Hockey

While it’s fun to mock the Kings, in the end you’re really only mocking yourself (done played yo’ self, fool). It’s another team that sat on top of the hockey world for a few years, but now has too many entrenched contracts to have a full teardown and restart. And those big contracts make it also near impossible to slot in players who can move them down the lineup to lesser roles. Which is why the Hawks getting Kirby Dach is hopefully a coup as he moves Toews down for cheap in the coming years. Perhaps Alex Turcotte will be that down the road, shoving Anze Kopitar to a #2 center role. It won’t be this year though, and this year looks like it might be pretty damn ugly for the silver and black. Again.

2018-2019

31-42-9  71 points (dead ass last in the Pacific and West)

2.43 GF/G (30th)  3.16 GA/G (22nd) -60 GD

48.2 CF% (22nd)  47.0 xGF% (21st)

15.8 PP% (27th) 76.5 PK% (29th)

Goalies: Like death, taxes, and my inability to love, it’s Jonathan Quick in the Los Angeles net. But perhaps this is the time when he has to let go of the rope, even if his contract says otherwise. Quick was a big back of suck last year, posting a .888 over the full season. That kind of came out of nowhere, as the debate about whether he was overrated or underrated raged on without noticing he’d been pretty solid for the three years before (.919 SV%). At least when he was healthy. It’s highly doubtful Quick is now a sub-.900 goalie, unless there’s something chronically wrong with him physically. At 33 he shouldn’t be complete toast, but last year was awfully discouraging.

He might want to pick it up, because if he doesn’t Todd McLellan might have a real headache on his hands. Well, a headache other than watching this team getting turned into tapenade most nights. Jack Campbell massively outplayed Quick last year, to the tune of a .928 SV%. While the world has been waiting for Campbell for what seems like decades, this was his first regular turn in an NHL net. Now, maybe that was the anomaly, but if Campbell continues in anything like that fashion and Quick continues to look like be belongs in the fields of Elysium, there’s going to be a call to get Campbell more and more starts. It’s highly unlikely that Quick is going to be in net when the Kings matter again, whenever that might be, and a whole bunch of fans and some within the organization might want to start that process along.

Defense: Hope Doughnuts likes cashing that fat, $11M check because he’s going to have to do everything here. Except he can’t really anymore, and his metrics went into the red for the first time last year. When Alec Martinez is your #2 d-man, people should attend your games with gas masks. I could list the rest of the Kings defensive crew, but you would be sure I was making them up and trying to get away with something. The good thing, I guess, for the Kings is that every d-man after Doughty is only signed for this season, so they can completely start over next year if they so choose. And they probably have to. Otherwise, when you’re cold and alone at night, remember there are people out there choosing to watch Derek Forbort and Ben Hutton multiple times a week. You are not alone in your desperation and waywardness. You are not alone. You are not alone.

Forwards: Two years ago, Anze Kopitar flashed for a whole season in a big “I’m Not Dead!” sign. That gave us hope for Jonathan Toews. Well, Kopitar went back to needing a forensic team to figure out if he could fog a mirror last season, which doesn’t give us much hope. But hey, he was the only Kings forward to top 60 points. Which is…well it’s not anything and it means this team has all the dash and dynamism at forward as the rat carcass in the alley. Kovalchuk and Jeff “Wooderson” Carter are still around to cash a check, at least the latter is until yet another body part of his gets up and takes a walk for a couple months. They can’t seem to kill Dustin Brown, so he’ll take a top six role because that’s just what has to be. Look for Tyler Toffoli to have a better season as he heads into free agency and the possibility of getting the hell out of there. They’ll try and convince you that any or all of Adrian Kempe, or Alex Iaffalo, or Austin Wagner are things that definitely have to be paid attention to. They definitely intake oxygen but not much else. This team won’t score much and you can see why. When Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford still easily claim spots, you know your team blows.

Prediction: Don’t know why Todd McLellan took this job other than sheer desperation. At least with the Oilers he could watch Connor McDavid every night. Here he’s going to watch Kopitar wheeze and hear the fat on Doughty increasing on a nightly basis. If Quick isn’t terrible they probably won’t be a front to nature, and maybe even pass Anaheim on the standings. Maybe. But all of their kids that will form the next Kings team aren’t here yet, and what is is pretty gruesome. Another sub-80 point season seems on the cards.

