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Willie Desjardins will not be returning as coach of the Kings

Kings let another game slip from grasp, this time 4-3 to Panthers
Kings interim coach Willie Desjardins watches from the bench during a game against the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 5. Desjardins will not be returning as coach for the 2019-20 season.
(Bruce Bennett / Tribune News Service)

Willie Desjardins will not be returning as coach of the Kings.

The team made it official Sunday in a move that was expected for some time. Desjardins was hired on an interim basis after John Stevens was fired in November, and the organization said it would stick with Desjardins for the rest of the season.

“Today we thanked Willie Desjardins for his effort and dedication while serving as our interim head coach,” general manager Rob Blake said in a release. “We wish Willie and his family nothing but the best going forward. The process for hiring our next head coach is underway and we look forward to conducting a thorough search for the right person to lead our team.”

Former Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan is considered to be a leading candidate for the job. The Kings have reportedly asked Edmonton permission to speak to McLellan, who was fired in November with one more season remaining on his five-year contract.

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The Kings prefer an established coach – they were believed to have reached out to former New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks coach Alain Vigneault when Stevens was fired – but the organization is also open to other candidates who could impress them during their search.

Several other coaching jobs opened Sunday with the firing of Buffalo Sabres coach Phil Housley and Florida Panthers coach Bob Boughner. Former Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was reportedly linked to the Florida opening.

Desjardins took over the Kings when they started 4-8-1 and guided them to a 27-34-8 record in a six-month tenure that was defined by odd lineup decisions, the mismanagement of winger Ilya Kovalchuk and young forward prospects, in addition to a bench argument with Jonathan Quick in a Feb. 26 game at the Carolina Hurricanes.

Desjardins coached his final game Saturday in a 5-2 win against the Vegas Golden Knights and was asked postgame to share his thoughts about his future.

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“No,” Desjardins said. “Maybe I should enjoy the win tonight and worry about that in the coming weeks.

“It was an honor to coach the team. It’s a great franchise, and it was great to be part of it.”

Desjardins previously coached Vancouver for three seasons and has experience internationally, notably with the 2018 Canadian Olympic team.

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curtis.zupke@latimes.com

Twitter: @curtiszupke


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