Wrapping things up with McLellan, Brown, Martinez, Toffoli, Kempe - LA Kings Insider

So, there are a lot of quotes from the two press conferences last month! Some of these quotes I didn’t transcribe – those of the “just got to focus on having a good off-season and come back ready to go” sort – but some were quite interesting despite not having been used in a story, such as Todd McLellan’s discussion about the patience necessary for the team’s rebuild to best be able to bear fruit and why he felt comfortable taking such a challenging job.

“Deviation from a plan because you have a little bit of success maybe early can be costly, and that’s why they laid out the plan, the three, four, five-year plan, and clearly there’s not going to be deviation from it, I felt pretty good about it,” he said.

There are also several remarks from players during year-end availability that I had wanted to use after asking a number of them about when they sensed trouble as part of a story I didn’t end up writing. It’s a good encapsulation of where the team’s psyche was at in the aftermath of a difficult year. For McLellan coverage, click here. To watch his introductory press conference, click here.

From April 17

Todd McLellan, on patience necessary and the challenges ahead:
Look, I chose to come here, I know what’s ahead. Patience is important, passion is importance as a coach. Those intangibles exist, even in a 62-win year, as they had in Tampa Bay, you have to have those qualities as a coach. I operate based on reality. I think it’s really important to know where you are in your time frame, as far as the team, and the evolution of the team. I understand where this team is and maybe more so than even the players do. I’ve accepted the plan. I can be patient, but when it comes to standards and practice habits, as Tyler Toffoli talked about, the execution or the attempt to execute, that’s where the patience can come a little thinner, you can become impatient a little bit quicker. The wins and losses, I understand where we are and we have to progress, we have to show that we’re going the right direction. We’ll take dips like every other team, but the buy-in, the standards, the progression, they’re all part of being patient.

McLellan, on Ilya Kovalchuk and his role:
He’s obviously a very well decorated player, he’s had a tremendous career to this point and for me, I think it’s important before I comment, evaluate, share my thoughts, that I get to sit with Kovy and discuss where he’s at in his mind with the organization, with his teammates, with the coaching staff. But he does bring some very good tools to the arena each and every day, but like every other player, not just Ilya, Anze on down like I said earlier, you’re either in or you’re out. As we move forward, as I said to Rob, I think any time you hear the exterior world talk about “buying in”, there’s always a bit of a red flag. I want to sit with Ilya, I want to make sure that he’s in and then it’s my job to create that relationship to try and help him have success here and our team.

McLellan, on building a relationship with Kovalchuk:
I don’t have a relationship with Ilya, I’ve never met him before, so I think that’s all a good thing for both of us. I can’t even begin to share my plan with Ilya with you until I sit with him and talk and find out what his mindset is. As I said, he’s a pretty well decorated athlete, a tremendous career to this point. Games that I’ve watched, you could see that he has a lot of things to offer, and we’ll talk about that and we’ll see where he’s at, what he’s willing to accept, and then we’ll go from there.

McLellan, on weather being a perk in his decision to join the organization:
You know what? I just came from Edmonton, and I have a ton of respect for the people in Edmonton. I could have stayed in Edmonton forever and it had nothing to do with the weather. I grew up in Saskatchewan, it’s still snowing there. … Obviously lifestyle is important. I enjoyed my time in San Jose, I’m looking forward to understanding the LA fans, understanding the area. It’s always been a hard place to come to play. It’s been an energized arena, it’s been a passionate fan base, you can feel it on the opposition bench and that’s attractive. I don’t think people in our industry, and I can’t speak for everybody, you don’t make decisions based on weather and this wasn’t based on it. It happens to be a great community, that is in a great weather pocket, a beautiful spot, but the weather in Edmonton was beautiful too many times.

McLellan, on coaching Drew Doughty and managing his emotions:
I think we have to create that relationship first. I’ve been able to be around Drew a little bit. I have to sit with him and find out what excites him, what gets him frustrated, learn some trigger points in regards to his game and his emotional level. All that has to be laid out first, and then we can build our relationship and move forward. What I’ve learned about Drew is that he’s willing to speak his mind. He has no fear, and again that young player, he’s played for a long time, but he’s still in his 20’s, he has no fear to speak his mind and say what’s on his mind, and that can be a really good thing sometimes. We’ve got to work together and create a trusting relationship.

McLellan, on the number of LA Kings games he watched in the past year:
Great experience not being involved in the game because you’re trying to watch 31 teams play every night, and you’re flipping channels, you miss half the important stuff because you’re flipping through channels, you don’t really know who to watch. So, I watched L.A. play a lot in pieces and never really sat and watched a full game. It was a period here, and ‘ok, let’s go watch another team.’ I have work to do. I can’t just rely on that casual watching, I have work to do to dig in and to analyze where the team is at and what I think truly needs to be addressed right off the bat.

From April 8

Dustin Brown, on what has to change for team culture:
I think just the way we approach our workdays. I don’t think our practices were good enough. I don’t think we practiced hard enough throughout the year. We had hard practices there and there, but there were stretches of times when I think we didn’t practice the right way. At this level, especially with the way the schedule is, sometimes those practices, you don’t get them very often, and I think it showed in our games sometimes. If you look at our inability to pass the puck to each other through stretches of games – our practice habits need to get back to how it was. And that’s everybody – coaches, players. Again, how you approach coming to the rink in the morning is a big part of it.