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This was a poorly played game for the most part, which I guess comes as no surprise given who the teams involved were. And yet, the contrast between the dull first period when both teams ended up with a handful of themselves and the excitement of basically every other televised sporting event in the nation tonight was striking. What was worse, however, was the ending, where the Hawks took one meager point and lost in OT on a power play thanks to a terribly poetic penalty by Jonathan Toews. We knew the season was over but this is a harsh exclamation point on it. Let’s get to the bullets:

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– As mentioned, the first period was mostly a back-and-forth affair between mediocre opponents, and although the Hawks ended up on the wrong side of the ledger in terms of both shots and possession (9-14 and 48 CF%, respectively), it wasn’t a painfully noticeable difference in play quality. The only part that was certifiably painful was Keith shattering his stick on a shot near the end of a late-period power play. Not only was that the personification of a sad trombone sound, but Kyle Clifford jumped out of the box just as it happened and the Kings had numbers going the other way. But fear not—Seabrook took a dumb penalty and the Kings were too useless to score on it…that time.

– Not useless was Alex DeBrincat, who scored a relatively soft goal by curling it just underneath Campbell early in the second. Top Cat is now tied with Patrick Kane as the team’s leading goal scorer, with 41, and his career total is…wait for it…69 (NICE). And yes, you’d make that joke too so shut up. Having DeBrincat and Garbage Dick on the third line is still some galaxy brain bullshit as far as I’m concerned, but I’d rather see Top Cat produce anywhere and any way that he can, rather than flail in the stupidity of bad coaching decisions. Remember, a 25-goal scorer tops, this guy.

Erik Gustafsson‘s magic carpet ride continued with another goal, his 17th. Campbell likely was screened because he didn’t seem to see the shot coming from three miles away. However, Gus giveth and he taketh away, as his habit of doing confused pirouettes away from forwards left Michael Amadio alone in the slot to tie the game in the third. If you can’t stop a fourth-fucking-liner on one of the league’s worst teams you seriously need to re-evaluate what you’re doing and how you understand your job description.

– But wait! Before we pile on the crappy defenseman, at least he scored. Kane and Toews both point-blank fucked up multiple times in overtime. The fact this game went to OT is stupid on its own, but they had nearly a third of the 3-on-3 with control of the puck and couldn’t finish any of their shots. Toews followed that up with a penalty on Anze Kopitar, which is frustrating for its timing since that led to the winning goal by LA, and sad in its relevance for an aging, slowing legend trying to slow down nearly his mirror image. And it backfired in a pretty dramatic way, really putting the final nail in the coffin where the Hawks playoff hopes now lay. But had either he or Kane converted on any of their opportunities earlier, that penalty wouldn’t have happened. Maybe they’re tired after the amount of ice time (would be fair enough at the end of the season although tonight’s wasn’t too egregious), maybe they just don’t have it or don’t give a shit, but it did not inspire hope for the future.

David Kampf broke some part of his face (or severely messed it up), and not that it matters now but still, not the way to end the season.

– I can’t say that Austin Wagner is any good, but I can say that he is fast. He absolutely scorched Carl Dahlstrom in the second for the tying goal (the first time), and he did it to Connor Murphy in the third but our Large Irish Son was bailed out by a Crawford poke check.

Drake Caggiula seemed awfully excited to be back in the lineup, and yet I can’t help but wonder if he should try to avoid getting into fights rather than seeking them out, seeing as he just missed a month with a head injury. I dunno, just doesn’t seem like the best strategy. He had four shots, so that’s something, and he didn’t get into a full-on fisticuffs, but boy was he trying to.

I know I sound like a broken record but this has to be the end of the playoff delusion, even if the math doesn’t say it’s for certain yet. We all know it is, and really, if you can’t beat this lowly-ass Kings team any of the times you play them, do you really even deserve to be in the playoffs? The answer is no. Onward and upward?

Beer de jour: Sun Catcher by Revolution Brewing

Line of the Night: “Halfway through an almost scintillating first period.” —Foley, sarcastically saying what we were thinking.

Photo credit: NHL.com

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vs.

RECORDS: Hawks 34-33-10   Kings 28-40-9

PUCK DROP: 9:30pm

TV: NBCSN Chicago

YOU HAVE SELECTED REGICIDE: They all hate us so we won’t list any of them

It’s funny. There are a fair few fans who wish the Hawks would have done what the Kings have done, no matter how unpleasant it would be to watch or experience. And you get it, because it would appear the Kings are going to have a top-two spot in the lottery, meaning they can’t drop any lower than three. Though it would be pretty sweet if they went through all this and ended up with the third pick in a two-player draft. I’d get a chuckle out of it, at least.

