On Hockey: Naming Monarchs coach tops the Kings’ to-do list
DEVELOPING players in Manchester once again has led to winning a Stanley Cup for the Los Angeles Kings. But who will steward the Kings’ next wave of prospective champions?
L.A. held a hockey championship parade on Monday, its second in three years. Former Manchester Monarchs once again played a huge role in helping the Kings win, this time over the New York Rangers in five games.
But gone is Mark Morris, the man who helped develop a huge part of the Kings’ lineup, including Alec Martinez, who scored the Cup-clinching goal, and Tyler Toffoli, whose initial shot created the rebound Martinez banged in.
After the Monarchs’ season ended with a first-round exit form the American Hockey League playoffs, the Kings announced that they were not renewing Morris’ contract, leaving their top minor-league affiliate in need of a new head coach.
According to Monarchs director of hockey operations Hubie McDonough, the Kings are getting close to naming Morris’ successor, with the expectation of naming him before the NHL Draft in Philadelphia June 27 and 28.
“The preliminary interviews are done. I think they’re going to knock it down to two (candidates) and then bring them back in for interviews,” said McDonough, who has been an integral part of the search process, interviewing candidates in Los Angeles and New York during the Cup Final.
“(The Kings) want to get it done before the draft, and I think they head there next Wednesday. I think they’d like to get it done within the next week.”
The Kings also need to fill a vacancy for an assistant coach in Manchester, with Sanbornville’s Freddy Meyer having left the Monarchs to take the head coaching position with the Bedford, Mass.-based East Coast Wizards of the junior Eastern Hockey League.
“We have to get an assistant coach and get things situated. And we have the draft to worry about, which is an important part of the process, and getting those young guys and figuring out who can help you,” McDonough said. “It’s not even the first and second round. It’s really those sleepers that come a little later than that who can make or break you.”
The Kings have had good luck with both high picks and sleepers. Thanks to solid drafting, savvy trades and free-agent pick-ups, and a strong development program in place in Manchester, Los Angeles has won two Cups and shows no signs of being done yet.
The Kings’ active roster for the Stanley Cup Final featured 12 former Monarchs, including captain Dustin Brown and goalie Jonathan Quick. Toffoli and linemate Tanner Pearson were with Manchester off and on during the previous season.
“The whole series, with Slava (Voynov) and Martinez and the guys who really spent some time here — they were involved and making an impact,” said McDonough, who was in Los Angeles for the win.
“If you look, Marty scores,” McDonough said of Martinez’s Cup-clincher. “He doesn’t know what to do, and he said he couldn’t even breathe. He throws his arms up, and it’s (Kyle) Clifford, Marty, Toffoli and Slava are the first four guys in the pile. It was a big pile of Monarchs there.”
It was bittersweet to watch for Morris, who helped those former Monarchs reach the NHL and become impact players but was not invited by the Kings to join them in L.A. for Game 5.
“I’m real proud of the guys. They stepped up and obviously played a key role in the second Cup. To see those guys do well makes you really proud,” Morris said. “It’s a little awkward being on the outside looking in. I’m just anxious to sign on with somebody and get back to work.”
Morris would not comment on specifics but said he had been in phone contact with a few organizations. His name has been tied to the vacant assistant coaching job in Toronto, and he’s also been mentioned as a candidate for the head coaching job with Hershey in the AHL.
“I’ve had a couple phone interviews,” Morris said. “I’m anxious to follow the process through and get back to work. I haven’t had any in-person interviews, but hopefully that will happen soon. There’s a ton of guys out of work right now. It’s kind of like playing musical chairs. You just hope you have a seat when the music stops.”
Ian Clark covers hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.