The Los Angeles Kings replaced Head Coach Todd McLellan just over a week ago and there have been noticeable changes. The overall team vibe is raised and the players look to be more bought in and look hungrier than ever. This is a crucial time as the Kings march towards a playoff spot and new Head Coach Jim Hiller is one of the key focuses as the season winds down.

Kings’ Hiller leads refocused team in second half

Head Coach Hiller’s presence has taken its toll in a positive way as the team has more jump on the ice. Los Angeles is 4-1 since his head coaching debut on February 11, 2024, beating playoff quality teams like the Edmonton Oilers (first head coaching win for Hiller, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Boston Bruins.  Within those impressive wins was an ugly 7-0 loss against the Buffalo Sabres. The Kings outscored their opponents during this stretch   13-6.

One of the noticeable changes has been giving forward Arthur Kaliyev and defenseman Brandt Clarke playing time. Both players may have been in the doghouse with coach McLellan but Hiller knows much value they have and are letting them play, resulting in positive plays at each end of the ice. He is not afraid to change lines during the game, which was evident during this five-game stretch and, for the most part, those changes have been successful. Forward Viktor Arvidsson made his 2023-24 season debut after having back surgery and was placed on the second line with Phillip Danault and Trevor Moore, with whom he had much success last season. He has not shown any signs of rust or being out of shape since his return.

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 13: Head coach Todd McLellan and assistant coach Jim Hiller react behind players during a 4-1 loss to the Seattle Kraken at Crypto.com Arena on October 13, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

 

Another noticeable difference is that Hiller has been shown talking to the players on the bench, encouraging them to play better or discussion their last play. This may not seem like much but McLellan rarely did this and Hiller wants a relationship with the players and he is setting them up for success by talking while the play is happening.

Los Angeles has a different vibe on the ice since he took over as they play with more speed and creativity. The defense still has question marks but inserting Clarke  has given them three pairs off defensemen with offensive capabilities. Forward Pierre-Luc Dubois, who struggled under McLellan, has seemingly found his game again and looks sharp.

The players have taken notice of the change and are accepting of Hiller’s coaching strategies and ethics. Four players have taken off since his hiring and have taken their game to a new level. Forward Quinton Byfield has two goals and two assists for four points in his last five. Clarke (one goal and three assists for four points) and Dubois (two goals and three assists for five points) have contributed more with an increased role. Goaltender David Rittich is 4-1 with one shutout and 10 goals against.

While the Los Angeles Kings still have a ways to go before the playoffs, their play under Hiller is a positive sign. If they can play this way, or close to it, they can get back to the way they played earlier in the season that made them successful. Yes, it is a small sample size, but the Kings look refreshed, focused, and determined to make a statement heading down the stretch.


(photo: latimes.com; Helene Elliott)

(photo: lakingsinsider.com; Zach Dooley)

 

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