What’s even funnier is the Kings didn’t meant this. The Senators did, but the Kings definitely didn’t. They thought tye could build off their playoff berth last year. That’s why they signed Ilya Kovalchuk, who at 35 can only shoot and complain. I’ll give you one guess which one he’s done a ton more of this season. Anze Kopitar couldn’t ride the percentage wave any longer, and has returned to merely being a good player and a cautionary tale for Jonathan Toews. Jeff Carter combs his hair a lot. Drew Doughty has his mind on his money and his money on his mind and that’s it. Jonathan Quick is going to make sure that everyone realized he was never really that good by being terrible for the rest of his career. It’s so much fun!

Worse for the Kings is there’s not a lot here or coming that they can get excited about, except whatever they get in the draft. Carl Grundstrom might be a decent middle-sixer, as well as sounding like an itchy patch somewhere sensitive and funny. That’s about it. Alex Iafallo is probably a guy. Put it this way, when Trevor Lewis and Kyle Clifford are on your second line you are an affront to nature. Welcome to Kings hockey.

For the Hawks, with both the Coyotes and Avalanche getting points last night, as well as the Wild, they were basically putting more knives in the corpse of the Hawks. Like that scene in Escape From LA when Snake finds the first agent they sent it. But I guess the Hawks have to convince themselves if they run the table maybe possibly something could happen, so until you’re officially out you might as well go for it. Which should mean no lineup changes or alterations other than the defensive rotation and hopefully not having to bench Brendan Perlini again. But you never know with this outfit.

The last time the Hawks were in LA they might have put in their most uncaring, simply embarrassing effort of the season.They were supposedly back in it, needed a buzzer beater to get past the Ducks, and then simply looked like me going through Bumble at Staples Center. Hopeless, aimless, pointless. They could have done the same in San Jose on Thursday after losing their last chance, but they didn’t. So it would be really weird for them to lay an egg against one of the few teams they should probably be easily getting by. But again, you never know with this outfit.

Folks, I won’t lie to you. If you think there’s something amiss in your life if your Saturday night is centered around Hawks-Kings, I can’t convince you otherwise. It doesn’t mean disaster, but you might want to do a quick once-over about what’s going on with you. They have to be there. We probably do, too. You don’t.

 

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Jesse Cohen runs the “All The Kings Men” podcast, and you can follow him @KingsMenPodcast.

Much like the Hawks, how do the Kings rebuild with this much bad money around? They can’t buy out everyone, and they can’t trade most of it either. 

I’m not sure there’s much the Kings can do but hope the contracts aren’t as bad as they seem. I don’t think there’s going to be a ton of interest in most of the players deemed to have “bad” contracts. Dustin Brown was considered one of the worst contracts for a few seasons but rebounded nicely.
Let’s say they have….   9 “bad” contracts? (oh god it hurt to write that): Kopitar, Brown, Kovalchuk, Carter, Toffoli, Doughty, Martinez, Phaneuf, Quick
I could see a scenario where they buy out one (Phaneuf), trade 1 or 2 (Quick/Kovalchuk), get moderate on ice value for three (Kopitar/Doughty/Brown…   don’t fight me on this one), get reasonable on ice value for 2 (Toffoli/Martinez).
BUT it’s a lot of “ifs”

Is there anyone under 30 on this roster worth caring about?

Under 30? Like presently in a Kings uniform? I think Carl Grundstrom has some interesting potential as a second liner? There are some decent role players but anybody like an Elias Petterson? No.

Are we far away from Jonathan Quick ceding the starter’s role to Jack Campbell or someone else?

The Quick issue comes down to other teams interest. If someone out there is willing to pay what the Kings want my guess is they’ll have no problem turning the net over to Cal Petersen if there aren’t any takers then I think we’re all Ride or Die for Jonathan Quick

Would Jack Hughes solve all the problems here?

