Ex-Northern Michigan University hockey star Jim Hiller gets permament Los Angeles Kings coaching job

Los Angeles Kings head coach Jim Hiller gestures instructions during a game against the Penguins in Pittsburgh on Feb. 18. (AP file photo)

LOS ANGELES — Jim Hiller will continue to be the Los Angeles Kings head coach after having the interim tag removed Wednesday by vice president and general manager Rob Blake.

The Kings were 21-12-1 in the regular season under Hiller after Todd McLellan was fired on Feb. 2. But Los Angeles was eliminated by Edmonton in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year.

Hiller was a member of the 1991 national championship hockey team at Northern Michigan University, the only title won by the Wildcats.

As a sophomore right wing, he scored 22 goals and had 41 assists for 63 points in 43 games, tied for the second-most points on NMU that season.

He played in the Wildcats’ wild 8-7 triple-overtime victory over Boston University in the national championship game on March 30, 1991, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

He played parts of two seasons in the NHL with the Kings, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers before continuing in the minor leagues and in Europe until 2002, when he moved into coaching.

Under Hiller this season, the Kings were second in penalty killing during the regular season and had the league’s best home record after the All-Star break, but both weren’t evident in the postseason as the Oilers won the series in five games.

Edmonton was 9 of 20 on the power play during the playoffs while the Kings didn’t score on any of their 12 chances with the man advantage. Los Angeles also lost both of its playoff home games after winning nine of its last 10 in the regular season.

Hiller was an assistant coach with the Kings for two seasons after eight as an assistant with the New York Islanders, Toronto and Detroit. A 10th-round pick by the Kings in 1989, he was the 18th coach in NHL history to make his head coaching debut with the team that originally drafted them.

Prior to the NHL, Hiller spent 12 seasons as a coach in the Western Hockey League and British Columbia Hockey League, including five years as head coach with the Tri-City Americans.

Los Angeles has reached the playoffs four times during Blake’s GM tenure, but failed to advance past the first round. The Kings have not won a playoff series since winning their second Stanley Cup in three years in 2014.

Prospects for a breakthrough in a tough Pacific Division appear difficult.

Team captain Anze Kopitar will turn 37 in August and defenseman Drew Doughty will be 35 in December.

Los Angeles doesn’t have many prospects at its minor-league affiliate in Ontario, California, and has cap issues. David Rittich is their only goaltender under contract for next season.

Hiller also has to find a way to get Pierre-Luc Dubois on tack. The Kings acquired Dubois from Winnipeg and signed him to an eight-year, $68 million contract last season. The center didn’t have any chemistry with anyone on the team and had career lows for a full season in goals (16) and points (40).

During the Edmonton series, Dubois was often on the fourth line.


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