Quotes from coach Todd McLellan following day one of Kings training camp…
On Gabe Vilardi
Last season, the questions were not about his skill level or his hockey brain or anything like that, but it was about his engine – was it good enough to play at the NHL level. It was, but it could have been a lot better. In this strange time of ours, the amount of time that we’ve had off is benefited a few players. You think about Kupari, his injury, Gabe and the fact he actually could train physically for the first time in many summers. As a result, I think his engine is much better now than it was last year at this time. So we’re hoping that he gets off to a real good start and has a real good season.
On Vilardi’s poise
I think we’re all excited — not just me — we’re all excited about the fact that Gabe is healthy enough to play. We know how much work he, and many others in our organization, put into getting him to the return point. Then, the summer work that he’s put in excites everybody. What we do have to keep in mind is he’s a 10-game NHL player; he still has a lot of work to do – things that he needs to learn. He has to take a run through the the league, as a whole, to get to know what what it feels like in every building and other teams tendencies. That being said, we do believe that we have a really good player and we think he has an opportunity to to re-establish his game this year. There’s a lot of room for growth and we’re excited about it.
On how of the system has been retained by players over the past nine months off
It was just one day. But, first impressions are valuable, I believe. The group — including the players that were in Ontario last year, they played the same system and heard the same language — a lot of them pick things up very quickly today. So from a structure standpoint, that’s a real good sign. Hands, timing, spatial awareness, passing, conditioning, that’s all gonna take time to get back to where we need to be. But, I thought, considering where we’ve been for the last nine months and how could we have to put things together, I thought it was a positive day.
On much evaluation will be taking place in the first three days of camp
We’re in unchartered territories. We haven’t had a camp in the past where we don’t get to evaluate prospects or veterans in exhibition games. These three scrimmages are gonna be really important. We also have to be aware that it is the first three scrimmages, it won’t be the the be-all and end-all. But we’ll have to get down to a workable number real quick. We’ll see that happen really fast here. Once we do that, it doesn’t mean we’ve got our NHL team and our AHL team sorted out. There are a lot of new rules this year, as far as taxi squads and whatnot. There is a lot of plotting that we have to do as an organization to figure out who fits where.
On the stamina of players displayed during the first day of camp
I would say yes. In the limited testing that we were allowed to do, multiple players set personal highs – which was really good. The energy and sustainability of energy on the ice today was really good. Now we’ll see where we are at day two or three. We expected it to be an excited group, an anxious group, an energized group today. We’ll see how they are tomorrow and the day after. We’re one of 31 teams that are fighting this and hopefully we’ve done our homework better than the other groups and we’ll be fit and ready.
On protocols put in place by the league to protect players and coaches
As far as the ability to come back and do something that we love, that’s what we’ve been waiting for – whether it’s a coach, a manager, a player. We feel like we’re in a really good situation, as far as the protocols that have been put in place to make sure that health comes first. I feel really good coming to the building. I feel like I’m very well cared for here. I believe that as teammates, and coach-mates, and organization-mates, we seem to be taking care of each other – even in the weeks leading up to training camp. So to have the opportunity to go back and do something that you love, I think is great. We’re hoping that we make the best of it.
On frequent conversations about responsibility, social distancing, etc.
We do. It’s continual reminders — whether it’s Kopi to Doughty, or McClellan to Yawney, or Blake to Emerson — throughout the organization, we have to remind each other of the protocols that we’ve accepted. We have to keep those in place and monitor each other. Our group has been outstanding. I hope that every group in the NHL is doing the same, and I’m sure they are approaching it the way we are. It gives us a chance to have success, a healthy success.
On if there is any distinct advantage for Kempe-Andersson-Fagemo, having played some meaningful games in Sweden over the past few months
For the players that have played over in Sweden or in other leagues, I think it does give them an advantage. Once you put ten players on the ice and everybody starts to go full speed, the timing, the spatial awareness, the sense of what’s coming, what you can or can’t do, it takes a little while to get all of that back. They should have that in the in the bank right now. What I will say is, they play a different game in Europe. I’m watching my son play in Germany and it’s a completely different game – bigger ice, a little bit slower, maybe not as physical. So while they have an advantage, they also have to adjust coming to the smaller rink and and faster and heavier pace.
On Jeff Carter, and how he looked on the wing
He looked really good considering what he’s been through, and the amount of time that he’s been off. I just think that Carts is such a smart player, he’s a big man and he skates so well, he’s always gonna look good. In fact, I talked to him on the way up here, how he felt, and it was thumbs up. He felt like he had a really good day. He looked good on the wing. Right now, he has Wagner on his wing with Lizotte in the middle, and those two do a lot of a lot of work on that line. So the three of them looked good together. Let’s hope that that continues tomorrow and from that point on.
On Doughty saying the scrimmage had a lot of pace today, and was he happy with the pace
I was. We approached scrimmage a little bit different this year than other years, at least the first half. I’ll call it a controlled scrimmage. We set up certain situations, so we were reminded of what we needed to do in those moments, and then we let them play. The second half of the scrimmage was a face-off drop and play on from there. The pace early was really good. As we got near the end of the game, ice conditions, as well as fatigue, came into play. So there was a little bit of a fall off, but that was expected. I think we were in a good spot and, again, we’ll see how we are tomorrow.