Jack Hughes MIGHT solve ONE problem. Whoever they draft in the first round is for the future not the present.  Whether or not that would go any distance towards solving other problems… well… I kinda doubt it but I’m a pessimist.
*Smash cut to Jack Hughes lifting the Stanley Cup in LA next year as I am proven an idiot once more.*

 

 

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at

RECORDS: Hawks 27-28-9   Kings 23-33-8

PUCK DROP: 3:00PM CST
TV/RADIO: NBC Sports Chicago, NHL Network, WGN-AM 720
PLEASE NO MORE CALIFORNIA SONGS: JFTC

How the mighty have fallen. It’s a cliche, but given the matchup between these two former titans, it’s applicable. And while the Hawks are threatening to make a useless playoff appearance this year as the Kings did the previous season, the opponent they find for themselves today has no such delusions of grandeur.

At the start of today’s games, the Kings find themselves with the second worst point total in the league, and dead last in the Western Conference, with only the fetid corpse of the Ottawa Senators providing the buffer between them and the dirt. The problems for this team has remained constant even coming from the salad days, where their team offense is 30th in the league, but only this time there hasn’t been any defense and goaltending to bail them out. Age and workload and everything else has caught up with Jonathan Quick, whose .891 overall save percentage (.905 at evens) wouldn’t even be good enough on a team that boasted some high octane offense on occasion, and he need look no further than the squad in white today as proof of that. Quick is now 33, and his contract will take him until he’s 37, so if this is the rate of decline that Rob Blake and the Kings are going to have to live with, it’s not going to get any better anytime soon. But rest assured, despite Rob Blake not being able to make a solid transaction to save his life, much like he couldn’t ably perform any of his other post playing career duties, he’ll somehow manage to get promoted to executive VP or some shit, because that’s just what happens to Rob Blake.

In front of Quick the Kings’ blue line is still anchored by accused rapist Drew Doughty,  whose play has also completely fallen off the table. While he’s still taking assignments in any and every situation as a true #1, he has not been able to flip the ice this season as in years past, and only has one goal all year for his troubles. The latter is a bit of bad luck, and now with longtime partner Jake Muzzin gone he’s dragging around Derek Forbort, but if this is the new standard with his new contract kicking in at $11 mildo per NEXT year for the maximum 8 year term, the Kings are going to have to hope he rebounds at 30, and again, ask the guy wearing the XXXXXXL #7 sweater on the other bench how well that works out. With this season lost, the Kings are not at least trying to get a look at whatever they’ve got in their barren prospect cupboard, particularly with Alec Martinez hurt, so people named Kurtis MacDermid, Sean Walker, and Matt Roy are rounding out the bottom two pairings along with the overrated corpse of Dion Phaneuf.

Up front, Anze Kopitar hasn’t been able to repeat his career year which saw him gain a Hart Trophy finalist nod primarily because no one else on the Kings was scoring last year. Well now Kopitar has backslid to what his usual numbers had been, but no one else on the Kings has picked up any of the slack. Yes, it’s completely shocking that a 36 year old Ilya Kovalchuk has been a giant floaty turd on a team going nowhere, and he also has four more years left on his deal. No one on the Kings has more than 20 goals, which is probably most shocking from Jeff Carter, but again, the miles have more than likely caught up with him. Kyle Clifford and Trevor Lewis are still here, and it’d be easy to point and laugh about being permanently attached to 4th liners, but Marcus Kruger is still getting paid fairly nicely on the other side.

As for the Men of Four Feathers, this is an absolute must-have game in regulation if they’re going to continue to delude themselves and everyone else that they’re still vying for a playoff spot. The Nuclear Option of Saad, Toews, and Garbage Dick returns with The Drake now concussed, making the Hawks’ forward group even more top heavy. But again, if they’re going to do this, it’s not going to be because John Hayden and Wide Dick Artie are going to start dominating from the third line. And given that there’s no fathomable combination of defensive pairings that are going to slow anyone down, even this Nerf gun Kings offense, there’s no reason not to lean on the proven weapons they’ve got. Any run is also going to require solid goaltending from the likely still dizzy Corey Crawford, who in all likelihood will go tomorrow night in Silicon Valley, leaving Cam Ward to hopefully not shit his pants this afternoon. It’s a big ask, but he provides veteran leadership and and big game experience so hopefully he’s up for it.

