Los Angeles Kings remove interim tag, name Jim Hiller full-time head coach

Los Angeles Kings interim head coach Jim Hiller, center, gives instructions during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024. The Kings won 2-1. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

LOS ANGELES — Jim Hiller will continue to be the Los Angeles Kings head coach after having the interim tag removed Wednesday by vice president and general manager Rob Blake.

The Kings were 21-12-1 in the regular season under Hiller after Todd McLellan was fired on Feb. 2. But Los Angeles was eliminated by Edmonton in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year.

Under Hiller, the Kings were second in penalty killing during the regular season and had the league’s best home record after the All-Star break, but both weren’t evident in the post-season as the Oilers won the series in five games.

Edmonton was 9 of 20 on the power play during the playoffs while the Kings didn’t score on any of their 12 chances with the man advantage. Los Angeles also lost both of its playoff home games after winning nine of its last 10 in the regular season.

Hiller was an assistant coach with the Kings for two seasons after eight as an assistant with the New York Islanders, Toronto and Detroit. A 10th-round pick by the Kings in 1989, he was the 18th coach in NHL history to make his head coaching debut with the team that originally drafted them.

Prior to his NHL coaching career, Hiller spent 12 seasons in the Western Hockey League and British Columbia Hockey League, including five years as head coach with the Tri-City Americans.

Los Angeles has reached the playoffs four times during Blake’s GM tenure, but failed to advance past the first round. The Kings have not won a playoff series since winning their second Stanley Cup in three years in 2014.

Prospects for a breakthrough in a tough Pacific Division appear difficult.

Team captain Anze Kopitar will turn 37 in August and defenceman Drew Doughty will be 35 in December.

Los Angeles doesn’t have many prospects at its minor-league affiliate in Ontario, California, and has cap issues. David Rittich is their only goaltender under contract for next season.

Hiller also has to find a way to get Pierre-Luc Dubois on tack. The Kings acquired Dubois from Winnipeg and signed him to an eight-year, $68 million contract last season. The centre didn’t have any chemistry with anyone on the team and had career lows for a full season in goals (16) and points (40).

During the Edmonton series, Dubois was often on the fourth line.

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