Photo credit: Steve Babineau

On Wednesday afternoon, LA Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi announced that they would not be renewing the contract of Mark Morris, head coach of their minor league affiliate, Manchester Monarchs.

“We appreciate the job Mark has done for us in Manchester. The team’s success on the ice during his tenure and his contributions in helping prepare our young players to be successful at the NHL level have been key contributors to the success of our organization as a whole. These ideals will continue to be a priority for us going forward and we wish Mark the utmost success as there is no doubt he is ready for the next step in his career,” said Lombardi.

Last July, the Kings extended Morris’s contract for one more year. But now the Kings organization has decided to part ways with Morris and allow him to move on with his career. Reportedly, there are NHL teams interested in his services as an assistant coach. Given his history of success at both the AHL and collegiate level, it’s not a surprise that there are NHL teams who want him behind their bench.

In eight years with the organization, Morris quickly became the winningest coach in franchise history. Twice he coached the Monarchs to a division title (2006-07, 2013-14) and saw two conference appearances. This year, with a roster constantly in flux due to call ups and injuries (at one point, he’d lost his entire top line, which had combined for 100 points the previous year), the Monarchs led the entire AHL for the majority of the season. They ended up second in the league, finishing one point behind the Texas Stars. Never once during the entire ’13-’14 season did the Monarchs have a three game losing streak (until they met the Norfolk Admirals in the playoffs).

Morris has been instrumental in the development of young players on the Kings’ farm team. When LA won the Stanley Cup in 2012, 13 players had spent time in Manchester under the careful guidance of Morris (Jonathan Bernier, Kyle Clifford, Davis Drewiske, Dwight King, Trevor Lewis, Andrei Loktionov, Alec Martinez, Jordan Nolan, Scott Parse, Jonathan Quick, Brad Richardson, Slava Voynov and Kevin Westgarth). Recent call ups Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli and Linden Vey are among the latest prospects that saw significant development time in New Hampshire.

A hard, but fair coach, Toffoli said of Morris, “He definitely made me earn everything that I got – my ice time, my power play and penalty kill. He just made sure he was on me all the time, and it was just trying to get me better every day.” Currently Toffoli sees time on LA’s special teams and was a key element in the Kings’ come-from-behind victory over the San Jose Sharks, thanks, in part, to things he learned in Manchester.

 

Monarchs assistant coach Freddy Meyer is moving on as well.

The Kings’ front office does not currently have anyone specific lined up to replace Morris and Meyer.

In spite of this, head coach Jason Christie and assistant coach Mark Hardy with the Ontario Reign of the ECHL could possibly have an inside track. They’ve both done an excellent job coaching the Reign (including leading the Reign to back-to-back division titles) and are familiar with the Kings’ system. While they would be a good fit and make perfect sense, for now, that is just rampant speculation.

Hopefully come October, Mark Morris will be behind the bench of some NHL team that is fortunate enough to have him.

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