Thursday afternoon at the Kings training facility in El Segundo, new coach Jim Hiller put his players through a high-tempo practice for about an hour. Afterward, he met with the gathered media to answer a plethora of questions.
We’ve transcribed select answers, then the full session can be viewed in the video player down below.
Hiller’s opening statement:
I’d just like to start off by thanking Luc and Rob for this opportunity. It’s a big one for me. I’m sure most of you know, I played for the Kings. My first NHL game, as a player, was for the Kings and talking to Luc about that this morning, to be able to coach your first NHL game for the same team you played for, I don’t know how many people have done that. It’s pretty special to me; I promise you that. Beyond that, I’d like to thank Todd [McLellan] for his daily friendship and mentorship. I’m going to miss that. We’ll certainly stay in touch; he’s someone I really came to enjoy, not just as a coach, but as a person. So, this has been harder on me than maybe it should have been, I guess. So, I thank Todd for bringing me here originally. Now, here we are. I have a job, and we have to win some hockey games. … I’ll do the best I can to give you what I can. While, as we all know, we can’t give everything because we’ve got things that we’re working on, and we don’t want the whole entire world to know.
On the biggest change he plans on making heading into Saturday night, even though he’s just a few days on the job:
Well, I knew that question was coming. We don’t have a lot of time. We haven’t had a lot of time to practice over the last six weeks. Today, we had a good practice. The most important thing for me, and I know people are probably saying, ‘What’s one of the tactics and these things that are going to change?’ The most important thing for me after being around the team — which played very well for the first 24 game of the season — it’s just getting our frame of mind back where it needs to be. So, that’s my priority. That’s 95 percent of my priority, just getting that back where it needs to; because if we can help those guys get back there, we’ll have time to implement some other types of changes that eventually you guys will say, ‘Maybe they’re doing something different’ or ‘Maybe they’re not,’ who knows. But the priority now is the mindset.
On if that means keeping the forward lines and defensive pairings largely the same as they were on the road trip (which is also largely the alignment at practice today):
Yeah, what you saw at practice today is very likely who may play the next game. We only have so many players. You saw [Viktor Arvidsson] out there in red; sooner or later, he’ll join us. Obviously, he’s somebody who will come in and play a big role. But until we have him and [Blake Lizotte], we have the same guys. We were a really good team, we’ve struggled, and I’ll say it like this — we are a really good team. We have struggled, we’re not going to hide from that. But I think it would be a mistake to overreact in some areas of the game, when I don’t think that’s necessary.
On how he can get more out of Dubois:
I’ve talked to PL. He wants to get more out of himself, he understands that. There’s two parts to the equation. He’s going to be willing to do that. And then, we’ve got to push him. He’ll get opportunities; when he’s playing well, he’ll probably play more. And if he’s not going as well, whoever is, they will play more. So, it’s not a matter of a magic potion or anything like that. It’s just a matter of getting an opportunity again, doing the work. I don’t know if you noticed, we skated today, and then [after practice], he ended up with some of the younger players getting up out of the [final stretching routine] and getting some extra work in. That to me, catches my attention. So that’s not me doing anything for PL. that’s PL doing something for himself right now.
On the importance of adding DJ Smith as an assistant coach to help him out:
Well, that was really important, I have to say. As most of you know, I worked with DJ for four years; DJ is a tremendous coach, he’s a great guy. He’s a unique personality and you guys will see that, if you haven’t checked with some of your sources already. He’s a fun person to be around. All my experiences, the players really enjoy him. He can make people laugh. He can be a stand-up comedian. But he’s one of the sharpest hockey guys I’ve ever worked with. I have a lot of respect for him. And on a day like today, where there’s so much going on, to be able to say, ‘DJ, grab those two drills, that we’ve run in the past, and run them’ and know that he knows what I’m thinking, it made it a lot easier.
But I will say this, we also have coaches on the staff that were tight with Todd and feel the same way I do. So, the challenge is, how are those guys going to feel about bringing somebody new into the group when we’ve lost somebody so important? And I have to tip my hat to [Trent Yawney], Derik Johnson, to [Samson Lee], and Mike Buckley, because it was a tough circumstance. We were all in there working together because we know as hockey coaches our job is to help the team win, that’s what we do. So, it’s a group effort. It’s terrific to have DJ here for the reasons I mentioned. But, I also have to tip my hat to the other coaches to embrace this change, and to embrace DJ in the way they have already.
On Arthur Kaliyev’s progression, or even regression:
He had a really good summer. Arthur had done a lot of good things. It’s been tough on him, being in and out. Last year, he played pretty regularly, I understand that. I think one of the things last year that really was beneficial for Arthur was his power play group, when they had Arvidsson there, he played the bottom. He was able to help Arthur get pucks. And Arthur had a lot of goals on the power play that originated maybe from Danault down to Arvidsson, over to Kaliyev. Lots of good looks there. We haven’t had a right shot and Arvy hasn’t been on that group with those guys, Arthur hasn’t gotten those same looks this year that he got last year. So, that’s been probably frustrating for us, as a team on the power play, but probably more so for Arthur. That’s one thing that I think that’s really — he’s a scorer, he’s a power play guy, he’s a finisher. He hasn’t had the looks that he had last year. That’s the way I feel. Then he’s gotten into that [mindset], where you don’t have the looks, and you don’t score, and you’re a scorer, you start to get frustrated. Now, you question yourself and it makes it hard. I’ve got empathy for Arthur, but like everybody else, you got to earn your way. And we’ll decide what the best lineup is for us this particular game and whoever is in, [they have] to go do their thing.
Note to webmasters/reporters: When recapping news or interviews from this site please remember to include a link to www.MayorsManor.com