The IceHogs are always mindful that their performances are being evaluated by Blackhawks’ scouts and management. This hockey season has also been one long evaluation of the job Derek King has done as the IceHogs’ interim head coach.
When Jeremy Colliton got his big break and was promoted from the IceHogs to the Blackhawks as their head coach last November that moment also became Derek King’s big break. After eight-plus seasons as an assistant coach in the AHL King finally got his first chance to be a head coach at the age of 51, but the interim tag was also given to King meaning there was nothing guaranteed beyond this season. He has had to prove himself. He says he hasn’t been dwelling on his future, only the IceHogs present situation of trying to sneak into the playoffs.
“I”m not too worried about it. I’m just, if it happens and I’m back then great,” said King after the IceHogs’ morning skate Tuesday.
King says there have been no discussions yet with upper management about his future.
“No not yet, no. Nothing. Who knows I might be looking…if you guys (the Rockford media) are hiring I might be looking for a job here in a couple months,” said King with a chuckle. “Hopefully we make the playoffs and go for a little run and hopefully that helps make my case.”
King’s sense of humor is one characteristic he has that goes over well with his players. He has proven to them that he’s a man who can lead a team.
“He’s definitely a players’ coach,” said IceHogs’ forward Tyler Sikura. “He played a lot himself and had a long career, a successful career, so he understands the mentality from a player’s standpoint. He likes us to kind of police ourselves within the locker room which is something that everybody I think, especially the older guys really appreciate.”
The IceHogs record with King as their head coach as of Wednesday is 29-26-3-4. That’s not overly impressive on the surface, but it is more impressive when you consider some of the major injuries the IceHogs have had to battle through this season. There were also stretches when Dylan Sikura and Collin Delia were up with the Blackhawks. King held the team together in their absence. King though deflects credit to his players.
“They’ve given it their all. They’ve played well,” he says.”
Despite King’s vast experience as a coach and his 13 seasons in the NHL as a player, he’s smart enough to know he still has room to grow as a coach.
“I feel good. I feel comfortable, but there’s always more to learn and there’s things I need to work on, but any coach out there, I don’t care who you are, thinks they’ve figured this game out, well, they’re not a very good coach.”
We’ll find out sometime after this season ends if King will continue his growth as a coach here in Rockford or somewhere else.