Everything Else

You’re getting a twofer today, as we look to get back on schedule. There’ll be another one somewhere this week. Am I gonna tell you when? Sure won’t!

Ah yes, the other fallen dynasty. The team that made missing the playoffs after being a Cup contender the year before a trendy thing to do. Those Los Angeleans, always setting the trends. The Kings returned to the playoffs last year, except no one knows why. They didn’t want to be there, played like they didn’t want to be there, and were home before anyone noticed anything was amiss by them being there. They got a revival season out of both Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar, which are the only reasons they did anything anyone might notice. And they’ll probably need both to do so again if they’re not going to drown in anonymity behind LeBron and of course, Jimmy Butler (in his own mind).

Let’s take a look at the silver and black, because we honestly might not talk about them ever again.

2017-2018: 45-29-8 98 points  239 GF 209 GA  50.0 CF% 48.0 xGF%  7.8 SH% .930 SV%

Goalies: See that last mark up there? That was fourth-best in the league, and the major reason the Kings were able to come in from the cold, come down from the wire and make the playoffs. Quick had his best season in five last year, with a .921 SV% overall and a .926 at evens. He was certainly helped by a nuclear October where he went for a .942, but he backed that up in February and March with a .928 and .926.

The problem for the Kings is that all of his marks last year were above his career norms, which despite what crusty old white guys tell you have always been just about average. Quick won the Kings the Cup in ’12, this much is so. He was along for the ride in ’14. And he’s been along for the ride most of his career. In a season where he’ll turn 33, it’s probably ok to expect him to return to his career norms, which are just about league-average. And that won’t get it done for this squad.

Looking to back him up is Jack Campbell. You may remember him from such films as “Once Was A US World Junior Goalie” or “Was Gonna Save The Stars Five Years Ago.” It never happened for Campbell, and this could be his first dip into full-time NHL waters. The Kings don’t really have much of a net if Quick either gets hurt or is just some guy. Some guy named Quick.

Defense: After the Leafs threw all the money at John Tavares, there really wasn’t much of anywhere Drew Doughty could threaten to go if the Kings didn’t sign him. So they signed him until he finally goes to prison hopefully, for $11 million a year. Doughty is just about still one of the league’s premier puck-movers, and had his best year points-wise and possession-wise last year. He’s going to have to do it again. Because the rest of this blue line is covered in ants.

Jake Muzzin has always been a product of whatever Doughty could do, which somehow got him a Team Canada spot once upon a time. Alec Martinez is losing his fastball, and spent most of last season getting his head caved in. I don’t know what an Oscar Fantenberg is, but I do know that I don’t have to know what an Oscar Fantenberg is. Do we really need to go over Dion Phaneuf again? If you insist…he’s awful and terrible and slow and bad and stupid and ugly and expensive and slow and bad and did I say stupid already? Yeah, sucks. This team needs to put Kale Clague and his dumb name on the second pairing yesterday, but won’t because the Kings are SO TOUGH AND GRINDY AND YOU EARN IT HERE LOOK AT HOW BIG WE ARE WE EAT STAPLERS HARF HARF HARF.

Forwards: As you probably can guess, I cannot wait for this Ilya Kovalchuk hail mary to go balls-up by January 1st. He’s 35, hasn’t played in this league in years which in the meantime got a whole lot faster and I’m fairly sure he’s here to soak up the sun and cash a check. This is the hockey version of Michael Anthony. Oh sure, he’ll probably still score 30 goals, maybe even more, maybe even a lot more. A majority of them will come when the Kings are already trailing 3-0 late in the 3rd. It’s gonna be fucking special.

Anyway, Kopitar still rips. Jeff Carter does too, when he’s healthy, Which he never is and now he’s gonna turn 34 during the season. They probably expect Dustin Brown to shoot the lights out again. Dustin Brown will return to putting his left skate on his right foot this season. Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli are still here to do whatever it is they do.

The bottom six however…woof. This would lose your entire security deposit. And I think they’re all named Alex. Kyle Clifford? Nate Thompson? Trevor Lewis? Aren’t these all the same guy? Does it matter? I’m sure it does not.

