Coach thinks long-term players should be ‘excited to hear that
Todd McLellan said he feels the Los Angeles Kings are turning the page on their rebuilding phase.
Last season, McLellan’s first as coach of the team, the Kings finished in 14th place in the Western Conference (29-36-5, .450 points percentage) and did not make the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. Los Angeles has missed the postseason in four of the past six seasons and has not won a Stanley Cup Playoff series since winning the Cup in 2014.
“The players that are coming back this year, they’re long-term players for us,” McLellan told the Los Angeles Times in comments published Saturday. “I heard (general manager) Rob Blake talk to each of the individuals saying, ‘Listen, we are basically done with the initial phase of the rebuilding.’ We’ve moved players around and out and brought different players in. It’s time to turn the ship and let’s start growing all of this.
“If I’m one of the five long-term veterans coming back (forwards Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, defenseman Drew Doughty and goalie Jonathan Quick), I got to be excited to hear that.”
The Kings acquired defenseman Olli Maatta from the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 4 and forward Lias Andersson from the New York Rangers on Oct. 7. They also selected center Quinton Byfield with the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, and he, along with center Alex Turcotte, the No. 5 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, could make an impact this season.
“The additions of Byfield and Lias Andersson to the prospect pool, that’s pretty exciting,” McLellan said. “And then with that being said, there’s a number of young prospects that are a year older, a year stronger, a year hungrier that are going to push as well.
“That’s signaling that we’re trying to make our team better and trying to push now up the hill rather than just waiting. Do we want to move forward and grow the program and push the team forward and push up the standings? Of course we do.”
The Kings won seven straight games before last season was paused on March 12. They have not played a game since March 11.
“At that point in the season, we were doing a lot of things right structurally and team-wise, and we were getting rewarded for it,” McLellan said. “So we know it’s somewhere in the bank. We just have to go and draw on it again.”
An official start date for the season has not yet been announced, but McLellan said the Kings will be prepared despite the long layoff.
“We’ll be in a good spot, we won’t have any excuses,” he said. “And we’ll be as ready as we possibly can. Will that be conducive for winning games? We sure hope so. But we have to take the test. Until we take the test we don’t know.”