Yesterday, the estimable Greg Wyshynski posted 5 reasons why we should still have faith in the Kings. It was a good effort and I appreciated the optimism. This doesn't change the fact that the Kings are completely fucked, however. "Yeah, but maybe they can put a few things together and..." Nope, they're fucked. Season's doomed. I've already killed myself. I'm dead. There's always a chance that things bounce the right way and Jonathan Quick stands on his head but for all intents & purposes, they're done. That doesn't mean the season can't be fun, though! Here are a few reasons we should still love our Kings, no matter how doomed they are:
1) Trevor Lewis. The former first-rounder is the most obvious beneficiary of Kopitar's tough break, moving up to the 2nd line with Ryan Smyth and Dustin Brown. Lewis has had an OK season thus far, tallying 10 points on the year from the 4th line. Is he good enough to play top-6 minutes? No. But it'll be good for him. I see Lewis becoming a "Todd Marchant In Anaheim" type, good for 20-30 points a season while getting top penalty kill minutes, but he could always turn into more if, like Terry Murray said, his head catches up to his feet. He got a goal and an assist in the 3rd period of the last game after he was moved up to Smyth & Brown's line, so he's off to a good start. It'll be fun to see if he can continue that.
Also, Trevor Lewis looks like he could be the son of Jerry's college friend who works at Kenny Rogers Roasters in that episode of Seinfeld. This is the only picture I could find of that guy. In other news, I think I might have autism or something.
2) Drew Doughty. Well, Doughty's now our best player. He's had an interesting season; starting a little slow, getting a concussion, then suffering bad luck on the power play that has suppressed his point total. Doughty's now the star on the power play, not Kopitar, and everything will run through him. I see the Kings putting Jack Johnson where Kopitar used to be (probably a little higher) while either using Oscar Moller or Jarret Stoll, both right-handed shots, on the other side. Quisp wondered the other day whether Kopitar was really a great power play player and I've always felt that it's not really his strength. He's good in open ice where he can use his speed to go around defensemen; when he's stapled to the boards and defensemen can get inside his stick*, he's not as effective. Doughty's probably our best power play player and now he'll get a chance to run things. It'll be cool to see.
3) Shutdown lines. Here's a fun question: which line is our shutdown line? Penner-Handzus-Moller has the best defensive center and is designed kind of like our shutdown line was last year: Handzus in the middle, a big, puck-possessing type on the left side, and a speedy winger on the right side. But Penner's probably our best offensive player now (hahaha, Jesus Christ) and Moller gets tossed around like Ace Ventura at a Cannibal Corpse concert. Still, they won't get buried. Moller will get the puck in, Penner will rally it, and he and Handzus will be able to work some magic around the net. I'm optimistic.
Ponikarovsky-Stoll-Simmonds is ostensibly our shutdown line now, since it was before Kopitar got injured. But now it's probably our best offensive line, too. Stoll's our best offensive center now (Hey, this Drano doesn't taste too bad!) and Ponikarovsky & Simmonds can both be fairly dominant along the boards at times. That line will most likely be carrying the heavy load that Kopitar was carrying before he went down.
Smyth-Lewis-Brown... this line will probably be getting the easiest minutes of the 3. Still, though, Lewis is a capable defender and Brown is solid in his own zone as well. Smyth will cherry-pick and take shitty slap shots before falling into the boards. Lewis & Brown could work some magic if they can get behind the defense, though.
Clifford-Richardson-Westgarth/Harrold. Welp, it was fun having a good 4th line for a little while, anyway.
The point is, the Kings have 3 lines that are not great, but they're all pretty good. Think of it like this: the Kings still have a better center corps than the Coyotes or Predators. They won't score but they'll still be able to compete and keep pucks out of the net.
4) Kopitar will be fine. Of all the things I'm worried about regarding Kopitar's injury, the last thing I'm worried about is Kopitar himself. Kopitar has, through his entire career, met and exceeded every benchmark that has been set for him. He overcame coming from a non-hockey market, he overcame having to lift a shitty hockey club into respectability, he overcame Terry Murray's somewhat stifling system that required him to play to his weaknesses at the expense of his strengths, and he'll overcome his broken ankle. He'll have surgery today, heal up, then get back in it all summer and be ready to go next season. If anything it might actually be good because this means he'll probably stay in LA all summer instead of going back to Slovenia to eat pancakes. Kopitar will be fine.
5) No pressure. This is actually the silveriest lining to Kopitar's injury. You remember on Friday, after the Sharks-Kings game, when I mentioned that I wanted the playoffs to get here because the regular season was too stressful? That stress is gone. I don't expect the Kings to do anything so now I can sit back, relax, and be pleasantly surprised if they do manage to do anything. The Kings were dealt a bad hand and it sucks, but oh well. Worrying about it isn't going to change anything. We have a young team and this is only going to make them stronger. It'll be fun... well, not the losing, that won't be fun. But the other stuff, that'll be fun.
Prediction: Kings lose, 5-0. OH GOD KOPITAR, WHY?????????