On the message at the beginning of camp
We took them back to last year, really – to day one at training camp. We reminded them of some of the goals we had set then, and how we went about our business last year trying to accomplish those goals. A lot of them were met. We’re in a different place right now than we were last year – team-wise, organization-wise, and roster-wise. Then we told them what we expected from them, at least through this first 10 days and we need to reestablish the parameters of what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable, what our structure is going to look like, how we want to play, some of the terms that we use – so that we get quick pictures painted in our in our minds of of what we should be doing in situations. There’s a lot that they have to absorb, but I do feel we’re way further along right now than we were last year when basically there wasn’t anybody on the team who had experienced it before.
We’ll have much, much more from the McLellan scrum later today.
UPDATE: More from the McLellan Q&A…
On if there is more of disparity in timing and conditioning from player to player this year
First of all, I think it’s a little bit early to completely evaluate individuals on there, call it their fitness level or their ability to adjust. I think they’re gonna need a little bit of time. They’ll begin to reveal their ability to to keep up or fall off over the next few days. Then, when it comes to making decisions, we’ll try to put the best group together that we possibly can to win games, but also the supporting group the the players that are going to be on the taxi squad, the extra bodies that we carry. It’s important that they’re up to to par, if you will. If we have to change players in and out, we’ll certainly do that.
On the defensive structure and the ability to build on the team’s strong finish last season
We have to re-establish all parts of our game. Certainly, defensively, when we look at the first ten games and the last ten games, we were a different team. That wasn’t necessarily because of effort. I think the players at that time gave us what they had, at both ends, the first ten and the last ten. They understood structure more, the risk and reward part of the game was more in our favor than it was earlier in the year. Right now, we’re counting on our group to be closer to what we saw over the last ten games than the first ten games. And we should be, we’ve been together long enough. We have areas to grow our game – talking about defensively, certainly we have to keep the number of goals against down, our penalty kill has to get better. But it’s all zones, it’s all systems. As much as we talk about re-establishing, we’re gonna need growth at some point. That’s about where we’re at as an organization, re-establish and begin to grow.
On what needs to change to generate more offense this season
A number of different areas. When you look at — and I’m not a big analytics guy, I can tell you that — but when you look at some of the underlying analytics we did some things fairly well as a group, especially in the second half of the season to create the offense. The finish part of it is going to be a little more important. That comes in different forms. That comes in tactical stuff, that comes in skill stuff. We made some changes to the roster to maybe up the skill level a little bit. We talked about Gabe Vilardi earlier. If he has the type of year that we think he can, perhaps he can provide a little more offense. There’s others on the team that have to chip in too. We’re not talking about adding 50 or 60 goals to our lineup, which is unrealistic. If we can add 10 or 15 goals, and cut the goals-against down a bit, all of a sudden we’re in the mix and we can begin to push. Both sides of the puck, with and without it, have to improve. If we do that, we’ll give ourselves an opportunity.
On the addition of Anthony Athanasiou, who is known more for his offense than defense
Well, you know what we do, we look at as plus-minus and we say he’s not a very good defensive player. If you drop him into a team — and I say this with all due respect to Detroit and LA — sometimes those numbers are skewed just because of the performance of the team and the situation that he’s in. I don’t know where all his minuses came from. For example, in the case of Drew Doughty, he’s on the ice every time we pull the goaltender. I think we gave up 11 empty net goals last year. You get a minus for that and all of the sudden it’s not looking so good. Plus-minus isn’t a big number for me. I think it’s circumstantial. For Andreas, when he gets here we want to fit him into our structure and our system. We think that the structure can take care of the individual a little bit, make it predictable. He has to accept the responsibility of playing on both sides of the puck. Let’s face it, he can skate and he can score when he’s playing well. His career can go on forever, you know, if he gets the defensive part of it and the consistency part. What a great opportunity for him to come here. We know that and we’ll try to help him. If we can get that out of him and maintain some offense, we’ll be just fine.
On what he’s learned most about this group since taking over as coach
I had a lot of my intuition confirmed last year. There are a lot of championship qualities in that locker room – there were last year and their remains to be. I’ve mentioned before, this team didn’t win by accident. They won by design and their drive, and the ability to overcome adversity and their stick-to-it-ness, if there’s such a word, was evident. Even last year, when things weren’t going well for us, we didn’t depart and become individuals. We stuck together as a team and that was really good to see. A lot of my thoughts from my San Jose and Edmonton time, on individual players, were confirmed. It made me appreciate the Kings players even more, after being here for a while and being around them. They were open to new ways new ideas. They were willing to set and accept new standards. The group, young and old, were really good that way. We’re looking to reestablish culture, what’s acceptable and unacceptable. The group has been really good that way. Now we have to translate that into growth and more wins.
On how the goalies might be used, given the uniqueness schedule this season
In my opinion, I think it’s getting harder and harder for a single goalie to run the table. The games are just so fast and so strenuous, compressed schedule, back-to-back games, travel, not a lot of practice time. I think you’re going to need two, maybe even three goaltenders at some point during the year. We’ll approach it that way. We don’t feel like it’s Quickie’s net or Cal’s net. We feel like we have a net that both of them are very capable of playing in. I believe that the goaltending is going to be a little like pitching at the beginning of the year, maybe that last segment to come. We’ll help them any way that we can to get their games back and feel good as we start the season.
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