At noon on Wednesday, Todd McLellan was introduced as the 29th head coach of the Los Angeles Kings. I have to admit, he said all of the right things. But, for the sake of reading minds, and reading between the lines, let’s do a little Todd-splaining on the perfect quotes that came from TMac during the press conference.
“When I was presented the opportunity to discuss this job with that group [Anschutz, Dan Beckerman, Luc Robitaille, Rob Blake], it was exciting and it just got better as we went along and I came for basically three reasons… one, is the people as I mentioned earlier. I think that group is a strong group. It’s a group that I trust and I think we can build even stronger relationships as we move forward.
Two is the plan. Every organization has a plan and they try to execute it. This one is very detailed. When we sat down, it’s very clear that from ownership on through management group, there’s a plan moving forward. There’s an expectation of execution when it comes to the plan. That was very convincing for me as a coach.
The third thing is the responsibility to execute the plan. They’ve given me the responsibilities and I have accepted the responsibility to put that plan in place, but also to hold the players accountable and to create the environment to execute the plan. That goes for the future Hall of Famers that obviously exist on this team all the way down to the entry-level players that we will eventually choose in the upcoming draft.”
Todd-splaining: I really appreciate the Kings brain trust making me a hot commodity again. I mean this is my third team in six seasons. Anze Kopitar was saying that it will be three coaches in two seasons, sooooooo since I am on this many teams in such a short span, it means that the Kings unmentionable, secret plan is my plan and I am buying in. All in. It also means that they can’t run me out of town because I don’t like their half-efforts on the ice. I was brought in to make the vague, secret plan a winner and you know, I am really good at making teams a winner right away.
“There’s other factors that came into play, comfort of California. I understand California and the California fan.”
Todd-splaining: There’s no way I was going to drive to the arena in Buffalo in minus 12 wind-chill conditions for months every winter. I know that down here in So Cal that we have to win championships. In San Jose, their championship was making the playoffs. In LA, it’s the Cup or bust.
“I like to use analogies and we are running a marathon and we are at mile one.”
Todd-splaining: We stunk last year, and if I accentuate that we were really bad, any improvements will endear me to the fan base.
“The players have to accept the poking and prodding. They are winners and have proven they can win. They just have to elevate their standards.”
Todd-splaining: All of the exit interviews indicated that last season was a joke, even down to the practices. Hall of Fame players need to show that they are and stop crying after games that the effort was embarrassing. I won’t give you coaching double talk after games, that’s for sure.
“This team has traditionally been tough to play against…that got away from the team as well this year. The standards have to be reset. And we will do that.”
Todd-splaining: Lately, this team has been easy to play against. But there’s a new sheriff in town and that’s about to go back to the days when my teams couldn’t hold a series lead no matter what we did.
“The plan is we have to become a younger team. That doesn’t mean the older players are insignificant or will be moved out or shipped out, but eventually the youth have to grasp the steering wheel on this team. I believe that the way this game is played now, the skill, the speed and the pace of the game. We have to look at how we play and make adjustments that way. I believe the old dogs need to learn new tricks as well. That’s the key, blending the old with the new. I say old very respectfully. I don’t mean age, I mean experience.”
Todd-splaining: Don’t expect anyone other than Kopitar and Doughty to remain after 2020.
“[Ilya Kovalchuk] is obviously a well-decorated player. He’s had a tremendous career to this point. For me, I think it’s important before I comment or evaluate or share my comments, I get to sit with Kovy and discuss where he’s at in his mind with the organization, with his teammates, and with the new coaching staff. But he does bring some very good tools to the arena each and every day. But like every other play—not just Ilya—even down to Anze on down as I said earlier, you’re either in or your out.
As we move forward—as I say to Rob—anytime you hear from the exterior about buying in, there’s always a red flag. I want to sit with Ilya, I want to make sure he’s in and then it’s my job to create that relationship to help him have success in our team environment.”
Todd-splaining: I can’t really say that Willie Desjardins was the worst coach ever because I would embarrass Rob for staying silent all year, so I’m going to go with the company line of “buying in,” knowing that Kovy is basically already recruiting Artemi Panarin to reunited with him in Kings uniform.
“I chose to come here. I know what’s ahead. Patience is important. Compassion is important. 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 you know where you are on your time frame as far as the team and the evolution of the team. I understand where this team is, maybe more so than even the players do. I’ve accepted the plan, so 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.”
Todd-splaining: Like Ilya said when Willie was giving him the shaft, “the sun comes up every day without fail.” You can’t say that in Buffalo. A sweet contract like my buddy Rob gave me buys a lot of patience and that fact Drew Doughty wants “someone to kick their ass” makes it so I can be me all day, all night in the beautiful California sunshine. Also, let’s not get too broken up about a seventy-something point season because Tampa Bay won as many games as the Kings this postseason.
“I think it’s more the team, the players, giving themselves permission to have an off year. When it didn’t go well early, they said let’s get through it. That’s unacceptable. We can’t have that anymore. I think this team won Cups because of attitude and character. Not because they were the most skilled team and that got them to the top of the mountain.”
Todd-splaining: Our roster was complacent and let themselves accept losing and there wasn’t a competent coach around to hold them accountable.
“I have two boys that keep me fairly current. They’re 23 and 20, so that helps. As I’m walking around the house, I begin to understand that maybe some of my personal beliefs in how players should carry themselves have changed. Today’s player is different—and when I say, ‘today’s,’ it’s that 18, 19, 20-year-old coming into the league—so staying current is really important and recognizing that.
The word ‘entitlement’ comes out a lot, and entitlement’s usually directed at young players coming into the league. I think entitlement can creep into the older players as well where they take it advantage, so I’ve got to blend—or ‘we, as a staff,’ not ‘I,’ ‘we’— have to blend the old in with the new, make sure the new are professional, that they’re approaching the game and giving everything they have so they earn the respect of the older players. But in turn, the older players have to allow the younger players to progress. They can’t stall their development, they can’t have that glare looking down the bench. It’s going to be a big task. The more we get to accept and believe in that, the better off we’ll be and the quicker it can happen.”
Todd-splaining: Wouldn’t it be great to have four lines that click? Our Hall of Famers and veterans might be a bit of a pill when it comes to the rookies and if they want to see 2021 here, they better get their act together and help they young guys become something special. They can’t player-splain to me about the NHL kids. I have have kids that age and I speak their language because I’m the cool dad.
“I learnt a lot at that tournament [coaching Team North America at the World Cup]. First of all, it was an outstanding experience for me individually and I think for that team. Putting that young group of kids together in a short period of time, turn them loose and really let them play was very rewarding.
It was such exciting hockey, and I can tell you what I learned there, and I believe it’s very, very true in today’s world is that there’s no fear anymore in young players entering the league. There used to be a pecking order, there used to be a passing of the torch. If they believe they have the talent, they’re exposing that talent to their teammates and they’re prepared to use it. They’ll try and be creative, they want to be creative, there’s no suppression anymore.
They’re not taking a backseat to the older players, and I saw that with that team, that they had the courage to try things and to approach it, and I’ve been lucky enough the last few years obviously to coach a couple of the best players in the world, and they’re on the young side, and they have no fear. They bring their game every night. That youthful injection’s really important. It brings energy. It can help the older players, and our older players have to understand that a lot of legwork has to be done by those young guys if we all get together like that.”
Todd-splaining: “I’m in touch with the new NHL. Don’t you forget it.”