It had been rumoured for a while but with a press release late Tuesday afternoon, it was officially announced that Todd McLellan will be the next head coach of the Los Angeles Kings. The team fired John Stevens early in the season and he was replaced on an interim basis by Willie Desjardins.
McLellan started the 2018-19 season as the head coach for the Edmonton Oilers but was fired in November in favour of Ken Hitchcock. Before that tenure, he was a long-time head coach for the San Jose Sharks, which included a couple of deep playoff runs.
It’s really hard to get a grip on how good McLellan is as a coach in the new era of the NHL. With so much focus on zone entries/exits, trying to boost shot quality with seam passes, and just general efficiency, there isn’t much to work with for McLellan over the last few years. Even his best Oilers team, the one that made it to the second round a couple years ago, was probably a mid-pack team that happened to have Connor McDavid, as opposed to more recent years in which the Oilers were a bottom-tier team that happened to have Connor McDavid.
There’s no Connor McDavid-esque player for McLellan to use in Los Angeles, so what can we expect?
One thing McLellan did in Edmonton: he used the top of the lineup a lot. Not including McDavid, there was about 4-5 minutes difference in ice time per game at five-on-five alone between the top of the lineup and the bottom-6. That’s about the same gap as the top of the lineup from Colorado and the bottom-6, whereas Boston only had about 2-3 minutes between their top guys and the bottom-6, for a frame of reference. It makes sense when you have McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins, and I don’t see why it would change with the Kings. That team has Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Ilya Kovalchuk, and then a whole lot of not much up front. Now, Kopitar has played over 22 minutes in each of the last two seasons, so there’s not much more to be gained there, but the other guys, especially Toffoli, could see an uptick in their minutes. That’s good for fantasy owners.
We can also probably assume he’ll try to push the pace and make the Kings a higher-paced team. In McLellan’s last full