Hockey

We, of course, don’t think anyone should ever be sentimental toward Drew Doughty. He looks like when Butthead glued his hair to his face to look older, talks like that as well, and might just be a rapist. We have to accept that Kings fans will forever love him, as that’s just how these things go, as he’s the best d-man in team history since…good lord, Rob Blake? Really? That’s it? So basically he’s the best defenseman the team has ever had. Well there you go.

What the NHL’s CBA has never really allowed for is for teams to be able to treat their current legends like that. But teams can’t help themselves. And probably for good cause. No fan wants to see their most important players leave before they retire and play for someone else. It’s weird, and at the base of it, not really why we got into sports in the first place. You’re seeing it in baseball now, where all the efficiency bros have decided they’re not going to pay players like Mookie Betts or maybe Kris Bryant and players like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado can’t seem to find the list of suitors they should. Baseball’s popularity is at best stagnating. It would be hard to reason these two aren’t connected.

The perfectly run NHL team would be callous, because it has to be. There’s a hard cap. It’s not like baseball where you can spend over it if you’re willing to part with some of your ungodly profits. Draftees don’t immediately come through like football, and also you can immediately discard anything that’s not working out like the NFL. Your contracts live to their fruition, for good or bad. It’s almost always bad.

In a vacuum, as soon as your players, no matter how prominent, began to age, you’d move them along for younger models. Or you would just let them walk and use the cap space to find cheaper and younger alternatives. You would never let emotion get into it. But is that even possible?

What would Kings fans feel if Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty were allowed to just walk away? These are the two linchpins of their only two Cup teams. Maybe they would all eventually learn to love the next crop the same way. But it’s impossible to think that something wouldn’t be lost in that sense. Surely something about being a fan of a team is its history, and poignantly its recent history. Can you really just discard that?

But by not discarding that, you’re actively hurt the current team. The minute Drew Doughty signed his eight-year extension that pays him $11M a year, he basically turned into a grossly hairy tomato can that looks like the personification of a Mac’s rainbow wheel. He’s been especially horrific this year. All of Doughty’s metrics  have ballooned the wrong way. He’s behind the team in everything, and looks like a toddler with a Zippo in his own end. Here’s a list of relative numbers to the rest of the team for you so far this year, all per 60 minutes at evens:

Attempts-for: -11.72

Attempts against – +8.55

xGF – -0.57

xGA – -0.57

Shots for – -4.13

Shots against – +6.56

(JUST HOOK IT TO MY VEINS)

Doughty’s individual rates have plummeted as well, as he’s creating next to no offense, struggling to haul his bloated carcass around the ice and into the offensive zone. Only seven more years to go!

Perhaps the Kings are counting on a new CBA in a couple years to save them. Perhaps they thought they would get one after this year and got caught cold by the NHLPA’s decision to not re-open it this year. Or maybe they were just too blinded by what Doughty has meant to the Kings, which they probably couldn’t help.

No matter when the Kings feel they’ll matter again, Doughty’s contract is going to be cement shoes made by Dwarven blacksmiths. And much like Brent Seabrook, he’ll become an object of ire for a section of the fanbase, if not a large swath of it. Some of it will be earned, as Doughty clearly has let his game and condition sink. But most of it will be due to signing a contract he was offered.

The Kings will mostly be to blame. But it’s the players who linger long enough to go from hero to villain.

Everything Else

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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.

 

Game #65 Preview Suite

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We really have to reach into the depths for our Kings Q&A. It’s best if you don’t know. Just know that he’s truly warped. 

Boy, your lot really sucks, huh?

Last Saturday, Sportsnet flashed a graphic that the five leading scorers on the Flames had more goals than the Kings have scored all season. In the two games since, the Kings have added one goal to their total of 34, which is also the season total of the quartet of Kane, DeBrincat, Toews, and Saad combined.

You mean Ilya Kovalchuk and his five goals weren’t the answer?

Where would this team be without its leading scorer, Ilya Kovalchuk? The answer is in exactly the same spot standings-wise, and possibly the same place points-wise, depending on how a theoretical Knifey Spoony against Lundqvist and three friends turned out. If you pretend the Kings have two additional Kovalchuks? Well, they would break the salary cap by over $12 million, but also finally pull into a tie for 30th in goals with Anaheim. The only unrealistic part of this scenario is imagining the Kings bringing in multiple players in one offseason.

Anze Kopitar has six points. What’s the deal there?

And only three of those six points were at evens, where his most common wingers are Alex Iafallo, and since his return from injury, Dustin Brown. Playing around with sortable categories on Natural Stat Trick, one notices that his current numbers are still above 50% (hovering around 52-53% for Corsi and Fenwick). However, they are mostly below either his rookie 2007-2008 season or his broken wrist 2016-2017 season. He’s 31 and it has become easier and easier to concentrate on just shutting his line down. But I bet if Eastern Conference writers stayed up to watch him play more often, he would have at least eight or nine points by now.

Does Rob Blake have any idea what he’s doing?

He knows exactly what he is doing: firing everyone under him before people realize this team is going nowhere. Was it really John Stevens’ fault after just 95 games?

What does the immediate future hold? What should it hold?

The immediate future holds rooting against any hot streaks that pull them ahead of other bottom-feeding teams, or convince upper management not to make more drastic changes. Everything with a pulse should be traded, but the team’s most liquid asset is Carl Hagelin, whose best case scenario is being flipped for a fifth-rounder to a team looking for #SPEED. Their youngest defenseman, Paul LaDue, is 26. Dion Phaneuf is still signed until 2021. The immediate future does not look great, even with a big lottery win, so maybe it is time to revert to planting drugs on albatross contracts.

 

Game #20 Preview Suite

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It’s only his first year in the GM’s chair on Figueroa, but Blake’s deadline push-in for Dion Phaneuf doesn’t bode well for Kings fans.

Dion Phaneuf has always been massively overrated. Hockey GMs and media have always been distracted by the noisy things he does. He makes big hits, he takes big slappers, he yells at his teammates a lot convincing them he’s a leader. It’s the kind of thing you always hear about in the sport.

But Phaneuf has never driven play. He’s never helped his team create more chances than they give up. It’s been six years since he scored more than 31 points, or more than 10 goals. He’s not really an offensive weapon, and he’s never been all that good defensively. You think you hate Brent Seabrook…

And the Kings problem has always been they’re slow. They used to play slow under Sutter, they want to play faster under John Stevens, but only Doughty and Martinez can really go anywhere. How does Phaneuf help the Kings keep up with Vegas or Nashville or Winnipeg in the first round, all possible opponents who can really move? He’s just going to have that same confused gape on his face he had in Calgary, Toronto, and Ottawa when none of those teams really went anywhere.

In addition, Blake has now taken on his ridiculous contract. He’s signed until 2021 when he’ll be 36. That’s a boat anchor.

Lastly, Phaneuf is the kind of player that quite simply is being phased out of the game. All d-men have to be able to move and get up and join the play now. Even if you’re a “stay-at-home” guy, you have to be able to win races and open yourself up to pass out of the zone. Phaneuf can’t do that at 32. How’s that going to look at 34?

Whatever, not our problem.

Game #60 Preview

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