Wednesday: At a press conference to introduce McLellan as coach, the the team announced that assistant coach Dave Lowry will not be part of the staff in 2018-19. The Kings have also agreed to buy out the remainder of McLellan’s contract with Edmonton, which according to Curtis Zupke of the Los Angeles Times was worth $3MM. Bill Ranford and Marco Sturm are expected to stay on as part of the coaching staff.
Tuesday: The Todd McLellan sweepstakes have finally come to an end, and the Los Angeles Kings will be his next employer after all. The team has announced a multi-year contract for the former Edmonton Oilers head coach. McLellan was rumored to be a candidate for the Buffalo Sabres coaching job until he was ruled out last week, and has been linked to the Kings for some time. The deal is expected to be five years in length and worth around $25MM (including bonuses) according to Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic. That makes McLellan one of the more expensive coaches in the league and rivals the deal that the Philadelphia Flyers recently gave to Alain Vigneault.
The Kings fired John Stevens just 13 games into the 2018-19 season and replaced him with Willie Desjardins, but found no change in results. The team struggled right out of the gate and ended up finishing with the second worst record in the entire league. That failure had a lot to do with goal scoring, as the Kings were one of only two teams (with the Anaheim Ducks being the other) to record fewer than 200 goals on the season. McLellan will be asked to turn things around in a hurry, given their long expensive commitments to players Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick.
McLellan does bring with him quite the resume of regular season success, despite things not ending well in Edmonton. Fired after 20 games this season, he had previously taken the Oilers and San Jose Sharks to the playoffs in seven of his ten years as an NHL head coach. In fact, his .637 winning percentage in San Jose put him among the best to have ever stood behind an NHL bench and had many expecting great things. Unfortunately, the Sharks were never able to get very deep in the playoffs with McLellan running things and he was let go after the 2014-15 season. The team would reach the Stanley Cup Final the following year.
In Edmonton there was always immense pressure, as McLellan inherited a team that was led by Connor McDavid and was expected to compete for the Stanley Cup. After an injury took McDavid off the ice for much of McLellan’s first season, he failed to make the playoffs and watched as Taylor Hall was jettisoned that summer. Despite losing his top scorer from 2015-16—who would go on to win a Hart Trophy in his second season in New Jersey—McLellan coached a healthy McDavid-led squad to the playoffs in 2017, finishing with 103 points, the club’s best total since 1987. That success, however, was short-lived.
Another playoff miss last season and a tough start to this year caused the Oilers to move on and bring in Ken Hitchcock to try and fix things, while McLellan watched from the sideline still under contract with the team. He’ll now get a brand new challenge in Los Angeles that will be difficult to master. The team’s core that brought them such success in the past has aged and cannot be relied upon to get them back to the playoffs by themselves, meaning other changes will need to occur. The team already started that process when they moved Jake Muzzin and Tanner Pearson, but could very well continue it this summer with other drastic moves.
At any rate, the Kings have found the man to try and lead them out of their recent struggles and shown full confidence in his ability. McLellan will be handsomely compensated as he looks to bring a championship to his third Pacific Division team.