On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Kings made it official that Todd McLellan has been hired as the team’s new head coach.
The former bench boss of the San Jose Sharks, and more recently the Edmonton Oilers, McLellan was let go by the Oilers midway through the 2018-19 NHL regular season but wasn’t out of a job long. McLellan replaces Willie Desjardins, who wasn’t retained by the Kings after a dreadful season that saw the franchise finish 31-42-9 in its worst season since 2007-08.
Desjardins will enter a pool of available coaches for teams who are quickly filling vacancies.
Why Todd McLellan?
McLellan is a veteran coach with an outstanding record. In his first run as an NHL coach, he spent seven years as the voice behind the San Jose Sharks, making six playoff appearances from 2009-14.
Unfortunately, the Sharks became known as a team that could be dangerous in the regular season, but couldn’t quite find the same success in the playoffs. It’s a reputation that has plagued the team to this day.
He then moved on to the Oilers where he spent nearly four seasons in charge of an Oilers team led by superstar Connor McDavid. He took the team to their first playoff run in over a decade, but after a 2018-19 season that was a disappointment for the organization, was fired Nov. 20 after a 9-10-1 start. Most believe the failures of the Oilers were not on McLellan, but instead can be blamed on former Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli who made some of the worst trades of the NHL season and, arguably, Oilers history.
McLellan has 434 career victories behind the bench and was a favorite to land the job in LA the minute the regular season came to an end.
The Challenge for McLellan in LA
There was some early concern that the Kings might have to fight to land McLellan. He was a candidate for a number of teams, often linked to the vacancy in Buffalo. Ultimately, the Sabres and McLellan couldn’t find mutual ground and the Kings wound up with their man.
He’ll now be tasked with turning around an LA team that underperformed but also has an aging squad with players that GM Rob Blake has been public about trying to move.
Ilya Kovalchuk, Jeff Carter, Jonathan Quick, Alec Martinez, Tyler Toffoli, and others have been in the rumor mill as the Kings try to get younger and faster. The question will be whether or not the team will have the assets McLellan can work with to bring the Kings back to the glory years where the franchise won multiple Stanley Cups.
By many accounts, this is a good hire by the Kings. McLellan is a well-spoken and respected coach that knows how to work with stars and young players. He’s spent plenty of time in California so the surroundings, while a bit different, won’t require much getting used to.
With the hire, the Edmonton Oilers are clear of the final year of Todd McLellan’s contract. They are not picking up any of his first-year salary in L.A. Pierre LeBrun says the deal signed is a five-year contract worth around $25 million depending on bonuses. But ballpark is around $5 million per year on average according to sources.