Brown, on when he realized the team was “in trouble”:
I don’t know if there was one moment. I mean, I was out for the first 10 games, and when I came back, I think we were 2-7-1 at that point. … That’s a pretty big hole, when you look at it. A year before that we were 11-2-2 in the first 15, and that puts us in the playoffs. I don’t know how many points we made the playoffs by, but if we’re .500 through the first 15 games of two years ago, we’re probably not in the playoffs. But there’s still hope at that point. I mean, 10 games into the season, you still have lots of time to recover. We just were never able to. We didn’t have good stretches for long enough times to ever really get close enough. Sometimes you chase the game, chase the standings and end up [inaudible].”

Brown, on whether he sensed any issues in the preseason:
Preseason’s more about a mindset than it is how you’re playing on the ice. I mean, t hose first couple games, we had four of them this year where we had half an NHL team. On-ice stuff, especially early on in preseason, is literally just getting guys ice time, looks – younger kids. I think it’s more about your mindset. I don’t know if we had the right mindset this year at that time, but if you want to look at the on-ice stuff in the preseason, my first year in the league, I scored eight preseason goals in eight games. I scored one in 35 in the real season. I think it’s more about your mindset individually and getting yourself ready.

Alec Martinez, on the positive steps taken by younger players:
A lot of guys stepped in and made the most of their opportunity, performed really well for us. I think about just the back-end, and in terms of the guys that I played with … Matt Roy did a heck of a job. He’s a really good player. I think he’s going to play in the league for a long time. Sean Walker, the same thing. I guess you could call him somewhat of the new-age defenseman where he doesn’t have the size but he can really scoot, and he can move, he makes plays. Then, obviously, Dermie coming up at the end of the year, he’s a presence out there. He provides a lot of that policing, but he doesn’t always get enough credit. He can make plays and be a really good defender. The bright spot of the year is to see a lot of younger guys get a shot, get an opportunity, and they played really well.

Martinez, on the “vibe” and “environment” around the team this season:
There’s no way around it. Losing sucks. We obviously did that fair share of that this year, so any time you’re going through something like that, it’s going to have an effect on the room, on the individual, and I kind of touched on it earlier – we’re human beings, and no one wants to lose. We shouldn’t. That obviously has a wearing effect. It definitely affects the vibe in the room, just the feeling.

Martinez, on the thought that there could be significant change to the roster:
Most decisions are beyond our pay grade. You have to be a professional, you have to show up to work and do your job. If those changes are made, it’s out of your control. I know you’re a human being, you think about that kind of thing, like you mentioned we’ve been here for a long time, we live here, we have homes here. But at the end of the day, that’s just the nature of our business. It’s the way it works, and if something were to happen, regardless of who it is, you deal with it.

Martinez, on the penalty kill’s abrupt struggles:
For whatever reason, we weren’t as aggressive this year, and I think that’s been something that had been a big part of why we were successful on the PK for a long time, so I think there are a few tweaks that can be made. Ultimately, that decision will be made by someone other than me. I’ll just do that to the best of my ability. That was something that was an indicator that there was just something off team-wise. I don’t know the stats, but I would say the last five, 10 years we’ve been up in the top five in the league in the PK, something like that? Just like everything else, it was not good enough.

Tyler Toffoli, on not hitting his offensive marks:
I had however-many goals last year, and this year was one of those things where I thought I had so many opportunities all season long, and the production wasn’t there for me. For whatever reason, honestly, the puck just was not going in. It’s unfortunate, and it’s one of those things where it comes back to doing my work in the summer and maybe go into the season next year and try some other things. It’s one of those things where I was hitting posts, goalies were just making really good saves. It was just [road-appley].

Tyler Toffoli, on potential roster change:
I think for myself, it’s just one of those things where you can’t be looking over your shoulder, looking up every day. Changes are made and at the end of the day, there’s nothing that you can do about it. Like I said, it’s one of those things where you get away from the game for a little bit and then get back to work and start preparing for next season.

Adrian Kempe, on not having won a playoff game despite being drafted shortly after the 2014 Cup:
you want to make the playoffs, and last year, it was 4-0 at Vegas, but it was tight. This year, it’s been a tough year for the team and myself included. Obviously ou want to make it as far as you can, but I think all franchises in the NHL are going to have some ups and downs through the years. There are a lot of guys that have won Stanley Cups, so we have a lot of guys that know what it takes to go all the way. Obviously it’s frustrating that we haven’t made the playoffs this year or haven’t won a playoff game since I came. But I mean, I think it started all the way back in Manchester – we have a lot of guys that won a lot of stuff, so I think that’s a good thing.

Kempe, on whether he fits best at center or wing:
I would say center. I’ve played center for almost two seasons now straight, so I think that’s the position I want to play in, that they want me to play. There are still a lot of things to work on on my game, and I’m excited to get better on both faceoffs and my overall game in both zones as well. There’s a lot to improve, but I’d say center is the position I want to play.

–Lead photo via Juan Ocampo/NHLI