Even with draft nearing, Kings are in no hurry to name coach

May 17, 1992|By Rick Sadowski | Rick Sadowski,Los Angeles Daily News

LOS ANGELES -- Nearly two weeks after firing coach Tom Webster, the Los Angeles Kings aren't close to hiring a replacement, the team said.

"I don't know when we'll be able to get a new coach in," general manager Rogie Vachon said on Friday. "I don't anticipate having a coach in place by the [June 20] draft.

"We're still in the process of putting a list [of candidates] together. We've gone through dozens of names. It's a long, drawn-out process. I'm really not in any hurry to narrow it down."

Vachon hasn't set a schedule to begin interviewing candidates, some of whom could still be involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

"If a guy is under contract, I'll need permission to talk to him," he said.

Vachon chose not to divulge any names, but New York Rangers assistant coach Colin Campbell likely is high on the list.

Campbell, 38, had an extensive job interview with Vachon in May before Webster was hired to replace Robbie Ftorek.

Webster, who had a three-year record of 115-94-31, was fired May 4.

Campbell has been an assistant coach with the Rangers for two years. He was an assistant the previous five seasons with the Detroit Red Wings after a career as an NHL defenseman that lasted 11 years.

Ironically, Campbell believed three years ago that his relationship with Kings star Wayne Gretzky might have worked against him. They were Edmonton Oilers teammates in 1979-80 and are good friends.

"I had hoped I wouldn't get the opportunity simply because of that," Campbell said at the time. "I had thought to myself that it could backfire."

Former St. Louis Blues coach Brian Sutter, Chicago Blackhawks associate coach Darryl Sutter, Maine (AHL) Mariners coach E.J. McGuire, Utica (AHL) Devils coach Herb Brooks and Canadian national team coach Dave King are other probable candidates, though Brooks and King are long shots.

Because Vachon intends to hire someone from outside the organization, Phoenix (IHL) Roadrunners coach Ralph Backstrom probably won't be interviewed.

Montreal Canadiens coach Pat Burns and former NHL coach Jacques Demers, who works for radio station CJRP in Quebec City, apparently are out of the running.

Burns, 40, plans to honor the two years remaining on a contract that will pay him $350,000 next season, and Canadiens general manager Serge Savard has indicated he wants to keep Burns.

L "I think that's the end of that [speculation]," Vachon said.

Vachon hardly sounded enthusiastic when asked about Demers, who was fired by the Red Wings after the 1989-90 season.

"I haven't eliminated his name yet, but I don't think so," Vachon said without elaborating.

Demers, 47, was known as a disciplinarian and motivator. He had a misleading 268-286-86 career record over eight NHL seasons with the Quebec Nordiques, St. Louis and Detroit.

"I don't think [a candidate] has to be someone who has been in the league for a long time," Vachon said of the experience factor.

"If I knew of a real solid coach in college or in juniors, for example, I wouldn't have a problem interviewing him.

"The ultimate goal is to find a guy who can strike a balance between offense and defense, which is what we had [in 1990-91]. We're looking for a motivator, a guy who thinks defense but who will take advantage of the offensive guys we have."

Vachon also will look for someone who is willing to play young players.

Vachon, assistant general manager Nick Beverley and scouting director Bob Owen came to that consensus during meetings last weekend.

"We all agreed we have to put more young blood in the lineup," Vachon said. "We won't hire a guy who doesn't want to play kids. We'll still be a veteran team, but we want a better mix.

"There are going to be some changes, some trades, no doubt

about that."

*

Vachon is negotiating with Czechoslovakian center Robert Lang, seventh-round draft pick in 1990 who played extremely well in the Olympics. Lang, 21, is a gifted offensive player who would be given a chance to center the second line. "He can score, pass and skate," Vachon said of the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Lang. "Things are looking pretty good that we'll be able to bring him on board."

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