works out, I would be in favor of. But, the personalities have to click. We have a couple different scenarios in mind. Ultimately, if that works, then that’s great. If it doesn’t, then we’ll be content to go another season without having an assistant coach.”
– On the possibility of Hardy filling the assistant role if he didn’t get the head coaching position: “You never know. I haven’t spoken with him about that. I really don’t know exactly where his thought process is, other than I know he really wants to get back into hockey. If I have an opportunity to be the one that helps him out, I’d love to do so.”
– On another former King, Craig Johnson: “He worked with us quite a bit last year, coming out to practices. I know he was very well liked and respected. I think he did a great job. I have spoken with him. I know he’s interested in the head job. It may not be the right time. But, he does come highly recommended by some very respectable people. And I would certainly welcome his involvement with our team again.”
Interesting developments out in the Inland Empire today.
I’ll have quotes from my subsequent conversation with Mark Hardy posted in the morning.
In the meantime, please check out some of the links below.
MayorsManor audio interview with Mark Hardy – what happened and what’s next
Drew Doughty comments on former coach Mark Hardy
Interview with Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford – talks JF Berube going to Ontario
Coach Karl Taylor on the Reign’s poor season – ‘It’s all on me!’
Many frustration for Ontario Reign President Justin Kemp – posted earlier today
Interview with Ontario Reign President Justin Kemp – October 2010
Confusion reigning between Kings and their ECHL affiliate?