Head Coach History: Dave King

By Chris Pennington on May 11, 2020 at 8:05 am
Dave King was the first head coach in the history of the Columbus Blue Jackets
Terry Gilliam - Associated Press

Coaching an expansion team used to be a tough task, believe it or not.

In 2000, drafting an expansion team had heavy limitations. The Columbus Blue Jackets (and Minnesota Wild, who also started as a franchise at that time) had to put assemble their initial rosters from essentially, well, scraps.

In that year's expansion draft, the rest of the NHL had the ability to protect up to 15 players (either one goaltender, five defensemen, and nine forwards or two goaltenders, three defensemen, and seven forwards). In the modern NHL, namely the Vegas Golden Knights' expansion draft in 2017, teams were only eligible to protect up to 11 players (seven forwards, three defensemen, one goalie).

So, Dave King, the first head coach in Blue Jackets history, was dealt a pretty poor hand.

To top it off, up until his tenure in Columbus, King had had extensive international coaching experience but only just a bit of NHL experience. 

As the head coach of Canada's national junior team in the early 1980's, he won a gold medal with the team in the 1982 IIHF world junior championships and a bronze medal at the 1983 world junior championships.

He proceeded to be the head coach of the Canadian national team for the 1984,1988 and 1992 Winter Olympics, where he won a silver medal and finished in fourth place twice. King then coached Canada to a gold medal in the 1987 Izvestia Cup tournament. His efforts led him to be inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1997 and the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2001.

His jump to the NHL finally came in 1992 when he was named the head coach of the Calgary Flames, and led them to back-to-back-to-back playoff appearances, but unfortunately, all were first-round losses. King then moved into an assistant coach position with the Montreal Canadiens for a few seasons, before he landed in Columbus to kick off the franchise's inaugural campaign. 

Here's the thing, though. King's NHL experience was good-not-great, but no one expected anything out of the Columbus Blue Jackets that season. As long as they win like, what, ten games, the league wouldn't have canceled them, right?

28 wins and 71 points later, though, and King looked to be doing a pretty decent job. 

His new club finished 23rd out of 30 NHL teams, even ahead of the Wild. They even finished in the top-20 in the league in goals against. This all while having the fifth-hardest schedule amongst all teams.

That was the peak of success for Dave King and his Blue Jackets, though. His wins dropped from 28 to 22 the next season, and after a 14-20-4-2 start through 40 games the following season, the organization had seen enough. On January 7th, 2003, King was fired as head coach of the Blue Jackets.

While his NHL career was less than to be desired, as mentioned, his international career was what gave Dave King his name. After his dismissal from Columbus, King went on to coach in several international leagues, and eventually for Team Canada during the 2016 Deutschland Cup, and as an associate coach, helped win the 2016 Spengler Cup.

Dave King - here's to you. You may have been a part of some of the worst seasons in Columbus Blue Jackets history, but, you kept the team from being sold at the very least. You were given a pretty horrible situation to be a coach in and a pretty horrible front office to give you any talent to coach, and so we will forever applaud your efforts.

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