While this is good for both parties involved, as the Kings needed a fresh look on the special teams and Sturm now gets a chance to showcase his abilities as a head coach in North America, it leaves the team with a vacancy behind the bench. Here are five options I think could be used for the Kings assistant coach slot.
1. Marc Savard
Marc Savard is a former NHL player, playing 807 games and accumulating 706 points over his career, which was unfortunately cut short due to concussion injuries.
Savard came into the coaching world during the 2019-20 campaign, where he became an assistant coach on Craig Berube‘s staff with the St. Louis Blues. The defending champs went 49-22-11, ranking third in the Central Division. Savard departed from the club following the season.
After taking a year off, Savard signed with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League for the 2021-22 season, his first gig as a head coach. He brought the club to a 44-17-7 record, a .699 win percentage, and to the OHL finals, where the team forced seven games against a Hamilton Bulldogs team that was undefeated in the postseason to that point.
Savard and the Spits fell short of the ultimate goal, but it was an excellent season for the coach, and he unlocked the offensive potential of numerous players on that team. He works well with young players, which the Kings have a plethora of. He’s personally my best fit for this vacancy.
Oh, and the Spitfires ranked third in the OHL in power play percentage, at 26.1%.
2. Jay McKee
Jay McKee is another former NHL player looking to make his way into the coaching world at the highest level. The former defenseman played 802 games, accumulating 125 total points.
McKee has been coaching since 2010 when he started as an assistant coach with Niagara University. He then worked his way to an assistant role with the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League and then assistant positions with both the Erie Otters and Kitchener Rangers of the OHL before the Rangers gave him a head coaching job.
McKee spent four seasons with the Rangers, going 120-88-17 and making the postseason in three of them. He left Kitchener after the 2019-20 season, and joined the Hamilton Bulldogs as a head coach this year, where he went 51-12-0, won the OHL championship over the Spitfires, and is now heading to the Memorial Cup, which starts on Monday.
The Bulldogs’ power play ranked second in the OHL at 27.6%.
3. Jukka Jalonen
Jukka Jalonen is an intriguing option. The Riihimaki native has never coached in North America, but he’s been a successful coach in the numerous European leagues and competitions he has been a part of.
He led Finland to the IIHF World Championship in 2011, 2019, and 2022 and won Finland’s first-ever Gold Medal in ice hockey in 2022. He has 15 medals in international competitions, including six gold medals.
He is a three-time KHL all-star coach, a two-time Finnish coach of the year, and is even in the Finnish Hockey Hall of Fame.
My only issue here is I’m not sure if Jalonen would come over to North America if he weren’t guaranteed a head coach role, but if he is willing to accept an assistant coach position, the Kings need to be all over that.
4. Jim Hiller
Jim Hiller is another option for the Kings’ assistant coaching vacancy. Ironically enough, he was drafted as a player for the Kings in 1989 and played 40 games with the franchise.
Hiller has been coaching since 2002 as an assistant coach in the Western Hockey League. Since then, he had head coaching stints in the BCHL and WHL from 2005-to 2014. He made the playoffs in seven of his eight seasons as a head coach in the WHL.
Since the 2014-15 campaign, Hiller has been an assistant all over the NHL, with the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, and most recently, New York Islanders.
Hiller has considered some clubs as a head coaching option, but if he doesn’t get those, I’d like the Kings to look for him due to his experience in coaching.
5. Kris Knoblauch
Kris Knoblauch is the last option for me on this list, but still a very intriguing option for the Kings. Despite being only 43 years old, he has been in the coaching world since 2006-07, when he began as an assistant with the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL.
Knoblauch spent seven seasons as a head coach in juniors, winning a championship with the Kootenay Ice in 2010-11 and the Erie Otters in 2016-17.
Knoblauch spent two seasons as an assistant in Philadelphia before taking over as the head coach of the Hartford Wolf Pack, where he currently resides.
He was once expected to take over the Rangers head coaching vacancy once David Quinn departed. Still, with Gerard Gallant taking over, it doesn’t look like he’ll get an opportunity in the NHL with New York, which could allow the Kings to snatch him up for their assistant slot.