John Stevens knew he had a decent shot at being a head coach again, and most of the rest of the hockey world did, too.
It’s believed the Vancouver Canucks, Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins, for example, would have wanted to chat with him as part of their coaching searches.
But the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Sticking with a Stanley Cup champion isn’t such a bad thing, and the Los Angeles Kings made sure staying was a really good thing by promoting Stevens on Wednesday from assistant coach to associate head coach (read: pay raise).
And with that, a fairly hot name was taken off the coaching market.
"I think the promotion, the confidence the organization has shown in me, they pulled me off the scrap heap and brought me out here four years ago, I feel indebted for that," Stevens told ESPN.com Wednesday night.
"But I love being part of this group. I’ve never been in a hurry to move on to something else. I was more than willing to put my time in the minors because I loved what I was doing. And to me it’s not about the next step always, it’s about being with good people and doing what you love to do. That’s certainly my situation right now and that’s why I chose to stay."
He’ll be a head coach again one day in the NHL, just not now.
"I think I’ll get those opportunities one day, but it’s not something I wake up thinking about," Stevens said. "I love to coach, and I love being in a position where we have a chance to win, and we certainly have that here."
We talk a lot about championship teams trying to keep their players together, but it’s just as important to keep the front office and coaching staff together.
On May 9, Kings general manager Dean Lombardi promoted Mike Futa to vice president of hockey operations and director of player personnel, a step up from co-director of amateur scouting. The Buffalo Sabres earlier in the season (before they hired Tim Murray as GM) and the Canucks this spring (before they hired Jim Benning as GM) had sought permission to talk with Futa. The Canucks never got to. Lombardi made sure of it with the promotion.
Now he’s done the same with Stevens.
It tells you a lot, too, about coach Darryl Sutter. Stevens had been brought to L.A. four years ago to work alongside coach Terry Murray.
"And that was terrific working with Terry again," said Stevens, who worked with Murray in Philadelphia.
When Murray was fired midway though the 2011-12 season, Sutter inherited Stevens. That’s not always a great situation, but the two veteran coaches formed a solid relationship, evidenced by Stevens’ decision to stay put.
"You get to know Darryl, he’s just an honest man, right?" Stevens said. "There’s no B.S. with Darryl. If you’re committed to winning and committed to doing everything for the team to help them win, I think you’ll get along fine with Darryl."
One of the popular theories out there is that Stevens stayed put because there’s some sort of succession plan for him to eventually replace Sutter as coach. Not so, Stevens said.
"I stayed because I wanted to stay with this group in my current role -- period," he said.
A Kings front office source also said that no such plan exists, that this was simply Sutter and the Kings wanting to keep Stevens -- and the feeling was very much mutual.
-- Talks between Paul Stastny’s camp and the Colorado Avalanche are expected to continue next week in Las Vegas at the annual NHL awards. Stastny is a pending unrestricted free agent and easily would be the top center available on the July 1 market. The Avs also have the Ryan O'Reilly contract situation on their hands (he’s a restricted free agent and the team elected club arbitration on him), so there’s a few hot potatoes the Avs are juggling right now.
-- The Florida Panthers continue to entertain inquiries for their first overall pick for next week’s draft.
"We've had one, maybe two, concrete offers," Panthers GM Dale Tallon told ESPN.com. "About 8-10 teams have showed interest but at this point nothing I would do. We'll see what happens next week."
Tallon also said he hoped to have a new coach in place by Monday. Gerard Gallant, Tom Renney, Dan Bylsma and Marc Crawford are among the candidates.