Workout 2/17 – Off to Vegas! Watch McLellan’s standings, significant matches and deadline experience
The Los Angeles Kings hit the ice for the last time before heading to Las Vegas later in the day. The Kings are set to start a back-to-back game in the desert, with games against the Golden Knights and Coyotes this weekend.
At this point in the season, following the mini-camp type situation leading up to the Edmonton game, we don’t expect to see too many marathon practices going forward. The time spent on the ice is limited, with a busy schedule to end the season. These will be some key points to focus on, recover and prepare to go again by the end of April.
“We’re not recreating the game by the end of the season,” McLellan said. “We’re cleaning things up, trying to move forward a bit and we’re going to do it in 30-35 minute increments, that’s it. We must recover from the blows we may receive, overcome the successes and move forward every day.
Today’s practice looked similar to how the group lined up yesterday, with 14 forwards, seven defenders and two goalkeepers.
Petersen / Fast
To watch or not to watch
We, that is to say we who speak about the team, regularly look at the classification. I do it as a writer, you do it as a reader, we all do it.
But do players and coaches look at the rankings, and if so, how often do they?
In the Kings locker room, the standings are prominently displayed each day. Speaking to defenseman Matt Roy, the Kings post the standings right next to where the players eat lunch in the hall. When you first walk in and grab something to eat, they are there to see and observe.
“All year we had the ranking, every year,” Roy said. “It’s near our breakfast room, it’s in place, you should know that and everyone knows that by now. It’s not something we talk about, it’s just something that everyone everyone knows. You have to be prepared to do your job.”
Ranking isn’t something that the coaching staff preaches on a day-to-day basis either, as that would go against the mentality that most hockey teams preach. Everyone knows the longer term implications of ranking and everyone knows what is needed longer term. But if you talk about it from the “we need to win as many of the last 34 games to qualify for the playoffs” perspective, you lose sight of what is needed in the moment.
Throwback to the recent roadtrip. After five games, the Kings had eight points, which was a successful trip no matter what happened in the last game. Could the Kings have just been satisfied then? They could have done it if they had taken that longer-term perspective. But Todd McLellan and his staff are worried about having a good 60 minutes and not much more.
“Living in the moment more than anything,” he said. “These guys are smart, they know where we are, they know what’s at stake. We don’t have to remind them all the time, but we have to be prepared, so I think that’s more to About our moments now, no hey, we have to win seven of our next 11 games, you’ll never hear that from us. But, you need a good 60 minutes to face our rivals on the road, they’re a hell of a team and it has to be better than our last 60 minutes against them.
In hunting and meaningful games
It feels good to be on the hunt, doesn’t it?
For McLellan and the staff, this is the next step in the plan, the next step in the process. He spoke at length about the evolution from a dismantling team, to a team that started cleaning things up, to a team that finally stabilized. The next part of the plan is to push, with McLellan finding the Kings somewhere in that area right now. Stabilization is done, and the next step is to push.
“I thought we could [be in this position]”, McLellan said. “The first year was demolished, the second year was a strange year, but if it was a normal year, you start cleaning things up. Now you are starting to stabilize. Knock down, build a little, stabilize then start pushing. We’re in this period of stabilization right now and maybe we can move on and start pushing, maybe we’re already doing that, I don’t know. We’re definitely on that time frame, or that plan, we’ve already moved the needle past two steps.
For many players on this Kings team, this is their first playoff-hunting experience at the NHL level, or even at the pro level. The 2019-20 Ontario Reign team was in the game, but that season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which reduced the opportunity to push for the playoffs.
The Kings haven’t really been in that position since 2017-18, with the last three seasons having failed, although the organization could have been seen as being on the hunt at various times during that span.
One of those players is Sean Durzi, who was part of that 19-20 Reign team, but this is his first come-around at the NHL level. Only six members of this Kings team have played playoff games in a Kings jersey, although several others have been there with other organizations. For the youngest and most promising, this is the first time they experience important matches in stride.
“I feel like it’s been a while, since juniors really,” Durzi said. “My freshman year, before it closed, we were fighting for a spot, first year pro, it was pretty exciting, but it’s different. It’s the National Hockey League now, it’s the same competitiveness, the same desire to win, but a bigger stage, a bigger prize. This is what you dream of. Obviously there is still a long way to go, but the guys have the right mindset , we have a great group of guys, they know what’s at stake and what’s at stake. I’m just happy to be a part of it and I really want to do our best because I know we can.
A great place to be, and here’s to hoping for more to come.
Finally, listen to Todd McLellan talk about his past experiences before the trade deadline. McLellan told us he and general manager Rob Blake “talk often” about the roster, as well as what’s going on in and around the NHL. As of now, McLellan says he personally hasn’t spent much time on potential timeline deals, though he knows when the time comes he’ll be brought in.
McLellan on moving
I’m confident this team can make the playoffs or push for a playoff spot. In making a move, I’ve been on so many different sides of the coin over my years. You make a move and anticipate great results, but it doesn’t work for chemistry reasons. It affects the room, the guy going out had an impact and the guy going in couldn’t get a foothold fast enough. You bring someone in and it’s a home run, or you bring someone in later and they don’t quite fit into the environment, there’s so many pros and cons to it do it both ways. I like our team right now, I think everyone is important, I think everyone has found a role. That’s not to say that in a week it can’t change. It can change in a month, with factors that come into play, injuries, fatigue factor, COVID, it still exists and there will always be tests when we go to Canada or if someone gets sick. There are a lot of variables that come into play.
McLellan on moving sooner rather than later
It probably costs you more, the acquisition cost is probably higher if you get someone sooner, so there are pros and cons to everything. Again, I’m not talking about the LA Kings, or Blakey and his band, just my experience. If you get to that deadline and there’s a player available, it may cost you less than a 40-game player or someone who has extra time on their contract. Regarding acclimatization, the more time you have with the team, the better, if the player is going to work for your team. If that person isn’t going to work in your environment, it’s just more time with someone who doesn’t fit, so it can go both ways.
The Kings will travel to Las Vegas this afternoon before tomorrow night’s game against the Golden Knights. The team is ready to skate at T-Mobile Arena tomorrow morning before the back-to-back set this weekend against Vegas and Arizona.