We’ve dropped the name a few times in recent articles and mentioned it on Kings Of The Podcast, so here’s the scoop — according to our sources, the LA Kings are wrapping up a deal to bring in Jim Hiller as a new Assistant Coach to Todd McLellan.
In Hiller, the Kings are adding a former LA draft pick and player to the staff. More importantly, they’re adding somebody who has a style McLellan should be very familiar with. They both came up under Mike Babcock in the Detroit Red Wings organization. McLellan began his NHL coaching career as an assistant under Babcock for three years, from 2005-08. Hiller too began his NHL coaching career as an assistant to Babcock in Detroit during the 2014-15 season, before following him to Toronto for the next four years.
Over the past three seasons, Hiller was with the New York Islanders. However, throughout his time behind the bench, he’s been lauded for the impact he’s made on the power play in each of his three stops around the league. Most recently, he helped the Islanders improve from 17.3% to finishing last season at 22.1% (far better than the Kings 16.1%).
Ironically, McLellan played five NHL games, all with the Islanders. That has no real bearing on the hire, it’s just a fun fact.
McLellan was said to be looking for more than simply a power play specialist, though. From what we’ve been able to gather, he was looking for somebody with experience at running an entire offense. He also was looking for somebody who could step right in and take over, without much ramp up time. The ideal candidate was said to need less training, and rather bring experience with him already. Further, McLellan seems to prefer a three-man coaching staff. Even though a four-man staff is gaining traction with some teams around the league, McLellan apparently believes that a four-man staff is too challenging, as one guy always feels like he wants more responsibility (often this refers to the assistant coach who has ‘eye in the sky’ responsibilities). Since joining the Kings in 2019, McLellan has gone with a three-man approach, and the direction was to apparently stick with that moving forward.
Having the familiarity with the Babcock structure and language, elements of which both McLellan and Hiller have continued to use throughout their careers, should make Hiller’s integration into the Kings coaching group as close to plug-and-play as one could hope for. Going back to when McLellan was first hired, much was made about players having to adjust to the new language. With that adjustment period now behind them and the Kings looking to build upon their productive 2021-22 season, bringing in a coach who can join the team and get to work right away was likely paramount to the search process.
The opening for a new assistant coach in LA was created when Marco Sturm moved over to become the head coach of AHL Ontario. A story covered here.
Using our 10 Tidbits format, here’s a little more on Hiller:
— Was selected by Los Angeles in the 10th round, 207th overall, at the 1989 NHL Draft
— Played at Northern Michigan University, where former Kings Steve Bozek and Don Waddell also attended school
— Joined the Kings in 1992, playing right wing on a line centered by Jari Kurri, with Luc Robitaille on the left side
— Was traded by LA to Detroit, along with Paul Coffey (and Sylvain Couturier) for Jimmy Carson, Gary Shuchuk, and Marc Potvin
— Played five seasons in Germany (where he was teammates with former Kings Brian McReynolds and Sylvain Couturier); as well as one season in Italy, where he won the Italian league championship.
— Served as an assistant coach with WHL Tri-City Americans behind Don Nachbaur, who was an assistant coach with the Kings from 2017-2019
— He’ll join a short list of former Kings players who later served behind the LA bench, including: Bob Berry, Mark Hardy, Dave Lewis, Mike Murphy, Bob Pulford, and Larry Robinson
— Was CHL and WHL Coach of the Year in 2012
— Served as an assistant coach alongside Tony Granato with the 2014-15 Red Wings
— Was an assistant in Toronto when Austin Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander all were rookies… as well as Thousand Oaks native Trevor Moore
We’ll have more on this developing story in the weeks ahead.
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