Outlook: There was a brief time, at the beginning of last season, when John Stevens looked to bring the Kings out of the deep, dark cave they had lived in under Darryl Sutter and actually try and play some hockey that wouldn’t be considered narcolepsy. Then he quickly realized they couldn’t do it as well as about half the teams in the league, and they went back to dungeon hockey and hoping Quick could save enough shots and Kopitar could make enough along with Doughty to squeak them by. It worked once. It’s unlikely too again, and this team is not built to deal with a league getting faster and younger.

Most likely Quick has a small regression, Kopitar does too, and there just isn’t enough scoring to eke out the 3-2 wins they used to specialize in. This blue line spends most nights getting tire tracks implanted on it by the likes of Vegas, San Jose, and even Calgary and Edmonton could do a number on them. And given the age of the roster, it could be a long trip into the abyss for them.

Can’t. Wait.

 

Previous Team Previews

Detroit Red Wings

Buffalo Sabres

Boston Bruins

Florida Panthers

Montreal Canadiens

Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Lightning

Toronto Maple Leafs

Carolina Hurricanes

Columbus Blue Jackets

New Jersey Devils

New York Islanders

New York Rangers

Philadelphia Flyers

Pittsburgh Penguins

Washington Capitals

Anaheim Ducks

Arizona Coyotes

Calgary Flames

Edmonton Oilers

Everything Else

It used to be tradition that playoff exits were complimented by eulogies on Puck Daddy. But with Wysh off in the Connecticut hinterlands and those who remain at Yahoo! being a bunch of Canadian giblets who take things far too seriously (and Lambert being angry and definitely not a Bruins fan), we don’t need them to do what we do best. So fuck it. We’ll eulogize all 15 teams that will eventually fall. And we take unique pleasure in getting to do the Kings first. 

Leave it to the Kings to play quite simply the most unwatchable series since the Lockout of  ’04-’05. There are snuff films that have been lighter fare than their four-game outhouse-cleaning loss to the Knights. If they’d offered this as a prop bet it would have been easy money. While they locked Darryl Sutter out of the dressing room multiple times and eventually kicked his muppet-gone-wrong face out because he made them play a style that would have broken Noriega, when the chips were down John Stevens went back to the only thing the Kings know. Dump, crash, rumble, back up, repeat. Except it didn’t work, and the Kings three goals in the whole series pretty much attest to that. But what three goals they were!

What’s infuriating about the Kings is you can find no better example of a team not learning a lesson from its own methods. Better than the Oilers or Flames or even Hawks. While the Kings were able to belch/fart/ralph their way to a Cup in ’12 thanks to a sweetheart draw and Quick’s .946, they won again in 2014 by beating the Hawks at their own game. They were fast. They were creative. They were lethal. They had Kopitar, Gaborik, Carter, Toffoli, Pearson, Williams shotgunning all over the place. Doughty, Muzzin, Martinez, Voynov (blech) were pushing the play from the back to a ridiculous pace. Nothing has ever come close to the sheer madness and coke-binge hockey (maybe literally) that was the ’14 West Final. The Kings got it, and did it better than anyone to win their second in three years.

And then they went back to their covered-in-dung ways, while the rest of the league went about trying to replicate what they had just done. Such brilliant moves as trading for Milan Lucic and/or Dion Phaneuf or Vincent Lecavalier or bringing back Rob Scuderi. It was like Homer telling the car designers “I need an immobile asshole here, here, and here!” The result has been one playoff win since. One.

The Kings are basically the obnoxious frat boy who did well in college with dumb sorority girls who didn’t know better (or were forced not to because all frat boys are rapists, SCIENCE FACT), but then met a wonderful girl right after and suddenly became a really good guy…until dumping her after reading Barfstool or a few months because she didn’t shotgun beers or something. And now they’re just the old guy at the same bar, not realizing it’s all over.

