Offseason changes in the Kings front office appeared on the surface to be an overhaul.
Indeed, the general manager and the coach were both fired. Their replacements, however, were promoted from within the organization.
Coupled with minimal changes to a roster that has produced one playoff victory in the past three seasons, the question facing the Kings is: Why should expectations for this season be drastically different?
The most obvious reasons for fresh optimism are the three assistant coaches new to the Kings. Among them, the most significant change from the previous regime is easily Pierre Turgeon.
Whereas former Kings head coach Darryl Sutter seemed to have a permanently affixed frown, nobody has been able to peel the smile off Turgeon’s face since training camp began more than three weeks ago.
“Getting back on the ice, that’s fun,” Turgeon said. “I love being close to the boys, talking with them and seeing their smile and having fun during practice. That’s what it’s all about for me.”
Belying his amicable demeanor, there isn’t a job more serious within the Kings organization than Turgeon’s.
Last season’s offensive failings were so disturbing, it prompted the Kings to hire Turgeon under the label ‘offensive coordinator,’ the first time in franchise history such a position was created on the coaching staff.
Turgeon makes sense in the role, having amassed 1,327 points during a playing career that ended in 2007. His only coaching experience, however, has been with his three children — though Turgeon believes many of the same principles apply, no matter the level of hockey.
The Kings not only gave Turgeon his first coaching job, they saddled him with no small responsibility.
Only five teams allowed fewer goals than the Kings, yet they finished 11th in the Western Conference last season.
In other words, a marginal improvement on offense could realistically elevate the Kings to championship contenders.
In seven preseason games, five of which were victories, the Kings coaching staff is already seeing progress. Scoring chances are increasing thanks in part to a calculated aggressiveness in the middle of the ice, the coaching staff’s largest initiative in training camp.
“We’ve definitely seen some signs of our team, both on the rush and in the zone that are encouraging in terms of creating better opportunities in the middle of the ice,” Kings head coach John Stevens said. “There have definitely been points where…