Mid-June is not the best time to be looking for a coaching job in the NHL.
And that’s the part that really stings for Marc Crawford, who was fired by the Los Angeles Kings this week, two months after the team ended its season.
“I talked to a lot of people the last few days,” Crawford told The Canadian Press from Los Angeles on Thursday. “The teams that are available, most of them are pretty much done their searches. That’s what tough about the timing.”
On the other hand, Crawford said, perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise.
“Maybe it’s the best thing for me, to sit back and take stock personally about what I want to do and what’s best for my family,” said the 47-year-old native of Belleville, Ont. “I’ve got lots of friends in our industry and I hope to be in this industry for a long, long time. Luckily, I can do lots of different things, I’ve done broadcasting before.
“I just want to stay involved in some capacity, that becomes important. You can’t become removed.”
There are still openings in Atlanta, Florida, Ottawa and Tampa Bay although all four teams are late in the game in their searches. If Crawford can’t get into that mix, he will be one of the first names mentioned in the middle of next season when there’s a coach on the hot seat.
Crawford has the financial security to take his time. He has another year left on his deal plus an option year that Los Angeles must pay him a 40 per cent buyout to decline. While Crawford refused to say, it’s believed his deal is worth US$1.5 million a year, meaning he’s got another $2.1 million in total coming his way if he doesn’t find NHL employment over the next two years.
With 470 NHL coaching wins and a Stanley Cup ring on his resume, odds are he’ll be back behind a bench soon enough.
“If a great opportunity happens tomorrow, than I’ll have to really trust my gut,” said Crawford. “If it takes a little while longer, then so be it.”
Crawford said he wasn’t completely stunned that he was fired since that’s a common occurrence in his business.
“Somebody told me I’m the 15th coach let go since the end of the 2006-07 season,” he said.
But since the Kings season ended two months ago, he figured he was in the clear.
“More than anything, it’s the just the timing that was shocking,” said Crawford. “We had gone through our end-of-season meetings, very difficult development meetings and those sorts of things. I thought we were headed in a forward direction but then the other day (GM Dean Lombardi) just came in and told me the bad news.
“I appreciate that he’s got to feel absolutely right about the person he’s got as his head coach and I respect the fact he can make the move.”
Lombardi told reporters after Tuesday’s firing that the Kings were going even younger and he didn’t feel Crawford was the right fit going forward. Which is pretty much the same reason he gave Crawford.
“He said he was going to get younger and that sort of thing and didn’t think I was the right guy for that,” said Crawford.
“If I’m not the absolute perfect guy that he thinks he should have there then he should go out and get him,” added Crawford. “And I respect that.”
The inference in the wake of the firing is that Crawford isn’t the right guy to teach youngsters. And that clearly eats away at him.
“The young guys are the best part of our team,” said Crawford. “Everybody I’ve ever talked to about this team, it’s always been how much I like the young core of guys. They’re all great, great kids. Dustin Brown is outstanding, Jack Johnson is going to be really special, and so is Anze Kopitar. Patrick O’Sullivan, what a great kid he is.
“They were the young cornerstone guys and you knew they were going to add another one with the second pick in the draft. That was exciting. You could see that (goalie Jonathan) Bernier was coming. I really felt a lot of the pieces were in place.”
And that is what hurts the most. Crawford felt something special was just around the corner.
“I’m disappointed because I think it’s a great group here,” said Crawford. “I really do. I think they’ve got great young players and I’m really proud of the job our whole staff did with the young players here. I think they’ve got great fans, they’ve got absolutely super ownership.
“This is a market that’s ready to explode, I really believe that. It’s going to be great for the NHL when it does. They got star players, marquee players, and they’ve got a great infrastructure in their organization.
“I hope this team ends up being good, I really do.”