In the end, this is what Kings fans want, because it’ll give them more time to bitch about the individual awards their players won’t win. Not only do Kings fans feel aggrieved that Kopitar or Doughty won’t be taking home hardware, they’ll accuse everyone of lacking moral fiber who doesn’t think they should. I guess we shouldn’t expect anything else from a city that blows itself as hard as LA does about the industry they created and only they really care about. DiCaprio didn’t campaign as hard for “The Revenant” as these dinguses. Last week every writer east of the Mississippi received a tote bag marked “from TheRoyalHalf on behalf of Anze.” Next year everyone get ready for a “Trevor Lewis Should Win The Selke And If You Don’t Vote For Him You Killed Jesus” campaign.

The Hawks window may be over, but it didn’t slam nearly as hard as the Kings did. And no one in LA is going to miss them, because next year the Lakers might win 30 games. Also, Drew Doughty eats the homeless from Skid Row.

Everything Else

 vs. 

SCHEDULE: Game 1 Wednesday, Game 2 Friday, Game 3 Sunday, Game 4 April 17th

Amazingly, the Kings and their fans are going to take a break from complaining/campaigning for their players to win awards they don’t deserve to play a playoff series. But as we all know, what really counts is what individual awards your team garners. Anyway, the Kings might have drawn the sweetheart spot here and play a fading Vegas team that still was able to hang onto the division because the rest of the Pacific blows goats. Anyway, this could be a long series, but it won’t be all that much fun to watch.

Goalies: There will be a ton of talk about Jonathan Quick’s playoff pedigree, and it will ignore the fact that Quick has as many crap playoff campaigns as excellent ones. He was terrible in 2014 but his team was so high-octane it didn’t matter. And he wasn’t any better when the Kings got trounced in 2016 by the Sharks. Quick closed the season pretty roughly in three April appearances but that shouldn’t nullify how good he was in March. This was his best regular season since that 2012 triumph, so one should expect something closer to the dominant Quick in the playoffs than the one who couldn’t stop a sloth in the sand.

There may be a lot of talk of Marc-Andre Fleury’s playoff foibles, but that was a long time ago. Fleury has been at least good and sometimes excellent in his last three playoff runs, and was possibly the biggest reason the Pens got a second Cup last year when Matt Murray was hurt. And that Penguins team was not defensively sound. Again, he’s much more likely to be average or better than he is to have a full body burf that he did in 2012.

Defense: Well, they’ll try and tell you that Drew Doughty deserves another Norris, and he’s been good as he usually is. But he’s not Norris-worthy, and the Kings probably need him to be because the rest of this crew sucks. Dion Phaneuf is terrible, has pretty much always been terrible, and with how quick the Knights are you’re going to see how terrible. Alec Martinez is fine, I guess. Christian Folin is not. When you need Jake Muzzin, you’re in a place you need to get out of. Look or the Knights to get behind this team a lot.

I don’t know how the Knights did it, because this blue line should suck. The only one you’d want is Nate Schmidt, and maybe Shea Theodore if you squint. I’m not sure the Kings have the forward depth to attack this weakness, and if Jeff Carter is feeling frisky the Knights are going to have some problems. There should be chances and both goalies are going to have to be on their toes to keep there from being a lot of goals.

Forwards: The Kings are top heavy, with most of the heavy lifting being done by Anze Kopitar, who somehow also re-exhumed Dustin Brown. Toffoli and Carter on the second line have dovetailed into a playoff boomstick before, and that’s the Kings hope. If Adrian Kempe pops off that could tilt this. But there isn’t much on the bottom six.

Again, we don’t know much about what the Knights here, because we haven’t seen their top six forwards as top six forwards in the playoffs. Wild Bill Karlsson isn’t going to shoot 25% this series, you wouldn’t think. Can Marchessault and Smith get goals when it’s hardest? We know Haula does when he plays the Hawks. But they’ve gotten this are, and if they can replicate their “get it the fuck up there quick!” style from the regular season a plodding Kings blue line is going to struggle. If they convert those chances, this fluke might go a little farther.

