LOS ANGELES — Todd McLellan took responsibility for the Los Angeles Kings’ ongoing struggles after their 12th loss in 14 games Wednesday.
The Kings (22-14-9) began the season 16-4-3 but are 6-10-6 since and have two wins in their past 14 games (2-7-5) following a 5-3 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at Crypto.com Arena, allowing four straight goals after taking a 3-1 lead.
“If I was sitting in your seat and you were standing here, I’d ask you that,” McLellan said. “I’m responsible for this. And when you looked at the team that played the first, what would we call it, 25, 30 games if you will, it doesn’t look like the team that’s playing right now. And I’m responsible for it.
“Our staff is doing what we can or what we believe we can to get them to turn it around. We’re trying different things at different times. But I’m going to keep pushing away. I’m going to try and push buttons, poke people, praise people, look at how we do things.
“Our numbers — our underlying numbers — say we’re more the first-half team than the second-half team, but the winning column doesn’t say that, and that’s all that matters. So, it’s a very fair question.”
The Kings are fourth in the Pacific Division, two points behind the Edmonton Oilers. They hold the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference, two points ahead of the Nashville Predators.
But now they’ll play seven of their next eight games on the road.
McLellan, who is in his fifth season as Kings coach, signed a one-year contract through the 2024-25 season in October and was given a vote of confidence Jan. 18 from general manager Rob Blake, who said McLellan would remain behind the bench for the remainder of the season.
Los Angeles then finished 1-2-1 on a four-game homestand, losing the last two games to the Sabres and San Jose Sharks (4-3 in a shootout on Monday).
Kings captain Anze Kopitar defended McLellan and the rest of the coaching staff after the loss Wednesday. Los Angeles has qualified for the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, losing to the Oilers in the Western Conference First Round each time.
“I mean, it comes down to this room,” Kopitar said. “They give us a plan, they give us the structure, the motivation or the kick in the [rear end]. It is what it is, but it’s about the guys that have to bring it out on the ice and make things happen.”
Drew Doughty believes selfishness has crept into the dressing room over the past month, saying players “started thinking [Wednesday] was a cookie night, and we stopped playing the way we know how to play” after going up 3-1 at 9:44 of the first period against Buffalo.
“We feel that every single player on this team needs to give 100-percent effort,” the veteran defenseman said. “And you’re not going to have your best stuff every night, but if we all give our 100-percent effort, we’re a good enough team.
“If we play together, we’re going to win games, so you don’t need one player to be the best player on the ice every single night. That’s not the way we win games. We win games as a play, collectively and playing for the team.”