For the final time this season, Todd McLellan held a postgame zoom on Thursday night. It came following a rather inconsequential 5-1 loss to the Avs, and here’s what he had to say:
On what Drake Rymsha brought to the team when he wasn’t playing games
He’s kind of an unsung hero around our group. He’s been with us all year on the taxi squad, he has worked as hard as anybody that dresses every night, he just sat back quietly and did his thing. Everything we asked him, he did. We got banged up here at the end, with a couple players, and he got his opportunity. The group was so excited for him, he motivated us tonight a little bit to pick our socks up. Couldn’t be happier for him, he is so deserving of it.
On how the last six weeks of play affected the development made in the first three months
We didn’t play as well as we did earlier in the season there, that’s evident. We lost some players to injury, we made a move, a player left, the quality of opponent also went up. We had a streak of games there with Vegas and then obviously the number of games here that we just played against Colorado also presented a big challenge for us. There’s clearly a difference in a separation between these two teams, or three teams in our division, and the rest. That’s just the way it is, we have that far to go. I didn’t think we played as well down the stretches as we did throughout the year. Some of that’s probably due to the eroding belief system that we could get there. There was a point where we really believed we could be a team that was going to go push for it. Then it slipped away on us, and the belief system slipped away.
On if the condensed schedule and lack of practice presented more problems for a young team like the Kings
There were pros and cons to it. Early in the year, it helped some of our older players. They had outstanding starts. Maybe didn’t finish quite the way they wanted to, but it helped them with less practice time. It hurt a lot of young players. In our situation, a lot of the teaching and a lot of the learning had to be done through video throughout the season. Sometimes, you take a negative event and it affects the mentality, so we tried to find positive stuff but some of the best teaching moments are from mistakes. That affected us, lack of practice time certainly did, but 31 teams were all in the same boat. Some got through it better than we did.
On the strides the team made this year that he was most proud of
We have to sit back and review everything. There are areas that we improved in. Our special teams numbers went up, but then they started to come down, in particular the power play, there were two different seasons from a power play perspective. The power play carried us a lot, when it went dry, it caused problems for us. We had trouble scoring 5-on-5. A lot of younger players took on more meaningful important roles. Were they or are they ready for them? I’m not sure yet. They did get them; sometimes that’s a real good thing, and sometimes that’s not a good thing. The rhetoric out there is ‘play the kids, play the kids,’ but we can do as much harm playing the kids as help them if we put them in situations that they’re not prepared for.
On media availability over Zoom
It’s been tough on everybody. We found new ways of doing things, which we may even incorporate [moving forward], but there were painful ways of doing things too. This type of relationship over a machine isn’t the best, we lose something between coach, player, and media that I would imagine all of you guys agree with, as well. You’d like to be at the rink and feeling it and talking and conversing after. Some of our best conversations are off the record, we don’t ever get a chance to have that, but we look forward to it.
On if the coaching staff will take some time off before evaluating the season
We are going to get to work fairly quickly, we’re not talking about going back tomorrow morning and rushing into it, we’ll get through the weekend. By Monday, we’re going to begin to review players and individuals, have one-on-one meetings, begin to get that out of the way. There’s a large group of players, management, trainers, media people that are really excited about getting out of the bubble. The quicker we can get them out of the bubble and get them back into the real world, so you can actually enjoy life with your family, travel a little bit, that’s our goal. It won’t hinder our ability to evaluate and get what we need to get done.
On if he takes any solace in having a more clearly defined schedule this offseason as compared to last year
Yes, I think so. Last year, everybody was sitting by their phones waiting for some direction. Our direction now is to evaluate what we just went through and continue the building process. It’s very evident we have to get better in a number of different areas. There’s not going to be any games played for us from now until September. There are other ways of improving, though — whether it’s roster construction, off-season guidance, younger players getting bigger and stronger, older players getting healthier, looking at structure and tactics from our perspective. There’s a lot that can be done to get better.
NOTE: The bigger story of the night was Drake Rymsha making his NHL debut for the LA Kings. He has an incredible back story, see here.
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