Former NHL player, coach, and broadcaster Mike Milbury didn't mince words when talking about Blackhawks interim head coach Derek King. In a recent episode of "Mike Milbury's Fight Club" podcast, the ex-NBC Sports personality took shots at King's coaching demeanor and work ethic as a player.
"If anybody thinks this guy can coach an NHL team, they're nuts," Milbury said of King.
His basis for the comments? How he viewed King as a player and keying in on some of the Blackhawks' coach's recent media sessions.
"I had him as a player. He was laconic, lazy, whatever you want to call it, even if he had some talent. But listening to him talk as if he were a coach, I mean, talk about the opposite of inspiration...It's boring. And if I were Jonathan Toews, that'd be another reason for me to wanna change the music," Milbury continued.
This style of commentary is pretty fitting coming from a brash personality such as Milbury. There was no shortage of his shoot-from-the-hip dialogue, no matter how off-base it may have been, during his days at NBC. And that's what's at play here in his latest outburst.
Instead of critiquing King's in-game decision-making or lineup construction, Milbury chose to call back to his perception of him from 1995-1997 with the Islanders and rant about how the Blackhawks coach currently handles his press conferences. And once again, Milbury's analysis is off-base.
Perhaps he's still bitter that his 1995-96 Islanders team -- the only time he coached King for a whole season -- finished seventh in the Atlantic Division at 22-50-10.
Furthermore, Derek King's media sessions are far from "boring". He has embraced the "Walter White look-alike" shtick, joked about his flashy suit jacket distracting opposing players, and made light of press conference equipment setups, among other lighthearted moments since taking over as the Hawks' bench boss.
While these types of interactions may not appease Milbury's stuffy approach to hockey, they're a breath of fresh air in Chicago. Had Milbury said such things about King's predecessor, the notoriously dull Jeremy Colliton, his comments may have had some merit.
What Really Matters
Now that we've combed through those less consequential elements, let's take a look at what really matters when evaluating a head coach: wins and losses.
Under Colliton, the Blackhawks went 1-9-2 to begin the 2021-22 season. Since King took over, the Hawks are 9-5-0.
King hasn't been a world-beater by any means. Hell, there's not even a guarantee the Blackhawks will remove his interim tag at any point. But the team has clearly played better hockey under their new coach.
"He keeps us in check. He lets us know when we’re wrong and lets us know when we need to wake up, and I think that’s what you need. The team’s been responding pretty well," forward Brandon Hagel said of King in late November.
That sounds like a group that's more inspired than they were under the previous regime.
Only time will tell if Derek King is an effective NHL head coach or not. Regardless, he'll be back behind the Blackhawks' bench for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, Mike Milbury will have plenty of time to cook up more petty statements in an attempt to draw attention to his dull-witted podcast.