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A Fresh Start for Todd McLellan and the LA Kings

The Kings head coach will establish new parameters with the team as training camp opens this week

by Robyn Dutton @LAKings /

In the late spring, at his summer house in Kelowna, British Columbia, Todd McLellan got a call from a familiar number.

On the other end of the phone was LA Kings General Manager Rob Blake, who McLellan coached during the 2008-09 season with the Presidents' Trophy-winning San Jose Sharks.

McLellan coached the Hall-of-Famer for two seasons before Blake officially retired from the NHL, but the two have kept in touch over the past ten years. They discussed the future of the Kings and the vacant Head Coaching position.

On April 16, it became official - McLellan would be tasked with leading the Kings back into contention.

"The opportunity that lies in front of us is to start over, to approach the game in a refreshing way, to incorporate some new ideas," McLellan said. "It's refreshing for the coaching staff, but I believe it's also going to be refreshing for the players. Something new, something different."

First on McLellan's to-do list during training camp will be to learn how to use each player most effectively - and then push them to their highest potential.

"We're getting to know the players quickly: Their personalities and how they interact with each other, and I think that gives us a bit of a head start. I'm looking forward to establishing parameters for what's acceptable and unacceptable, as well as growing the group as we move forward," McLellan said. 

Much like the rest of the hockey community, McLellan likes to use metaphors. He compares the Kings' resurgence to a marathon - the change will be gradual, but new habits will slowly build into a collective success over time. 

"There are 31 teams that are in equal position," McLellan said. "We're all at the starting line right now together."

McLellan knows he needs to establish the coaching staff's presence in the locker-room and earn the respect of the veteran-laden team. But anyone who has heard McLellan talk for just a few minutes will tell you that shouldn't be difficult. He's personable, strong spoken, straight forward, and can read a room.

"I think I'm fair, I think I'm clear, and I think I'm direct," McLellan said. "Those sound like characteristics that I would expect of somebody that was leading me … and hopefully that's what they are looking for."

He credits these characteristics to several role models from his coaching career, including Doug Risebrough and Jacques Lemaire, both formerly with the Minnesota Wild.

"Just watching and observing how he carried himself around certain players was valuable," McLellan said of the former Stanley Cup-winning coach.

McLellan also picked up invaluable experience during his time as an assistant coach for the Detroit Red Wings, managing the Red Wings' forwards and the team's top-ranked power play, eventually winning the Stanley Cup in 2007-08.

"Being around Hall of Famers in Detroit was exceptional," he said. "We were able to win a Stanley Cup, so that whole envelope of excellence that was there, it was really good to be around."

Now, McLellan hopes to bring another Stanley Cup Championship to Los Angeles.

With training camp just around the corner, the atmosphere can be compared to that of heading back to school - the eagerness, nerves and new personalities all create an air of excitement. 

Though McLellan has made an effort to speak to most players and build relationships over the summer, they won't truly feel his impact until they get on the ice.

"You think you know your teacher until you get in the classroom," McLellan said with a grin.

The first test is set to take place on October 5 when the Kings take the ice against the Edmonton Oilers. Though they'll play in McLellan's old stomping grounds, he's made it very clear that night won't be about him.

The priority is to get his new team off to a strong start.

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