While many of the flapping heads are pronouncing the local squad as now having a closed window and figure to be on the outside looking in come playoff time, it is the two-time champions on Figueroa who have won but a single playoff game in the last three seasons since their last championship. And though they cleaned house in coaching and management with complete scumbag Dean Lombardi finally getting launched and the decidedly unfunny and cantakerous Darryl Sutter going with him, many of the same pieces that have never been able to buy a fucking goal are still here, just now older and with even more miles on the odometer.
Los Angeles Kings
’17-’18 Record: 39W – 35L – 8OT – 86 Points, 5th in Pacific
Team Stats: 54.99% CF (1st), 54.77% SF (2nd), 53.44% SCF (2nd), 6.26 S% (30th), .921 SV% (21st)
Special Teams: 19.1% PP (15th), 84.5% PK (5th)
Goaltending: While the thought at the time early last season when Jonathan Quick predictably went down was that the Kings would be screwed with Peter Budaj taking the bulk of the starts, that simply wasn’t the case last year on a couple of fronts. First of all, for being a career backup/platoon guy, Budaj held the fort with a very respectable .925 save percentage at evens, which is Jonathan Quick’s exact career average of save percentage at even strength. While he has played spectacularly for stretches at the right time of year, Jonathan Quick is by the standards of today’s league is a wholly average goaltender with more name recognition. Add to that the fact that he will be 31 in January with a ton of miles on him and hip and back issues that generally hasten a any goalie’s deterioration. Knowing that, it seems a given that Darcy Keumper (whom even Bruce Boudreau could not trust when Devan Dubnyk was filling his diaper) will have to play a significant amount of time this season whether to spell Quick or out of necessity with the inevitable IR stint he’ll surely have. And Keumper’s .907 at even strength last year simply isn’t going to cut it for a team that has always lacked any kind of scoring touch.
Defense: For the 10th season since he entered the league, the Kings’ blue line will be anchored by their Norris-winning, Kevin-Corrigan-on-angel-dust-looking, accused rapist #1 defenseman Drew Doughty. Doughty has long been everything a team could want in a top defenseman, and has always been an analytics monster even on a team as possession heavy as the Kings have been for the last half-decade. A couple years ago somehow a consensus was reached that it was Doughty’s time to win a Norris (probably true) and hasn’t won one yet simply because he plays on the West coast, even if it realistically should go to Erik Karlsson until he gets bored of giving a speech every year in June. But while playing on the West coast hurt Doughty for recognition in that regard, it’s certainly helped him over the last five years where even the woke portions of Hockey Twitter seem to forget the disgusting crimes that Doughty was accused of. There literally is not even a mention of it on his Wikipedia page. So while he might be a hell of a defenseman, he’s a repugnant piece of shit as well. Of course there was also some similar bullshit a while back that Doughty’s sometimes-partner also deserved Norris consideration as well as a spot on the Canadian Olympic team, which is patently absurd. Muzzin is a solid player who would likely be out of his depth on another team if he was entrusted to flip the ice on his own, but obviously does the most with the minutes the Kings give him. Alec Martinez has been a reliable puck mover for a while, but he’s aging and has been consistently ouchy throughout his career despite playing all 82 in ’16-’17. Behind those three however, it’s another Minnesota castoff in Christian Folin, Kevin Gravel, and Yes, My Son Is Also Named Derek Forbort. The distribution of minutes has always tilted heavily towards Doughty and Muzzin, but with some combination of those three making a bottom pairing, it won’t be shocking to see Doughty lead the league in minutes played.
Offense: There was a time when this group had speed to outrun even a stacked Hawks team, and within the span of two years that’s all but evaporated. Anze Kopitar’s scoring numbers absolutely fell off the table even if his metrics didn’t and a lifetime of top assignments may finally be wearing on him. While Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson have occasionally surfed shooting percentage spikes, they’ve never become the reliable top line scorers that the Kings have needed them to be. Marian Gaborik stayed healthy enough to win a Cup in LA and then has promptly gone back to having things fall off of him, and is now 35 on top of it if that can be believed. Mike Cammaleri is back where things began for him, but all he is now is a stationary shooter on a team that can’t run anymore. About the only consistent performance they get these days is out of Jeff Carter, who somehow managed to have his game mature on the ice where it was thought that longtime partner in crime Mike Richards’ game would have more staying power. At his age now back in the middle, Carter is simply a treat to watch, as he almost never takes any contact square even at his size, has an effortless stride, and has incredible hockey sense. He might be the only true finisher on this team even after it’s been clear that’s what they’ve lacked even in years of deep playoff runs. And Dustin Brown is still somehow here.
Outlook: Since getting the GM job in LA (his 87th executive job since retiring, none of which he’s ever accomplished anything in), Rob Blake hasn’t really done much to put the Kings on any kind of different trajectory they’re on. Granted, Deano gave out a bunch of ill advised long term contracts when he wasn’t allowing wife beaters at practice or torpedoing another player’s career for perscription drugs that he in all likelihood had the team doctor write the script for, so Blake’s hands are tied a little bit. But trying to stay the course as the rest of the division (minus the Sharks) at least tries to get faster is a recipe for more of the same. The Kings will tilt the possession ledger in part because they’re good at it even if John Stephens is a cipher of a coach, and because they have absolutely no finish among their forwards to ever get themselves in a score-effects lead-protecting situation. And they will also probably miss the playoffs again unless somehow Anze Kopitar magically rolls back about 50,000 miles and Jon Quick’s hip isn’t held together with scotch tape and snot.
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