Prediction: I don’t think too many people want to see either of these teams in the second round, but one’s going. The Kings hardly inspire, but the Knights won eight games in regulation since Feb. 23rd. Four of those were over Vancouver, Calgary, and Detroit. That’s not exactly roaring into the playoffs (and an indictment on the division that no one could run them down). I feel like the Kings are just going to attrition this. And it’ll take a while. Kings in 7. 

Everything Else

In the next seven days or so, the biggest drama in the NHL will almost certainly be where, and if, Erik Karlsson is going to be traded. If the Sens were sensible, and they’re not, they’d move him before the deadline. His peak value is now, as any team that acquires him will get two playoff runs with him instead of one, should he be moved at the draft. They’d also obviously have first shot at signing him to a long-term deal, a deal that will certainly crack the foundations of any team.

The question should be is if the Kings are in the same spot with Drew Doughty.

The differences between the Kings and Senators aren’t as big as you think. The Kings are still scrapping for a playoff spot from the Pacific, two points out of both the third spot in the division and the last wild card. The Senators are at the beginning of a rebuild, and have to figure out who they’re going to build the future around whether Karlsson is there or not. But are the Kings so ar away from that?

They may think that if they can sneak into the bottom seeds, maybe catch the Knights or something in the 1st round, Quick gets hot again as he was at the beginning of the  year, they could make some noise. But there’s a lot of ifs there, even if Jeff Carter coming back is a huge boost.

Beyond this season though, there are issues. Doughty is going to command $10 million a year, you’d have to think, or close to it, when he hits the market in 2019. The Kings are already committed to paying Carter and Dustin Brown $11 million combined until 2022, unless of course a lockout and compliance buyouts save them in Brown’s case. They’re paying Kopitar $10 million until the wheel in the sky stops turning. Adrian Kempe, Alex Iafallo, and Michael Amadio are going to get raises after this season, though probably modest ones. They’ve just taken on Dion Phaneuf’s $5.2 million hit for…reasons. Basically, they’re not fitting in another $9-$10 million player in Doughty.

The other question is how much more are the Kings going to get out of this group? They’ve gotten a renaissance year out of Kopitar, and he’s 30. Carter is 33. Martinez is 30. Quick is 32. If they figure they’re going to be toast when Doughty goes UFA anyway, they might want to at least inquire if they could find their next #1 d-man or center in exchange for him.

That’s if you don’t think this Kings ship has already sailed. Since their 2014 championship they’ve missed the playoffs twice and gotten clocked in the first round by the Sharks in 2016. They look headed for either of those results again. That might be it, so what would you be holding onto?

It would take some real stones for any GM to basically wave the white flag on this season and cash in on Doughty, even more so a first-year GM in Rob Blake. Doughty is basically carrying the team again from the back, with by far the best relative Corsi and expected goals of any d-man. His 41 points are second on the team to Kopitar’s. Again, the easiest path is a hit and hope in this spring, and the one almost every hockey team chooses.

But with Phaneuf’s contract it’s hard to see where the Kings could add this summer to take one last swing with Doughty in town. Stranger things have happened, but perhaps the Kings should have one eye on tomorrow instead of both on what might be today.

 

Game #60 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

We found @atf13atf digging through our trash one day. Not for food, just because it was his thing. Turned out he was a Kings fan. As all the other Kings fans wouldn’t piss on us if we were on fire, he’ll have to do. 

Dion Phaneuf?

Last week’s blockbuster trade with Calgary for Dion Phaneuf boosts an already strong defense featuring Drew Doughty, Matt Greene, and Rob Scuderi. Just over a year removed from being the Norris Trophy runner-up, Phaneuf turns the Kings from a team just sneaking into the playoffs into a legitimate threat. In fact, all of the Kings’ acquisitions this year have been home runs. Coming into the Olympic break, both Mike Cammalleri and Jussi Jokinen have 26 goals in 60 games. Even Phaneuf has scored 10 himself. It seems unlikely that the Kings would pass San Jose or Phoenix, but if they come in hot as a lower seed, they could be an early roadblock to the Blackhawks’ effort to return to the Western Conference Final.

What do you mean the Kings traded Cammalleri FOR Jokinen? And then lost Jokinen on waivers? They got Phaneuf from Ottawa and he sucks now? No Olympic break this year? The Blackhawks are 11 points out and there’s a team in Vegas? Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in 2010 anymore.