When these two played at the UC back in November the Hawks were just getting acclimated to Coach Rod Belding and the game was an unwatchable slog. According to Stan Bowman, the team is still learning his system, which apparently must be like learning Sanskrit given the on ice results in the defensive zone. While the Hawks have at least become some form of black comedic fun since then, the vultures have continued to pick at the Kings, but afternoon hockey is the great equalizer and almost always results in shitty play and shitty ice conditions, so expect the same this afternoon. Regardless of that, if this team wants to convince itself it should be playing past game 82, beating the worst team in the West is nothing short of mandatory. Let’s go Hawks.

 

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It will be impossible, and it should be. to unlink the careers of Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews. Kopitar came into the league one year earlier, and is one year older, but both were among the best two-way centers in the game. Both anchored two of the pillar teams in the NHL for the decade, and of course there were the two playoff series between the two for Western Conference dominance. Both have similar type games, not exactly excelling in one area but showing just below excellence in pretty much every facet. If either were excellent at anything, it was in their own end and their control of play, setting the stage for perhaps more talented teammates to do their thing.

Both had dips in their careers at the same point. Both signed huge contracts that now their fanbases bemoan and outsiders mock. And both are probably now being improperly viewed by their own teams.

Last year, at this exact point in fact (the Hawks visited the Staples Center in Game #65 last year as well), we showed the differences between Toews and Kopitar at that point. Kopitar was having a bounce-back year, which would end with his first Selke Trophy, and Toews was in the midst of something of a nightmare that had some questioning his place within the team’s future. We concluded that really, there wasn’t much difference between the two and that Kopitar was seeing the opposite side of that fickle coin known as “luck,” while Toews was still getting an unwanted view of its less generous side.

Now, the tables have turned, and they haven’t. Toews and Kopitar continue to dovetail with each other, but both have flipped their perspective on that uncaring and yet vital coin.

Toews, in some ways, is having a career renaissance. Kopitar is in the middle of a perfectly functional season, with 47 points in 63 games, playing amongst true trash. Both have seen a decline in their defensive game, though that could probably be pinned partially on the ineptitude of those around them. That’s a stiff argument to construct though, as both are right around their team-rates for any metric you want to use. This after careers soaring above those rates. No man escapes time.

The difference this year, as it was last year, is one of them is just getting more pucks to go in than the other. Except this time it’s the one in red and not the one in black benefitting. It was Kopitar last year who saw his shooting-percentage rise to 17.5%, while Toews was hearing the NBA Jam guy screaming, “CAN’T BUY A BUCKET!” all season at 9.5%. This year Toews is at 16.6%, while Kopitar has sunk back to a certainly acceptable 14.8%.

Like Kopitar last year, Toews has seen a surge in power play points to cover some of his now not-dominant even-strength work, with 31 points already. Kopitar had 42 PP points last year, with just 13 this year. Toews had 12 last year. They can’t get away from each other.

But more to the point, Kopitar’s totals and rates are probably what a team could expect from him and Toews more than Toews’s production this year. Toews is unlikely to rack up this shooting-percentage again, as the chances and attempts he’s getting don’t really stand out from the previous years. And the power play is unlikely to sizzle like this again, or at least for this long.

And what that is is solid #2 center production. To expect Toews or Kopitar to keep providing #1 production into their 30s is not quite pie-in-the-sky stuff, but it’s not far either. Only one center seems to be managing that and that’s Sidney Crosby, who is made of something else. The Hawks seem to be trying to make up for that with a cheaper option in Dylan Strome. The Kings very well may have Jack Hughes to take that responsibility. But both should recognize what they have, not what they wish to have.

The problem for the Hawks is that Strome will only be cheap for one more season, and is still a longshot to be much more than a high-end #2 if everything works out. The Kings might lose out in the lottery, and then what? With the way the league is shaping up going forward, teams will need a center capable of 85-90 points or more. Toews and Kopitar have spiked that recently, but you wouldn’t bet on them doing so again. So how do you find that when those two are taking that kind of money down? Whichever answers first are probably better set up to get back to where they once belonged.

 

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When it comes to fanbases you identify as whiners or complainers, you usually think of Toronto and their self-flagellation. Or it used to be Detroit and how no one worshipped them to the degree they thought was reasonable (something around Egyptian king/Commodus level). Or Montreal and their need for past and meaningless glories to still be revered today.

You don’t think of Los Angeles, which only makes them bitch and moan more. You’re better off not paying attention.

