Todd McLellan on “Cyclical Nature” of LA Kings and Avalanche

Mar 14, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) fans on a shot against Los Angeles Kings goaltender Calvin Petersen (40) in the first period at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 14, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) fans on a shot against Los Angeles Kings goaltender Calvin Petersen (40) in the first period at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

Emulation comes with any successful rebuild. For the LA Kings, they look to a familiar opponent in the Colorado Avalanche for such a recipe.

While they still are mathematically alive in the playoff hunt entering Friday night, the LA Kings are nonetheless looking forward to next season in what will be a crucial step in their rebuild.

While it may not have gone exactly the way they wanted it to, the 2020-21 season nonetheless marked an important juncture for the Kings. Key talent such as Mikey Anderson and Gabe Vilardi, for instance, now have full NHL seasons under their belts while the club’s veterans provided the leadership needed to help the more inexperienced players get a good taste of what being a full-time NHLer is like.

While patience is key to any successful rebuild, though, the same can be said for emulation. A decade earlier, it was, among other clubs, the Chicago Blackhawks who the Kings looked at as an example of a successful rebuild. This time around, the Colorado Avalanche fit that bill. So, while they haven’t garnered much playoff success just yet, the Avs’ success this season marks the blueprint of a team familiar with the, for lack of a better term, rags-to-riches journey.

The Avs will also happen to be a very familiar opponent to the LA Kings for the remainder of this season. Of their five games remaining in the regular season, four of those games for the Kings will come against Colorado — the first of which occurring tonight at STAPLES Center.

Following Friday’s morning skate, Kings head coach Todd McLellan spoke to the media and was asked about what he and his team have learned from the Avs’ rebuilding journey thus far.

“Well, their journey to where they are now is one that we can look at as an organization: How they drafted, how they developed,” McLellan noted. “Some of the moves they made, the way they’ve augmented their star players, development, timelines for some individuals. There’s a lot that you can go into studying other teams and obviously Colorado was one of them.”

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Among other areas, the Avs have been highly successful with their first-round draft choices in recent memory. Anyone can draft a great player on paper but until they make the transition to the professional rank, it is, as Jerry Maguire famously said, “like popcorn in a pan: Some pop, some don’t.”

Fortunately for the Avs, this has not been the case for their first-rounders, which include Gabriel Landeskog (2011), Nathan MacKinnon (2013), Mikko Rantanen (2015), and Cale Makar (2017). Of course, like any rebuild, said success has not been an overnight transition. That patience paid off, though, and it’s showing in how dominant the Avs are this season as they battle for the top spot in the West Division.

“The pace and the attack mentality that they play with [are] team-wide,” McLellan added. “They have the tools to do it, they have a lot of depth, and their next step will be finding playoff success, and deep into it. Forever the evolution of a franchise, that occurs.”

As for Colorado’s general manager, Joe Sakic, whether he’s openly admitted it or not, he is out to prove that his hockey prowess isn’t limited to being a player.

In addition to his top-notch draft record, the Hall-of-Famer has made key signings in Devon Toews and crucial trades, acquiring netminder Philipp Grubauer and forward Nazem Kadri who, while very talented, came with a bit of a reputation. Nevertheless, the moves have worked wonders for the Avalanche, who hope to contend for the Stanley Cup this season.

As for the Kings, while they may not be quite as good as their rivals from the Centennial State, they have every intention of getting there in the near future.

“It’s building your team, it’s learning how to win, it’s learning how to lose the right way,” McLellan elaborated. “Then, trying to get into the playoffs, trying to make a bit of a dent in the playoffs, and then ultimately, working your way to one of those final four teams and seeing what happens from there. They’re further along the path than we are but at one point, obviously, the Kings were the team that others were trying to emulate. The cyclical nature of the game is taking place for both teams.”

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This season may not see them competing for hockey’s Holiest prize, but the LA Kings and their ever-loyal fanbase nonetheless have ample reason to feel excited about the future. Their rebuilding path may not be quite the same as that of the Avalanche, so it will be fascinating where the Kings go from here. Of course, in their four remaining meetings this season, don’t expect the silver-and-black to be in awe of the Avalanche. After all, playoffs or not, the Kings will be determined as ever to finish this up-and-down campaign on a strong note.

The current LA Kings may not have what it takes to win at this juncture, but they will sooner rather than later. For that, the franchise has the Colorado Avalanche to thank — just not over the course of the next four games.

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