A few things have changed for Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach Derek King since he was interim head coach last season, but not his brand of humor.
Coach Luke Richardson was home sick during the morning skate Tuesday, setting up King’s go-to punchline whenever someone’s ill.
“What do you think I’m going to say? There’s a bad shrimp going around,” King said with a laugh. “It’s starting to spread throughout the locker room. Guys are coughing and that, so just the bad shrimp.”
King was joking — “bad shrimp” was the catch-all for any injury or illness last season — and he said Richardson planned to be back for Tuesday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center.
Players and King himself said King has settled seamlessly into a support role, coaching the forwards while Richardson handles the big-picture problems, and King’s easy-going demeanor helped the adjustment.
“I don’t have a huge ego, pretty humble guy I think,” King said, “and I’m very happy to be here and I’m enjoying my role, helping these guys out to become better players and a better team.”
Forward Reese Johnson has called King coach for various stretches since 2018-19, when both were with the Rockford IceHogs.
“He’s just been himself throughout it all,” Johnson said. ”That’s huge. (We) as players can learn lots from that.”
Center Max Domi said: “I love Kinger. I think everyone does. He’s such a great guy. He had a great (playing) career, so he knows what it takes and … understands how it works.
“You’re going to have ups, you’re going to have downs and weathering the storm when you do get down. And he finds a way to stay pretty even-keeled.”
Well, not always.
“The other day I got a little heated on the bench, a little bent,” King said, “and (Richardson) was like, ‘Well, something’s wrong If Kinger’s getting angry.’”
Johnson said all the coaches — Richardson, King and Kevin Dean — help in various ways and aren’t relegated to specific roles.
“(King) helps out with little things to some big things,” Johnson said. “He’s always there to give you corrective criticism, and if he needs to get on a guy, he’ll do that too.”
Domi can attest to that.
“(King) stays on me about shooting, so we have that personal connection for sure,” he said.
Said King: “A player like (Domi) who can shoot a puck, (Taylor) Raddysh and these guys — shoot the puck. He’s trying to make a play and I get it. I’ve been there, I get it, the frustration. But I always give it to Max a little bit.
“Plus I know his dad (Tie Domi) well, so his dad isn’t going to come after me. But he’s got a great shot and he’s got to use it more.”
King relishes the chance to get more hands-on with players such as Domi.
“I enjoy it because that’s where I started, working with the guys after practice, working with them in practice, showing video,” he said. “I probably lost a little bit of that last year, not managing my time. I could’ve done a lot better job of doing that, but you learn and you move on.”
King was thrown into the deep end after Jeremy Colliton was fired in early November 2021 following a 1-9-2 start. King had 830 games of NHL playing experience in 14 seasons as a forward, but his coaching experience was limited to the AHL and OHL.
Once he took over the Hawks, it was learn as you go as the team muddled through a 27-33-10 finish.
“Last year was a huge learning experience for me,” he said. “Things I would do a lot different. … Just looking at how things are run from camp, how you put together a training camp and how you move forward and what you’re teaching as we go. Just stuff like that.”
King thought as head coach he was supposed to delegate certain responsibilities, but he realizes now it doesn’t apply to every aspect of the job.
“I would maybe take over a little more in the video part, preparing the guys and stuff like that,” he said. “In the American (Hockey) League, I was always giving guys, whether it was Anders (Sorensen) or somebody else, you guys run the drill. It’s your drill. That’s how I approached it last year.
“Watching how things are run now, I probably should’ve run the drills myself, whether they were my drills or not. Just take it over and be that voice.”