Several additional bits, with much more to come throughout what should be a pretty busy week:
— Perhaps I should have known better, but I wasn’t expecting Todd McLellan’s name to blow up yesterday; I just knew that the Kings would be motivated to move quickly in hiring a new coach and that there previously had been some discussion that I’d believed to be more informal between Rob Blake and McLellan. Other teams also reached out for permission to talk to the former Edmonton coach, who appeared to be the clear frontrunner to land the Los Angeles job yesterday. One note passed along today shared the thought that the marriage was a “done deal” as of last night and surprise at, well, the report that he was “closing in on an agreement” with Buffalo and that “an announcement could come as early as tomorrow,” according to the esteemed Eric Duhatschek of The Athletic.
The Kings are still involved here. I’m not sure of the degree to which the balance has tipped towards the Sabres, but several sources have shared that the Kings are still very much alive in McLellan’s consideration, with various organizational philosophy and infrastructure criteria in play. Los Angeles offers hockey operations stability and strong relationships with executives Luc Robitaille and Rob Blake; Buffalo appears ready to turn the corner on their rebuild with a dynamic crop of young forwards and Rasmus Dahlin, who could be bound for superstardom. Bob McKenzie lays it out well in a string of tweets and shares that he’ll be trading his charming Okanagan surroundings in Kelowna this weekend for the Frozen Four, which, wouldn’t you know it, will be held at KeyBank Center this coming weekend.
What started as a family trip will now be a family/business trip, with McLellan expected to meet with BUF hierarchy. If all goes well, he certainly could be next HC in BUF tho my understanding is, at this moment, nothing is 100 per cent firm yet, vis a vis McLellan and BUF/LA.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) April 8, 2019
Expect more news here tomorrow. The Kings want someone who has coached in the NHL and has experience winning a championship at a high level. They’ve pared down a large coaching database of names, statistics and analytics to a much more manageable list of potential hires and will want a credible coach who instills structure and motivates players. Again, more on this tomorrow.
“There’s a process – you acquire a whole bunch of names, 150 different names. You pick certain criteria,” Blake said. “We had five or six [criteria], and then you start to dwindle that list down to a manageable number, and then you have to actually [ask], ‘are these guys available?’ There are some really good coaches that are coaching that aren’t available. So you have to have that. The presence and the credibility is probably the number one thing, and that falls under the structure of the coach.”
— Assistant Coach Marco Sturm and Bill Ranford are under contract for 2019-20 and will remain with the new staff, though no decision has been made on Dave Lowry, who oversaw the top-ranked penalty kill in 2017-18 prior to the team’s defensive setbacks this season. “As far as how we set the staff up and everything, that will come under the direction of the head coach,” Blake said.
— The team wasn’t prepared to share a full injury report Monday morning because year-end physicals were in the process of taking place, but one casualty to share is that Carl Grundstrom suffered concussion symptoms late in the last game of the season and won’t finish the year in Ontario. He’s among those who was checked out today.
— The Kings will be looking to shed weighty contracts, and there does exist a realistic possibility that they would choose to buy a player out this summer, though Blake declined to add some detail to that suggestion. “’Realistic’ in ‘there is an option to do that,’ yes,” he said.
— The team is still in a holding pattern with Gabe Vilardi (back). Nothing new to report here. I asked Blake whether the summertime plan was for Vilardi to rest and recover or get back into a regular work regimen, and he responded, “I think it’s both – rest and rehab and stay on protocol that would have him ready for training camp.” He was asked whether the injury was muscular or related to a disc in his back. “A combination of both,” he said.
— Your obligatory Rasmus Kupari update: “I hope he’ll be over here to play. When I said eight-to-10 new pros [in the L.A. system], it would be guys like that that will be in our organization. He’s had a good year.” As a player drafted out of a Finnish pro league. Kupari is eligible to play in the AHL as a 19-year-old and doubled his goals, assists and points from the season prior, putting up 12 goals and 33 points in 43 games with Kärpät as an 18-year-old.
— Jonny Brodzinski is a Group VI UFA, and there will be competition for his services. Blake thought his attitude this past year was “terrific” as he rehabbed a highly unfortunate preseason shoulder injury that necessitated surgery and capped his 2018-19 at 13 games, two goals and one assist.
“Trying to get back into this lineup wasn’t the best,” Blake said. “He’s going to have options as an unrestricted free agent, whether that’s somewhere else or wherever, but we’ve had a good test with him here. I think that injury really hurt him early in the year. The amount of injuries we had on our right side in the first 30 games, it would’ve opened a lot of doors. Unfortunately, it didn’t, and then he plays himself back into a lineup on an every-other-day basis. It wasn’t a regular basis, just based on what we had numbers-wise.”
— So much more to come on the draft lottery, Ilya Kovalchuk and coaching on Tuesday. Let’s talk soon.
— Lead photo via Jeff Gross/NHLI