McLellan says Kings finished with rebuild: 'It’s time to turn the ship'

Juan Ocampo / National Hockey League / Getty

Los Angeles Kings head coach Todd McLellan has high expectations for this season and believes his club is ready to take the next step beyond its rebuild.

"The players that are coming back this year, they're long-term players for us," McLellan said Saturday, according to the Los Angeles Times' Jack Harris. "I heard (general manager) Rob Blake talk to each of the individuals saying, 'Listen, we are basically done with the initial phase of the rebuilding.'

"We've moved players around and out and brought different players in. It's time to turn the ship and let's start growing all of this."

The Kings missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season in 2019-20 but showed signs of improvement down the stretch, winning 10 of their final 13 contests. Los Angeles also boasted gaudy possession numbers, ranking fourth in both Corsi For (53.10%) and shot share (52.51%), and eighth in expected goals for percentage (51.95%) at five-on-five, according to Natural Stat Trick.

McLellan hopes the influx of young, promising talent will help translates those numbers into more goals. The team added second overall pick Quinton Byfield to a pipeline of encouraging prospects that includes 2019 first-rounder Alex Turcotte, Finnish pivot Rasmus Kupari, and American sniper Arthur Kaliyev, among others.

The Kings bench boss believes Blake's commitment to taking the next step will serve as motivation for perennial pieces such as Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty.

“If I’m one of the five long-term veterans coming back, I got to be excited to hear that. I’ve got to be excited about seeing [Blake] bring guys like Maatta in and trading for Lias Andersson.

"That’s signaling that we’re trying to make our team better and trying to push now up the hill rather than just waiting, not necessarily to bottom out, that’s a bad term, but for the cleanse to finish. I think there’s more stability."

The NHL is targeting Jan. 13 for opening day and a 56-game schedule for the 2020-21 campaign.

Nothing has been made official, but the Kings will reportedly play in a realigned division featuring the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, and Vegas Golden Knights.

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McLellan says Kings finished with rebuild: 'It’s time to turn the ship'
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