LA Kings: Todd McLellan ‘done with initial phase of rebuild’

LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

LA Kings head coach Todd McLellan indicated the organization’s initial phase of the rebuild is complete.

When Rob Blake officially took over general manager duties in April 2017, the LA Kings were three years removed from winning their second Stanley Cup title in three seasons. The majority of the core remained intact, but when Blake saw it was apparent that another deep postseason run was not in the cards, the organization proceeded toward a full rebuild.

Over the next couple of seasons, Los Angeles traded away veteran players while stocking up on draft capital. Of course, the product on the ice became worse, rewarded only with better draft picks. A prospect pool once filled with names like Michael Amadio, Mikey Eyssimont, and Austin Wagner turned into one of the NHL’s best prospect pools.

The selection of Quinton Byfield with the second overall pick in this year’s draft was the one the LA Kings could hang their hat on. Of course, they already had names like Alex Turcotte, Arthur Kaliyev, Samuel Fagemo, Tobias Bjornfot, Kale Clague, and Rasmus Kupari — to name a few — but Byfield provided the organization with a true blue-chip prospect that solidified how bright the future projects in Los Angeles.

Along with veteran players being traded, the LA Kings fired widely-successful coach Darryl Sutter coinciding with Blake’s promotion. After John Stevens led the Kings to a playoff appearance, he was fired after a slow start in 18-19, briefly replaced with Willie Desjardins before McLellan was tabbed as the coach to guide the rebuild.

No stranger to such occurrences, McLellan coached the Edmonton Oilers to a 70-point season in 15-16 but watched his squad make a dramatic leap in 16-17, accumulating 103 points but failed to advance beyond the second round of the playoffs.

Now with a select group of veterans and a loaded prospect pool, McLellan recently told that the worst part of the Kings’ rebuild is over.

"“The players that are coming back this year, they’re long-term players for us,” McLellan said. “I heard Rob Blake talk to each of the individuals saying, ‘Listen, we are basically done with the initial phase of the rebuilding.’ We’ve moved players around and out and brought different players in. It’s time to turn the ship and let’s start growing all of this.”"

The upcoming season already presented several challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but the LA Kings will play meaningful hockey for the first time since mid-March. A 56-game schedule lies in front of Blake and McLellan, one that will be an evaluation year with limited expectations in terms of overall team goals.

Instead, the LA Kings need to see what they have in their prospect pool.

Despite the youth movement, the Opening Night roster could look somewhat similar to the last handful or so of games to close out the 19-20 season, which, if you recall, saw the Kings win their final seven games. One of the bright spots was Gabe Vilardi, who finally put the lingering back problems behind him, scoring three goals and seven points in a 10-game sample size.

The upcoming 56-game schedule should have all Kings’ fans excited. The youth movement is here, and the LA Kings prospects are about to showcase their talent. Game on.