 The Kings have gone 6-11-0 since the turn of the year. What went off the boil?

Start 9-2. Follow by going 1-7. Win six in a row, then get swept out of the New York Metropolitan Area. Lose six in a row to start the new year, bookend the All-Star Break with a pair of Jonathan Quick dodgeball tryouts. Pass Go and collect free wins against Glendale and Edmonton, lose narrowly to Stanley Cup contenders in Tampa and Pittsburgh, while giving up a touchdown to Carolina in between. Add a few wins against Atlantic Division bottom-feeders, and some losses to Pacific rivals here and there, and you have the entire Kings season. It’s been a trip.

 

Are the Kings in the same spot with Drew Doughty that the Senators are with Karlsson? IF he won’t sign they have to move him, right?

As of right now, the Kings seem fully ready to park the Brinks truck in Doughty’s driveway, and he seems fully ready to sign for the delivery. If he ever left Los Angeles, he would probably need to find a new lawyer or three, among other things.

 

Things kind of went south on Alex Iafallo, didn’t they?

He started off the year looking fast, but shooting a hair over one percent. He finally broke through for a second goal around the start of December, before racking up minuses and eventually taking a few healthy scratches around the new year. In the past month, Iafallo is back to playing 15 minutes a night and has scored four goals with three assists.

 

What’s been the key to Kopitar’s bounce-back season? Hawks fans would be particularly interested in the answer…

Last season, Anze Kopitar started slow coming off a busy September with an Olympic qualifier for Slovenia and playing for Team Europe in the World Cup Of Hockey. On November 11, with only eight points in 15 games, Kopitar injured his hand in a game against Ottawa and kept quiet about it. A few months ago, Kings president Luc Robitaille described the effects of the injury on Kopitar: “He couldn’t shoot for three months. That hurt his numbers. The goals weren’t there because he couldn’t shoot.” The numbers back it up: four goals from the injury through February, and six goals in 19 games to close out the year.

 

Blackhawks fans better hope it’s that simple.

 

Where do the Kings go from here? If they miss the playoffs then it’s Blowup City, right?

At the risk of hoping the team doesn’t put too much stock into a four-game sample before the deadline (at Chicago and Winnipeg, home against Dallas and Edmonton), it’s still entirely up in the air. The Kings don’t really have a great stock of pending UFAs to sell, unless someone really wants Darcy Kuemper for some reason, so it would have to be a bigger piece (Muzzin? Martinez?). Of course, their huge acquisition might cost nothing: Jeff Carter, whose last game was the night of the most recent Cubs win, is set to rejoin the team at practice this week once the road trip ends.

 

Game #60 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 vs 

Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
He Could Really Make It If He Just Got His Shit Together: The Royal Half, JFTC

As the Freakout Hell Bus Ride of 5 games in 7 nights comes to a close on West Madison tonight, the Hawks are looking to avoid losing their fourth straight game after having gone 1-1-2 so far, with the resurgent Kings now waiting for them as the capper.

 

Everything Else

Hawk Wrestler vs. King Jerry Lawler

RECORDS: Hawks 14-6-2  Kings 11-9-1

PUCK DROP: 9:30pm Central

TV: WGN

BLACK DEATH: The Royal Half

Projected Lineups

blackhawks-lineup-card

kings-lineup-card

TEAM CORSI: Hawks – 51.0% (11th)  Kings – 53.8% (3rd)

POWER PLAY: Hawks -18.4% (14th)  Kings – 12.7% (26th)

PENALTY KILL: Hawks – Almost listable?  Kings – 81.7% (17th)

Hawks Individual Stats

Kings Individual Stats

TRENDS: Carter has four goals in his last four games… Doughty has four points in the last three

The last Circus Trip comes to a close tonight on Figueroa Avenue, as it usually has. It only feels like the Hawks have been on the road for a month, and I doubt anyone in the organization is going to miss this trip too much. They sit idled at 3-3 so far, so a successful trip hinges on tonight’s result.

