NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Los Angeles Kings.
The Los Angeles Kings are out to prove last season was an aberration.
After finishing next to last in the NHL with 71 points, their fewest in a full season since they had 68 in 2006-07, the Kings hired Todd McLellan as coach April 16 to replace Willie Desjardins, who took over after John Stevens was fired following a 4-8-1 start in his second season.
"I thought our team was not used to losing," Kings assistant Marco Sturm said. "I think last year, it caught them maybe a little bit off guard … and that's why we just couldn't get out of the hole and all of a sudden, the season was over. So I think it's going to be a totally different mindset this season for sure."
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McLellan spent the past 11 seasons as coach of the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers, who fired him Nov. 20 after they went 9-10-1 to begin last season, his fourth with Edmonton. In 2016-17, he guided the Oilers to their first playoff appearance in 11 seasons before a seven-game loss to the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Second Round.
His familiarity with the Pacific Division could help make for a quick transition.
"I think so. I think being in the West all the time, playing against the Kings in a lot of years, a lot of games, managing also big, high-end players like he did in San Jose and Edmonton, and now in L.A. as well, I think it really does," Sturm said. "He knows the Kings inside and out."
One of McLellan's biggest tasks will be to help turn around an offense that scored the second-fewest goals in the NHL (199), ahead of the Anaheim Ducks (196), and finished 27th on the power play (15.8 percent). McLellan has shown an ability to get the most out of an offense since his time as an assistant with the Detroit Red Wings. When working with Detroit's power play, it led the NHL in 2005-06 (22.1 percent) and finished third in 2007-08 (20.7 percent). In McLellan's 10 full seasons as a coach, his teams have finished in the top eight in goals per game five times and on the power play seven times.
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To continue that trend, the Kings will need more production from top players like Anze Kopitar, who had 60 points (22 goals, 38 assists) last season after he was a finalist for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in 2017-18, and Ilya Kovalchuk, who scored 16 goals in his first season in Los Angeles.
"Having him coming in and express that and teach us some new things will be good for us," forward Alex Iafallo said. "Adding that aspect (power play) to the game will definitely help us score more, which will obviously help us win more games."
Los Angeles will also need to address its defense, which uncharacteristically struggled last season, finishing 22nd at 3.16 goals-against per game and 29th on the penalty kill (76.5 percent).
"I think as far as all that stuff goes, it was just kind of slippery last year," defenseman Derek Forbort said. "Like once things got away from us, it really got away. I think that's maybe where some of those stats come from.
"We knew we were struggling to score goals, so I think we took away from our defense a little to try and help that out, and by doing that we just ended up giving up more. So it didn't really work out and we got to get back to that structure of being sound defensively and building our offense from the back end out."
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One key for the defense will be whether goalie Jonathan Quick can return to form after he went 16-23-7 with a 3.38 goals-against average and .888 save percentage, each his worst in a full NHL season.
"I still view him as one of the best goalies in the world," Forbort said. "I think his numbers kind of dipping a little bit has a lot to do with the defense we were playing in front of him.
"He was here (in Los Angeles) training with me in the summer. I know he's been working hard, doing the things to make sure he's ready for camp, and I mean, we love the guy, so excited to have him."
The Kings are also excited to show they are a better team than last season.
"That's our main goal (to win the Stanley Cup)," Iafallo said. "You know, we don't really care what everyone else thinks, we're just focused on ourselves. … You never really know what happens too, different situations, different teams and how things could play out. We're going to be ready for anything."
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