Kings Launch Their Hunt for ‘New Blood’

Times Staff Writer

The list of candidates for the coaching job that became available when the Kings fired Robbie Ftorek Tuesday is taking shape.

It is being compiled by General Manager Rogie Vachon and probably won’t include anyone who would demand to be general manager as well as coach.

“Rogie is our general manager and he’ll be back; that’s for sure,” owner Bruce McNall said Wednesday from New York, where he is attending meetings of the National Hockey League’s expansion committee.


“I know you’re hearing about some good coaches who would only come if they could be general manager, too. I’ve heard the same thing. But who knows if that’s true? If I believed everything I heard along the way, I’d be starving today. I have learned that you have to find out these things for yourself.

“I really don’t know right now who our next coach is going to be, and I won’t know until I’ve had a chance to get to know some of these guys.

“I don’t want to do anything real quick. I want to get the right guy. I don’t want to go off half-cocked and end up firing another coach in six months.”

Dave Taylor, King captain, agrees on that point. Taylor has had nine coaches in his 12 years with the team.

“It would be nice if we could be more stable,” Taylor said. “This next coach will be the 10th coach I’ve had. We had so many new players this year, too. Hopefully, whoever comes in will be able to bring it all together and be here for a while.

“I was a little disappointed for Robbie because I thought he did a pretty good job and, as the season went along, I thought we got better as a team. Losing to Calgary wasn’t the coach’s fault.


“But I understand what Rogie was saying about getting someone who is better with veteran players. We need someone to handle all the personalities on the team. Not that we were a difficult team. But we had such a wide range of players.”

Phil Sykes, who has been with the Kings through parts of seven seasons and through six coaches, said that he thinks the next coach probably will need to “under-coach and over-manage” to get the most out of the veteran team. “It’s not a question of teaching most of these guys to play hockey,” Sykes said.

Of Ftorek’s firing, Sykes said: “Well, I guess from my personal point of view it’s a fairly decent thing for me. My position wasn’t too good with him. All it can do for me is open the door. I just have to hope it’s a coach who wants to include me in his plans.”

Sykes said he and teammate Tom Laidlaw discussed what the Kings should be looking for in the perfect coach.

“We were saying it should be someone who can really get along with the media, like (Laker Coach) Pat Riley,” Sykes said. “Someone colorful and witty. Someone who has a lot of confidence in himself and in his hockey knowledge. Someone who can manage a bunch of superstar hockey players. We don’t know who that is. Does that guy exist?”

McNall is about to find out.

McNall would not comment, specifically, on the names being mentioned. But he did say that he wanted “new blood.”


McNall said: “I would prefer not to have the old, recycled coach who has been fired five times before. Not someone who has been kicking around forever.”

He also said: “I don’t want to have to have any big battles with any other teams.”

That would seem to rule out Bob McCammon of Vancouver--who reportedly would be looking to move up to a GM-coaching position--and John Muckler, who would not be easily let go by Edmonton owner Peter Pocklington. Pocklington already has been hanged in effigy for letting Wayne Gretzky go to the Kings.

That would seem to leave Colin Campbell as the most likely candidate.

Campbell, who played with Gretzky in Edmonton, has been an assistant coach with Detroit for four years and would be “new blood” as a head coach.

But McNall said: “If I were you, I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions and I wouldn’t rule out anybody. I’m not.”

This process might take some time.

McNall said that he and Gretzky, who has been in New York to tape some commercials and a “Saturday Night Live” show, will attend the Kentucky Derby. McNall also owns horses, although he doesn’t have one running in the Derby.

“When I get back, I’ll take the list that Rogie is putting together and we’ll start to work on it together,” McNall said. “This time I want Rogie to be very comfortable with the coach. I want the coach to be real comfortable with me and with the players. I’d like for everyone to be in harmony.”


McNall considered his last words and then laughed, adding, “Well, I’d like for everyone to be in harmony at the start of the season, at least.”

Vachon had said that he wanted to be able to announce the new coach before the NHL meetings and draft in mid-June. McNall said Wednesday that he would like to make a decision by June 1 so that the new coach would have time to discuss prospects for the draft with the team’s scouts.

“We’re in no big hurry,” McNall said. “I’d like to find the best coach we can possibly get. We wanted the best hockey player in the world and we got him. We want the best coach. If he’s not available, then we’ll go right down the line until we get the best coach who is available.

“I think it’s worth the time.”