Everything Else

20232_king-of-hearts vs evil empire

Game Time: 7:00PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN+, NBCSN, SportsNet, WGN-AM 720
Hollywood Bowl: JFTC, Royal Half

On paper, it’s surprising that what’s become very clear as the vocal majority of Hawks fans aren’t more nakedly jealous of Kings fans. With basically an equal amount of success as the Hawks, Kings fans have been able to enjoy the organization from management to players being unrepentant pieces of since the summer of 2012 (when Drew Doughty was also accused of sexual assault and no one even to this day still seems to give a shit about) without having to mansplain themselves to Social Justice Warriors out to ruin the good times of white men everywhere.

Whether that’s a function of no one giving a fuck about the Kings on a national level even after winning two of the last four cups and leading their division for most of this year, or that Kings fans as a whole merely think it’s funny when it happens to other people without the slightest bit of self-reflection, their loyalty remains largely unquestioned to this point. The option of being able to enjoy their shit SPORTS franchise in uninterrupted complacency without being made to ask larger questions is certainly an option most would take.

Everything Else

evil empire at king

Game Time: 9:30PM Central
TV/Radio: WGN Ch. 9, WGN-AM 720
Fountain and Fairfax: The Royal Half, Jewels From The Crown

Tonight the Hawks will conclude their annual November two-week displacement from the United Center at the hands of Sirs Barnum and Bailey on Figueroa against the Kings, who are taking a novel approach to their regular season by at least cultivating the image that they give a shit about it. But much like their visiting counterparts, they still do not give a shit about women or human decency. 

Everything Else

king vs evil empire

Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, NHL Network, SportsNet Affiliates, WGN-AM 720
Dean’s List: The Royal Half, Jewels From The Crown

The Kings and Blackhawks have one of the modern NHL’s true great rivalries, with the two teams alternating Stanley Cup titles over the last four years. But their competitiveness with one another extends to off the ice issues.

While last year’s Hawks team was clouded by rumors and innuendo of off-ice misdoings, the Kings came right out in the open with it by having both the now departed Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards arrested separately for drug possession. And that’s on top of Slava Voynov being essentially convicted and deported for beating the shit out of his wife. However, in a seemingly unending game of one-upsmanship, the Hawks’ highest profile player made himself the subject of a sexual assault investigation, something the Kings were familiar with three years ago with Drew Doughty. But where the case against Doughty was largely forgotten and evaporated through strongarming the victim, Kane was removed from a video game cover and is still under investigation.

It wasn’t just limited to the players, either. After Dean Lombardi allowed Slava Voynov to skate with the team while suspended because he felt like he needed it, John McDonough basically undid a career of evil public relations genius with a single ass-showing press conference at the haven of progressive sexual politics and scandal-free placidity that is Notre Dame. But these are competitive men who have helmed these teams to near dynastic levels of on ice success, and Dean Lombardi was not going to go quietly into the night. Upon reaching an even more dubious settlement after his evil outright termination of Mike Richards’ contract, Lombardi literally shed tears over how he was duped and how wronged he felt by Mike Richards’ addictive spiral with pain killers, as if the bullshit tough guy culture of the sport didn’t basically strong arm him into using them to keep himself on the ice. Lombardi did not feel wronged or duped by Slava Voynov’s violence towards women however, and still holds’ Voynov’s rights should he ever be allowed in the US again, at the very least preventing him from playing for another team.

Even the fans get into the act as well. Whereas Kings fans initially just spouted typical victim-blaming vomit (serious trigger warning), or in the case of most fan-run outlets just forget in the face of Stanley Cups and Norris finalist campaigns about Drew Doughty’s misdoings, Hawks fans took things to another level. Staging rallies, organizing Twitter hashtags, threatening sports radio anchors to the point of calling out of work, or demanding apologies (that are never, ever, EVER fucking coming), they’ve taken the empty-souled fanboy routine to dizzying new heights.

And now with the first meeting of these two teams happening tonight at the United Center, everyone on both sides is surely breathless with anticipation with what the next step in this rivalry will be.