After being eliminated in six, the Los Angeles Kings conducted their exit interviews on Sunday.
Along with players, Todd McLellan met with the media to discuss the season that passed and the future moving forward.
A potentially under-discussed situation is McLellan's contract. He's entering the fifth and final year of his contract with the Kings. In his exit interview, Rob Blake made it clear that he believes in McLellan and his staff and was clear that McLellan will return next season.
But what about after that? Well, McLellan hasn't thought that far ahead.
"You know what, I've coached a long-time, I have one year left and I'm really looking forward to that year," said McLellan on hoping for an extension. "Whatever happens after that is, well some of it is in my control, but we'll see what happens there. It's nothing I've thought of, it's nothing I've approached, yeah."
He hasn't started the process of looking beyond next season but was clear he'd be interested in staying in Los Angeles.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here," said McLellan when asked if he'd agree to an extension. "And helping the organization where it is now. And we have a big step to take next year and the organization and whoever that might be has more steps to take as it goes on. I used the word last night, 'youthful playoff team,' and I don't mean that just by age, I mean that in evolution if we're talking about that line. We've been in the playoffs back-to-back, the Seattle Kraken haven't, obviously, because they haven't existed that (long), but all the other teams have had good six-seven-year runs. Five-year runs, maybe with the odd miss, something doesn't go your way, but they've been able to re-tool their teams. We're at the entry level of that. So, we have some runway ahead of us. That doesn't mean we have free passes to not win, but we have some runway ahead of us to continue to build the team and adjust and add some ingredients. So, I'm looking forward to that part."
One of the topics that came up was player evaluation, but McLellan was clear he hadn't talked to the players individually yet and couldn't give a firm answer on certain players until those meetings happen.
"You know, it's 11 O'clock in the morning after," said McLellan when asked about evaluating the defensemen. "If anyone thinks we've sat down and met with the players to discuss their impact and their level of play in the playoffs, we haven't done that. But, each of our defensemen had positive and negative impacts throughout the playoffs. I thought some of them had better series last year than they did this year. And vice versa. But that's just my own opinion, we have a whole staff and a management team that has to share their thoughts on every player. And each of the coaches and the way we play and how we went about it. And none of that has started yet. So, from that perspective, we should probably be doing this on Thursday, but we're not. So, I apologize for not being able to give you more."
Todd also made the point that it isn't just players that need to be reflected and evaluated. He was quick to point out that coaches need to go through a similar process.
"That happens every year, I believe, for every coach," said McLellan on self-reflecting and self-evaluating. "If you're not doing that I don't think you're doing your job. So, the buck stops here and it gets divided out after that through our coaching staff and our auxiliary staff, which is growing. Our development team and then on out from there. So, it's a must, it has to happen and it has to start here. The timing and the spot on the line of evolution with an organization, you have to look at and you have to consider where we are where we want to go and where we've come from. We'll look at how we play, the types of structures that we use in all areas. Whether that's special teams or five-on-five. We'll look at how we use players and combinations of players, how we distributed ice time. And it won't just be about Game Six or one through six, it will be about all 88 games that we played. The body of work. We'll look at the players and which players improved from year to year. Did any of them fall off, if they did why? What impact did we have in that? So, I think there has to be a period of reflection and self-evaluation. We'll also get evaluation from our management group, they'll tell us, we communicate all the time, but they'll tell us what they saw and what they'd like to see improved or changed if there's anything there."
Knowing what Blake said about the team maybe not looking to add externally in the way they have over the last two summers, McLellan addressed the need for young players to step up next season.
"I'm always afraid to say that," said McLellan when asked if the young players need to step up and supplement the veteran players. "It gives the older players, the more experienced players, freedom and leeway. We can get Arthur (Kaliyev) and (Rasmus) Kup(ari) and (Byfield) to graduate and really take a step forward and that would be great. But if Danault, I'm just using names, Danault and Arvidsson and whoever else gives back a lot of their game it doesn't matter. It's really important that everybody gets prepared and ready to go."
And while McLellan hasn't talked to players individually, he was able to talk about Arthur Kaliyev. What the expectations are for Kaliyev and what went wrong for him down the stretch.
"I think Arthur Kaliyev can be an impactful NHL player, and not only can be, but we need him to be," said McLellan on Kaliyev's future. "And it's our job as (a) coaching staff to get him there, development team, everybody else to get him there. And we'll do everything in our power to get him there, we need him there. And the other side of the coin is his participation and I think he'd be open to that."
"You know, when I looked at Arthur's year, he had a real good start," McLellan continued. "We put him on the top line for, I think, seven games straight to see if he could produce there. They weren't real good seven games for our team, not just for Arthur, and then he got hurt. And Arthur is still a young player, not necessarily age-wise, but in his development physically, and (this was) the first time he's dealt with injury. He had to overcome that, six weeks out. Came back and it was hard to get his footing back. And playoffs roll around and he came out of the lineup, not because he was sick, but he stayed out of the lineup because he was sick. He didn't make the trip to (Edmonton for Game Five). What you guys don't know is that we had that flu bug, or whatever you want to call it, go through our team, not unlike Boston. We had some questionable guys for a couple games. Arthur didn't play because he got scratched, but he also didn't play because he was sick."