Seven became three, and now it’s down to one.
On Saturday, we put out a report with seven candidates to consider for the new Kings assistant coach, a role that became open when Jim Hiller was promoted to interim head coach for the balance of LA’s 2023-24 season.
Earlier Monday, that same list had narrowed down to three.
And now, the top name mentioned from that group appears to be the guy getting hired.
Before taking to the ice for practice on Thursday, look for the Kings to make an official announcement of DJ Smith as the team’s new assistant coach.
Who is he? Using our popular 10 Tidbits format, here’s the info needed to get up to speed quickly:
1. Most recently, Smith was head coach of the Ottawa Senators. In four-plus seasons there, he compiled a 131-154-32 record. Earlier this season, he was let go after the organization brought in a new GM.
2. Smith is 46 years old and the D.J. is short for Dennis Joseph.
3. He somewhat began his pro career with the New York Islanders. They drafted him in the second round (41st overall) at the 1995 NHL Draft. However, he was traded to Toronto less than a year later in a deal that saw the Maple Leafs also acquire Wendel Clark and former Kings defenseman Mathieu Schneider. Along with several players going back the other way, the Islanders also acquired a first round pick; they later used that to select Roberto Luongo.
4. The Windsor, ONT native was a defenseman by trade, but largely as a minor leaguer. After leaving the OHL in 1996 until the time he hung up the skates in 2004, Smith was an AHL mainstay, only getting into 45 NHL games over that nearly 10 year span. He spent the majority of those years in the Maple Leafs organization, at a time when several former Kings were there, including: Felix Potvin, Marcel Cousineau, Dmitry Yushkevich, Alyn McCauley, Yanic Perreault, Glenn Healy, and Dmitri Khristich.
5. Despite his limited number of NHL games as a player, Smith does have a more concrete connection to the Kings and GM Rob Blake. On March 1, 2002 he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche — where Blake was one of their top defenseman. Smith went on to make his Avalanche debut against the Kings on Oct. 17, 2002. He had a fight with Ian Laperriere in that game, and would go on to suit up in 33 more games for the Avs that season.
6. In a fun bit of trivia, Smith’s first career NHL point came when he assisted on a goal by Brandon Convery. Jason Podollan had the second assist. Both of those players are former Kings.
7. Once Smith’s playing days were over, he went into coaching one year later — hooking up with his former OHL club, the Windsor Spitfires as an assistant coach. During six seasons in that role, he won two Memorial Cups (2009, 2010) and former Kings forward Warren Rychel was his General Manager. Smith then moved on to OHL Oshawa, winning the league’s Coach of the Year honors two years later, followed by a Memorial Cup championship in his third year as their head coach.
8. That was enough for the Toronto Maple Leafs to come calling that summer, and Smith had his first NHL assistant coaching gig as part of the 2015-16 season. He would have known Hiller from their days coaching against each other in the OHL, but this was the first time they were on the same staff together.
9. Both Hiller and Smith left Toronto after the 2018-19 season, with Hiller moving to the Islanders and Smith off to become the head guy in Ottawa.
10. As we noted in our original article over the weekend, Smith is said to be well-liked by most in the hockey community and one of his specialties is working with younger players. More specifically, when we asked one of Smith’s former colleagues about him this week, it was noted to us, ‘DJ is a funny guy; great guy to be around. He connects well with players.’
Now, who is Hiller, the Kings new bench boss? We profiled him in an earlier article linked below for easy reference.
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