Kings Set Their Sights on Crawford

Times Staff Writer

Former Vancouver Canucks head coach Marc Crawford is expected to be hired as the Kings’ coach, two league sources said, with the deal anticipated to be in place by Monday.

Crawford brings a history of success as a head coach. He won a Stanley Cup championship with the Colorado Avalanche in 1995-96 and spent the last seven seasons with the Canucks, reaching the playoffs four times in a row. But they finished ninth in the Western Conference this season and he was fired in April. Crawford would replace John Torchetti, who coached the last 12 games after Andy Murray was fired.

The hiring would be the first major move by Dean Lombardi since he became the Kings’ general manager in April. In Crawford, Lombardi is going after a no-nonsense coach with a successful resume, both seemingly essential for a team of veterans and youngsters that unraveled this season. The Kings were second in the West in early January but finished 10th.


Kings defenseman Aaron Miller, who started his career under Crawford, was excited to hear that he could be playing for him again. “He definitely demands and gets the most out of guys,” said Miller, who played two seasons for Crawford.

Crawford guided the Avalanche through the 1996 Stanley Cup playoffs, beating the Florida Panthers in the finals. The next season, Colorado reached the Western Conference finals, where it lost to the Detroit Red Wings.

Those Avalanche teams included Peter Forsberg, Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy.

“He’s a great bench coach,” Miller said. “He understands who was playing well and gets them on the ice. I mean, he’s won a Stanley Cup, what else do you have to say?”

Crawford led the Canucks to the Northwest Division title in 2003-04. The team reached the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs the previous season.

“He adds great intensity on the bench,” said Mighty Ducks General Manager Brian Burke, who hired Crawford in Vancouver. “He handles players well, and prepares extremely well.”

Lombardi was also expected to fill key front-office spots -- assistant general manager and director of hockey operations -- within the next few weeks. He has already reworked lower levels of the organization, including the team’s medical training staff and equipment staff. John Wolf, assistant to the general manager, was also let go.

Crawford, 46, was hired by the Quebec Nordiques in 1994-95 and won the Jack Adams trophy as the NHL’s coach of the year that season. The team relocated to Colorado the next season and he became the third youngest coach to win the Stanley Cup.

Crawford would bring with him more NHL career victories (411) than any King coach at the time of his hiring. He inherits a team that collapsed at the end of this season, leading to the firing of Murray in March and general manager Dave Taylor in April.