The Los Angeles Kings informed Manchester Monarchs head coach Mark Morris on Wednesday that his contract would not be renewed.
Morris spent eight seasons as the Monarchs coach, earning a record of 338-224-66 in the regular season and 35-50 in the postseason. The team made the playoffs seven out of eight years under Morris. Manchester lost to Norfolk in the first round of the AHL playoffs last weekend.
“We appreciate the job Mark has done for us in Manchester. The team’s success on the ice during his tenure and his contributions in helping prepare our young players to be successful at the NHL level have been key contributors to the success of our organization as a whole,” said Kings president and general manager Dean Lombardi in a statement. “These ideals will continue to be a priority for us going forward and we wish Mark the utmost success as there is no doubt he is ready for the next step in his career.”
Morris is back home in upstate New York and spoke with Lombardi Wednesday about his future.
“The way it was presented to me is that it’s a chance for me to look at potential NHL coaching opportunities,” Morris said. “Dean asked me if I’d like to coach in the NHL and I said obviously yes. Those opportunities have not come for me in the Kings organization.”
The Monarchs finished with a franchise-low in losses with 19 this season during a 48-19-9 campaign in which the team won the Eastern Conference.
The No. 1 Monarchs lost to No. 8 Norfolk 3-1 in the first round. The Monarchs advanced to the Eastern Conference finals twice and lost in the first round five times. under Morris.
“I really don’t think this had anything to do with the playoffs,” Morris said. “They’ve never been the type of organization to gauge success on a playoff run. I think that’s the least of it.”
There was no immediate word on the fate of Morris’ assistant coach Freddy Meyer or other members of the Monarchs’ staff.
During this season, Morris became the first coach to surpass the 300 win mark at both the college and professional level. Prior to joining the Monarchs in 2006, Morris was head coach at Clarkson University from 1988 to 2002.
Morris helped develop more than a dozen current Los Angeles Kings such as captain Dustin Brown and star goalie Jonathan Quick as well as other NHL players such as Matt Moulson, Jonathan Bernier and Kevin Westgarth. He coached 13 members of the 2012 Stanley Cup champion Kings.
Monarchs captain Andrew Campbell, who is currently practicing with the Kings during the playoffs, played six seasons under Morris.
“He’s done such a great job in Manchester. He should be commended for what he’s done. He’s definitely put in the work and paid his dues. His record speaks for itself as well as the players he’s developed over the years,” Campbell said. “He’s taught me so much, about hockey and about life as well.”
There are currently four NHL teams with head coaching vacancies. Vancouver, Carolina, Washington and Florida are all in the market for new leadership. Toronto coach Randy Carlyle is on the hot seat and could be fired as well.
“It’s usually a mad scramble between now and the middle of the summer when you’re looking to make changes,” Morris said. “If there is an interested party I’d love the opportunity to ply my experience and coach at the next level.”
Morris also said he would always feel a connection to the city of Manchester and the people of New Hampshire.
“Manchester has been a second home to me. I made so many friends and had great years there. That will never change for me,” Morris said. “I’ll always feel comfortable coming to town.”