Despite Kings' playoff failure, Jim Hiller passes interim test and wins full-time job

Kings coach Jim Hiller looks on from the bench.
The Kings decided to keep Jim Hiller as their coach heading into next season. (Juan Ocampo / NHLI via Getty Images)

Jim Hiller finally has had the interim tag removed from his title as Kings coach, with the team saying Wednesday the longtime assistant has been given the job.

The announcement, in a press release from general manager Rob Blake, was not a surprise after Blake and team president Luc Robitaille indicated this month that the Kings were planning few changes after their third straight exit from the NHL playoffs in the first round.

A press conference to formally introduce Hiller as the franchise’s 30th  coach has been scheduled for Thursday.

After the Kings’ final game, Hiller said he enjoyed his time behind the bench and hoped he had done enough to merit an invitation to come back.

“That goes without saying,” he said. “It's a great group of players with a lot of character. They made it easy for me in what was maybe difficult circumstances for them because of the way we have performed for about six weeks. So I owe a lot to them.

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“They're good players and really good guys, really good people. So I enjoyed it.”

Hiller, 55, was named interim coach Feb. 2 after serving as an assistant coach to Todd McLellan the last two seasons. Hiller, whose mission, according to Blake, was to get the team to the playoffs, made his coaching debut Feb. 10 against the Edmonton Oilers.

The Kings went 21-12-1 in 34 games under Hiller to end the season, clinching the third spot in the Pacific Division with an overtime win over Chicago in the final game. Under Hiller, the Kings were the best home team in the NHL, recording 14 wins in 18 games at Arena.

Edmonton made quick work of them in the playoffs, however, winning the best-of-seven series in five games. It was the third season in a row the Oilers eliminated the Kings in the first round.

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Hiller joined the Kings as an assistant in July 2022 after spending eight seasons in the same capacity with the New York Islanders (2019-22), Toronto Maple Leafs (2015-19) and Detroit Red Wings (2014-15).

A native of Port Alberni, B.C., Hiller also played for the Kings after being selected in the 10th round (207th overall) of the 1989 draft. He appeared in 40 games for the Kings, recording six goals and 12 points before moving on to Detroit and later the New York Rangers. Hiller suited up for 63 career games, registering eight goals, 12 assists and 20 points, playing his final game in 1994.

He began his coaching career in 2002 in the WHL with the Tri-City Americans and served as an assistant for Team Canada at the 2010 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Slovakia, helping guide his home country to its third consecutive championship.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.