A couple years ago, Kings fan kept wailing so loudly and so consistently that no one gave Drew Doughty a fair shake that voters gave him Erik Karlsson’s Norris just to get them to shut up. Last year, Kings fans used Anze Kopitar’s 92 points as a reason to announce that he should be given the award for best defensive forward, one that he hadn’t really deserved to be credited for in three or four years. Past injustices were brought up of course as an excuse to mewl even louder, and again Kopitar was given the award to get the reward of silence.

Kings fans main complaint is that no one stays up late enough to watch their games. Which ignores the fact that no one is going to stay up to watch games that are boring as shit, which the Kings have been for at least five seasons. People stay up to watch the Sharks, you’ll notice. Kings fans have tried to tell everyone that they’re actually big and rugged and that you should appreciate that they are the only ones playing hockey the “old way.” That’s a cover for being slow and dumb and bad, a main reason they suck, and also a ruse to keep you from realizing their games would constitute a war crime.

Sadly, their two Cups (that are getting pretty distant in the mirror now) gave Kings fans a platform, when before even they knew that no one should care about them. Thankfully, due to their incompetent management, bad contracts, and inflexible roster, they’ll be heading back to the black hole of obscurity before too long. Assuming they don’t get the #1 pick. If they do, they’ll start the whining about how Hughes isn’t getting Calder consideration thanks to being on the West Coast the day after the draft.

 

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 vs. 

RECORDS: Kings 5-11-1   Hawks 7-8-4

PUCK DROP: 7:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago

NO MORE CALIFORNIA SONGS: Jewels From The Crown

It’s ok if you mourn the end of the Hawks Era. It can be a tough watch at times, especially when the memories of what a fine, oiled machine it was still so fresh. No team ever exits the spotlight gracefully, or at least it’s pretty damn rare. The fall is always painful. Especially in the callous world of the salary capped NHL, the tumble comes quick and the tide always wins. Maybe it was an impossible task set ahead of the Hawks, even without the mistakes they’ve made.

Then again, they could be the Kings.

It’s an interesting record. Since the Hawks last Cup win, they have three playoff wins. The Kings have one in the four seasons since their last win. They’ve missed the playoffs twice. And whereas the Hawks have tried to dance around their rebuild or collapse, the Kings have fallen face-first into theirs this year. Those days of Kobe and Kershaw wearing Kings’ jerseys are over, because this is a mess only identifiable by dental records. And given that it’s a hockey team, even that’s dicey.

They may provide a lesson in what happens when you cling too tightly to things that have past. The Kings for too long still tried to be a roving horde of barbarians that they thought won them two Cups, and watched as their team got slower and dumber while the league got faster and more skilled. Seriously, this outfit traded for Milan Lucic once. Firing the GM and coach is nice and all, but not if you’re not going to try anything new.

They also bought into fortune-stained results as reality far too much. Last year’s playoff berth was simply due to a magnificent Jonathan Quick season, which is not the norm or anything you should count on, and Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown shooting the lights out. No matter how much their fans bitched and whines that Kopitar should have been the MVP simply because no one stays up late enough to watch their dog-assed team, he was never likely to replicate that. And if he didn’t, he wasn’t taking Brown with him either. That’s what’s happened.

Jeff Carter is 33 now and looking it. Ilya Kovalchuk‘s style of impersonating waiting for a bus until a pass comes was never going to improve the team much, and it hasn’t. Beyond whatever this top-six is, and that’s clearly still very much a mystery, there’s simply nothing on the bottom-six. It’s more of the Kyle CliffordTrevor Lewis Axis Of Yuck that it’s seemingly been forever.

The real treat is at the back of course, where Drew Doughty got his money and seemingly doesn’t care anymore. He’s playing with something called Derek Forbort, not that it matters. Alec Martinez and Jake Muzzin are starting to look like the remnants of that Big Mac you left on the coffee table at 3am last night and discovered this morning while guzzling gatorade. Dion Phaneuf is even more of a monolith than he was, which shouldn’t be possible but hey, L.A. is the land of fantasy and dreams!

Quick isn’t around to bail this out, which he’s only capable of once every four or five years. He’s out for a while. So is his backup Jack Campbell, which means they’ve brought Statler and Waldorf in to play goalie.

Robb Lake the GM seemingly has recognized all he’s built here is kindling (too soon?), and the sell-off might already be under way. This week he sent Tanner Pearson to Pittsburgh for Carl Hagelin, with Hagelin a free agent after the season. Whatever isn’t battened down should probably be sold at auction, so Muzzin, Martinez, Forbort, and Toffoli could and should be on notice. They’re the only ones whose contracts aren’t an atrocity.

