Todd McLellan is no longer a target of Buffalo’s coaching search, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, and as first reported by The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun and confirmed by the team, will be in Los Angeles Monday to meet face-to-face with the Kings.
McLellan was certainly a candidate in BUF but one of a number of candidates BUF had after firing Phil Housley. The Sabres are continuing their search process.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) April 12, 2019
UPDATE, Monday, 8:00 a.m.:
Todd McLellan heads to LA Monday for his "official" interview with Kings' brass. This on the heels of the Kings and Oilers finalizing the terms of what portion (if not all) LA will pay on the coach's final year of his Edmonton contract.
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) April 15, 2019
There had been prior conversations with McLellan, including one with LA Kings President Luc Robitaille in Vancouver on Monday, as first reported by Sportsnet’s John Shannon, though this is the first formal conversation at team headquarters. The Oilers had granted permission for teams to speak with McLellan prior to the most recent news in which Los Angeles and Buffalo emerged as his prime suitors. Both are teams with means to pay coaches handsomely, and Elliotte Friedman shared an interesting glance at several current and recent going rates, and Cap Friendly a coach compensation chart that lists a $3-million annual salary with Edmonton that expires in 2020, for what it’s worth.
Even as the Sabres emerged as in recent days, and though the Kings built an internal database casting a wide net towards identifying a range of candidates, Los Angeles had been linked to McLellan as far back as November, in the early stages of Willie Desjardins’ tenure. There was surprise that Buffalo had so quickly emerged as such a serious suitor, with one source believing an agreement with L.A. to be a “done deal” the night before.
Blake shared the criteria he’ll lean on when selecting the team’s next coach.
“Have you coached in the National Hockey League, have you won a championship at a certain level high enough to be respected and have that credibility?” he said Monday. “Now, listen – this criteria paints a very narrow list, and if that coach isn’t available or you can not get him, then, yeah, you have to expand that criteria. But for right now, for me that is an important thing with credibility amongst our players. We have a mix of old and young, and you can see the direction we went since the deadline, but someone has to come in that can allow the older players the credibility to play a certain way, to teach them, but then also incorporate young players into that mix. It’s difficult.”
Accountability and structure were among the terms highlighted early in the week as criteria Blake will base his choice around. Notably, the preferred coach will also be one capable of succeeding alongside the improved pace, skill and counterattack in the modern game.
“We’ve got to be competitive in the way the game is played. Defending is so hard,” Blake said. “Take a look – for the last eight years, they got rid of hooking, got rid of slashing on the hands. Goalie equipment continually gets smaller and narrower, power plays, you start in the offensive zone. Any rule that’s come into play goes towards offense,” he said. “You start seeing offense take over the defensive structure. That structure still has to be there, but when you defend, it’s so difficult staying on the puck, and it’s hard. Teams are just getting the puck out of the zone. So you want to play with the puck, you want to play offense, you want to be going after the other team. … But you can’t can’t turn your back on the [defensive side]. You can’t cheat for offense, but you can manufacture it, for sure you can.”
Tyler Toffoli won a gold medal under McLellan with Canada at the 2015 World Championships, though his Los Angeles teammates didn’t seem to be particularly curious about his ties to the coach. “Just you guys,” he said.
Toffoli was appreciative of how McLellan communicated with the players, received feedback and was vocal in practices and games. “It was good to hear that he wants the players’ respects, as well.”
There will be a diverse mix of youth and experience on the team next season, and while it’s entirely too early to know the degree to which expected off-season roster movement may reshape the roster, there are going to be some younger players who debuted in 2018-19 that will be asked to build from their NHL baseline.
“We have a different team than we’ve had in a long time,” Dustin Brown said. “We’ve got a lot of younger guys with less experience, so I think it’s important that we have a guy who can teach how to play the game. On the flip side of that is the accountability. You need a guy that’s going to hold everyone accountable.”
Rob Blake, on what Austin Wagner was able to show:
Limited minutes, but was able to score goals. It’s hard to score the right way around the net and around the front, but I think the one player that exceeded pretty much everything we asked – I asked players who wanted to get better. I wanted that attitude. I asked older players too to hold guys accountable at practice but also put your arm around him when you leave and make sure they feel part of the team. Kyle Clifford was the best example we’ve had of a player in a long time doing that, and not only adapt his style of play to the way the game is played now. He still has a physical element, he still sticks up for his teammates like he did in Arizona at the drop of a hat. It doesn’t bother him one bit. He makes plays, he tries to make plays, he works hard and he was emotionally involved every game. He was our best player every night.
— Lead photo via Dave Sandford/NHLI