More of this and that…
— Nothing new with Todd McLellan. I hadn’t heard anything since Monday, after which the Sabres had emerged as a principal option alongside the Kings, who remained very much under consideration. It seemed that there was perhaps a touch more hope over confidence or expectation at that time, which suggested that Buffalo was a very serious suitor, and as shared that evening, there is McLellan’s consideration of the allure of coaching the Sabres’ crop of talented young players against the pull of working alongside Rob Blake and Luc Robitaille, with whom he has good relationships – particularly Blake, who played under him for two seasons in San Jose.
Source close to Todd McLellan says the free-agent coach has not yet made his decision. Remains very much interested in both the L.A. and Buffalo opportunities. McLellan slated to meet with Sabres brass today. Kings, meanwhile, remain hopeful they can get him. We'll see.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) April 10, 2019
McLellan was already bound for Buffalo this weekend in support of his son, Tyson, a junior forward for Denver University, who will face UMass at KeyBank Arena in the Frozen Four semifinal game tomorrow night.
In Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts, there was this on L.A.’s coaching search:
7. The Fourth Period’s Dennis Bernstein reported Wednesday morning Todd McLellan was closing in with Los Angeles. It certainly was trending that way prior to the Sabres’ leap into the process. He’s a western guy and the Kings, who had said they were going to consider a search, decided not to waste time. At the end of his time in both San Jose and Edmonton, McLellan did not see eye to eye with his GM. He’s got a positive history with Rob Blake, who played for him on the Sharks. There is a limit to where the Kings will go. They had Darryl Sutter in the $3.5-million range, and that was after he won two Stanley Cups. Up the road near wine country, Peter DeBoer was extended for what is believed to be in the $3.25-million range. The Kings are not afraid of term, but if the Sabres throw a bigger bag of cash at him, it would be a stunner if Los Angeles matched. He’d have to make a choice. Which roster would you rather have: Buffalo or Los Angeles?
8. This may be irrelevant quickly, but if McLellan goes elsewhere, the assumption is the Kings’ next targets will include three others with ties to Blake: Tony Granato (played with him in Los Angeles); Bob Hartley (played for him in Colorado); and Patrick Roy (played with him in Colorado). Outside possibility: Doug Weight. In the past, they’ve eyed offensively minded coaches.
From much of what many of us were hearing, that last sentence is important. In addition to what Blake shared Monday – a structure-instilling NHL-experienced head coach with high-level championship experience, preferably – there is also the evolved organizational thrust in lockstep with league-wide trends towards skill and speed in which they will be looking to outscore their opponents, so-to-speak, rather than build an identity around their more familiar smothering defensive ways. They want offense.
As for the coaches above, Tony Granato is an interesting name suggested, and I’ve liked the way he’s built his program at Wisconsin. He did a good job of instilling leadership and re-establishing culture with the Badgers, which was an important base that allowed him this past year to recruit more dynamic, high-profile players – Alex Turcotte and Cole Caufield are Madison-bound as part of one of the country’s top classes – who won’t be as expected to play the full four years. He has been at Wisconsin sine 2016 and has NHL head coaching experience with Colorado and served as an assistant with Colorado, Pittsburgh and Detroit. He was 104-78-17-16 (W-L-T-OTL) with the Avalanche and 48-52-10 with the Badgers, who will be loaded with young, high-end talent in the fall.
Bob Hartley spent 1998 through 2008 coaching Colorado and Atlanta, capturing the 2001 Stanley Cup with Blake, before his most recent NHL stint from 2012-16 in Calgary. He’ll coach Latvia at the World Cup and has taken Cody Franson, Devid Desharnais, Viktor Stalberg, Alexei Yemelin, Max Talbot and KHL-Omsk to the Gagarin Cup Final, where they’ll face CSKA. Patrick Roy – you know Patrick Roy; he’s not related to Matt – returned to coach the Quebec Remparts in 2018-19, the QMJHL team he owns and served in a variety of coaching and executive positions in before joining the Avalanche. He was 130-92-24 in Colorado from 2013-16, improbably winning the 2014 Central Division title. Doug Weight was 59-49-14 after replacing Jack Capuano behind the Islanders bench midway through the 2016-17 season and navigated New York within one point of the playoffs by going 24-12-4 and ending the year on a six-game winning streak. He was let go as head coach when Barry Trotz was hired, but still served as an advisor for the organization.
— Assistant General Manager Mike Futa’s name has surfaced in Edmonton’s search for a general manager, which isn’t a surprise. Futa’s name will continue to be linked to openings and potential interviews for GM openings until he eventually gets one. He has been a serious candidate for Carolina and Buffalo’s openings over the last two off-seasons. The team has been through this before, and Rob Blake will afford him the necessary space as his expected discussions take place.
“We’ve kind of got a little basis,” Blake said. “What happens in this process when they call, they want to interview him, which is great. He’s a very good candidate, has done a good job. What I have him do usually in this time is to step right aside. Avoid any distractions, go and do your job there – and we’ve been through this a few times with him, quite a few, so I’ve kind of got a basis set up on how it works. But again, that’s a process there, but we’ll move on here.”
Though Futa has taken a greater focus on player recruitment and the pursuit of college, junior and European free agents, that has died down a bit due to the schedule with just four Frozen Four teams remaining, so he’ll rely on those around him during any courtship period. “That staff’s in place – he’s done a good job with putting that staff in place. It can run itself here for a little bit while he steps aside and does his things with Edmonton,” Blake said.
— I’m running out of time and have another story queued from when I return from an errand, but here’s Blake on Mike Stothers, whom he called “terrific.” Ontario is putting up the final touches on a season in which they’ve gained 58 points from their first 65 games, but that’s due to a plunder of personnel by a Kings team that relied on players who were bound for the Inland Empire this season. “If you look at the players, we took four of his top six defensemen. You took Clague out with a broken foot, and then you’ve got Amadio, Roy, Walker and MacDermid up here, that’s tough. You’re putting out guys that are on tryout contracts. So, understand that – but the players that have come up, the young guys, they learn how to compete, and Mike Stothers is the result of that,” Blake said. Lots, lots lots more to come this week.
— Lead photo via Dave Reginek/NHLI