For the Hawks, Marcus Kruger returns to the lineup after Brandon Davidson was informed that he’s hurt, replacing Dream Warrior on IR. SuckBag Johnson will sit. Alex Fortin remains out in favor of John Hayden. Sure. Corey Crawford will attempt to ride the momentum of Wednesday’s shutout, and against this decidedly broken squirt-gun of an offense you’d think that wouldn’t be too hard.

I don’t want to put too much on the Hawks, but there’s really no excuse to not get a regulation win tonight. The Kings are already getting the white flag out of the closet if not waving it already. They’re on their third-string goalie, maybe fourth. They’re slow and dumb, and the Hawks have done all right with the rare slow and dumb opponent you see in the NHL these days. As long as you don’t do anything too stupid, the Kings can’t really find a way to score enough to beat you. Don’t make this any harder than it has to be.

 

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Everything Else

Let us take you back to the spring of 2014. It’s not a happy trip for those of us around here, but it’s necessary. The Kings and Blackhawks played perhaps the best playoff series since The Great ’05 Lockout. The Kings come out on top by a pubic hair. They go on to destroy the Rangers for their second Cup in three years.

You might think they would have taken a close look at how they did that. You might think they’d want to keep replicating what they actually did on the ice, not what they did in between their own ears. You’d be wrong. The Kings beat the Hawks that spring by playing the Hawks’ game better than the Hawks. They were fast. They were dynamic. They scored a ton. They simply overpowered the Hawks on most nights of that series. Corey Crawford was helpless (so was Jonathan Quick, to be fair) to do anything about it. You may not see a series of that raw power again…until the Jets-Sharks West Final this spring, obvi.

We can demonstrate it better. They averaged 2.78 xGF/60 in that playoff run of ’14. That was a boost from 2.37 from the regular season. They averaged more attempts and shots, as well. Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Marian Gaborik, et all were skating everywhere.

They haven’t been above that 2.37 mark in the four seasons since. First Darryl Sutter, and then John Stevens returned the Kings to their plodding, simplistic ways that their players hated. And in a league that gets faster and faster, the Kings are getting left behind.

Check out some of the acquisitions since that Cup win, both from Dean Lombardi and Rob Blake (or Robb Lake, if you prefer): Milan Lucic, Vinny Lecavalier, Kris Versteeg, Luke Schenn, bringing back Rob Scuderi, Dion Phaneuf, Nic Dowd, Jarome Iginla, Devin Setoguchi, and an aging Ilya Kovalchuk. What about any of these names suggest faster and skilled? Or even smarter? The Kings seem to be playing a game that’s from 2002.

Moreover, since the 2011 draft, here are the NHLers the Kings have produced: Andy Andreoff, Nick Shore, Colin Miller, Tanner Pearson, Paul LaDue, Adrian Kempe, and that’s it. Say what you want about where the Hawks are now, but they’ve produced actual prospects. They’ve traded most of them, but at least they exist.

The Kings mistake was falling in love with the idea of what people thought the Kings were. They won the ’12 Cup on the back of Jonathan Quick with a heavy roster. It also didn’t hurt that the entire Western Conference that year took a step back. The Hawks were still reloading, the Sharks fell off their peak, the Canucks were a paper tiger beating up on a horrid division, and the Wings were done. It was ripe for the Kings to run through, which they did.

They fell in love with this image of an atom-smashing, meat-off-the-bone, thundering herd of a team that hockey media was only too happy to play up. But they were only that once. 2013 saw them get rolled by the Hawks in the Conference Final, and realize they couldn’t be viking warriors if they were going to win. They set out to be the Hawks. And they did it. And then for some reason, forgot all about it.

And now they’re on the precipice of a great fall. Not only is their window shut, there isn’t a path to open a new one. Kyle Clague won’t by himself. By the time they can summon another good team, Kopitar and Doughty will be well into their 30s. Carter already is. How do you extricate yourself from this? Being so bad that Kopitar and Doughty ask out? Who wants those contracts? The Kings dinner for the next 10 years is going to be a lot of salary for players moved elsewhere.

But banners hang forever. It’s a trade most fanbases would make. Perhaps all. The crash doesn’t have to be so hard, though.

 

 

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