Here at Battle of California, we occasionally forget what this is all about. We spend so much time making fun of the Vancouver Canucks, plotting to kill Connor McDavid (our Kickstarter project Collarbonr just moved to active funding, look for an email in your AOL Inbox), and barely remembering the Arizona Coyotes we sometimes lose sight of what’s really important. Like who the hell is the biggest dick swinger regarding a niche sport in the greatest state ever?
Who even plays here anymore? San Diego? Oakland? Nope. It’s still Los Angeles, San Jose, and
Irvine Anaheim. Do people still watch hockey? It’s unclear, but nobody turned out the lights yet, so let’s assume so.
Dunn and shampeon sat down at an undisclosed warehouse somewhere between Fresno and Bakersfield with the assurance of total security and privacy to talk about the upcoming season for two teams that have a lot to prove, and no ability to do actually do so. The tension was palpable, but then both of them remembered the fact of Ryan Getzlaf and laughed until tears were streaming down their cheeks.
shampeon: How long will it take for the Kings to get unfucked by Lombardi's capo-di-tutti-capo act? Is it weird to trust that job to legendary Avalanche Cup winner Rob Blake and Hall of Fame Red Wing champion Luc Robitaiile?
Dunn: The cap situation inherited from Lombardi has been better than expected! The Kings are currently spending around what Ottawa, Calgary, and Columbus spend. So things are more flexible than they have been. Likely because most of the contracts go to guys that sorta suck or are AHL plugs.
I will never trust Rob Blake, but if he falters I expect the Kings to announce Adam Deadmarsh as the new GM, though his assistant Aaron Miller will probably be far more useful in the long run.
shampeon: Adam Deadmarsh as GM would be like 6 months of incredibly savvy moves and then he gets his head stuck in an elevator door and is in a coma for 2 years.
Dunn: Luc has only one job and that's to be smiley and happy and occasionally look disappointed if things aren't going well for the team or they discover Michael Cammalleri has been killing drifters.
Also: another point against Blake: Signing Cammalleri. I had to re-learn how to spell this motherfucker's name! That's exhausting!
shampeon: I think we should just call him Squid Boy.
Question for you: If the Sharks miss the playoffs will they hire Lombardi and Sutter?
shampeon: Oh god. I honestly don't know if Doug Wilson is ever going to get fired.
He's no longer considered a genius or whatever (trading some pocket lint and a stack of Enya CDs for Joe Thornton in 2005 gives you some serious leeway in this dumb-ass league), but he's a decent GM on a team with ok players, and they're middling to fine on drafting.
You can see where this leads, though.
You're not good enough to win it all, and you're not bad enough to get a lottery pick (and therefore, the chance--only a chance--to draft a superstar).
Wilson didn't mismanage the cap like Lombardi, or Ken Holland in Detroit. He avoided the trend of signing mega-long, cap circumventing deals to his best players. I don't think that was some amazing foresight or anything, it was just that Wilson is pretty stubborn about how things should work.
So he's got some flexibility now that Marleau is gone and Thornton is playing out his last years.
But now you're basically leaning on Pavelski and Couture and Hertl for production up front, and Burns to provide all your backline offense. And Pavelski is getting up there, too, and won't play at an elite level until he's 38. There's nobody in the generation after that shows any real game-changing ability, but there's some decent prospects here and there. So it'll be a slower slide than the Kings, but it's hard to see how the Sharks get back into Cup contention in the next 5 years.
Ok, back to you. The Kings have relied on finding some weird looking feral white scrub who suddenly turns into a 20 goal scorer to distract them from Kopitar's declining point totals. Who is going to be this year's Garbage Pail Winger?
Dunn: Tyler Toffoli first of all isn't just some scrub. He's a hornet attack survivor. I guess last year was about Tanner Pearson overcoming Tomatotism and having a breakout year. This year, though, is the year of Alexander Iaffaloyouintothedark (mid 2000s emo reference...swish). It will only be his year because I know nothing about him whatsoever and I'll be forced to learn how to spell his name right also. This team is infuriating.
Speaking of weird white people, do you think the Sharks players miss Patrick Marleau?
shampeon: I think they for sure miss his run-through-a-wall locker room speeches and manic energy.
And his vivid descriptions of his romantic conquests.
I love Patty and how weird and good he is, but honestly, I don’t know that the Sharks as a team and an organization are going to miss him all that much. He wasn’t going to be a piece of a Cup contender here, and he wasn’t super intimately involved in the team outside of his on-ice responsibilities. And yeah, that’s probably the result of the same team stripping him of his captaincy, constantly entertaining offers to trade him, leaking info about him to the press. But it’s also his personality. They chose correctly in resigning Thornton, and letting Patty walk for all that Canadian lucre. They’ll miss his production and speed, particularly on the power play. But everyone including Patty knew that the future here was with players within shouting distance of their twenties, so it was probably best to just let him move on his own terms.
Ok, last question from me.
Both the Sharks and the Kings are going to benefit by playing the Golden Knights, which right now is less an NHL team and more a means of acquiring lottery picks so they one day become an NHL team. We have to play all these shitty Canadian teams and the Coyotes. Is being surrounded by all this garbage enough to get the Kings into the playoffs?
Dunn: The Coyotes and Gold Card Holders are going to suuuuuuuuuuuuck but will inexplicably pick up five wins apiece against the Kings. Vancouver will not be as fortunate I think. The Flames think they're awesome but using a 35 year old Mike Smith who is so poor he may as well be 90 is a bigger liability than they realize I think. Buying Smith Depends, taking him to look at burial dumpsters, and making sure he doesn't spend his welfare check on chewing tobacco will be a constant headache for them.
The Oilers meanwhile are inexplicably semi competent because of god damn McDavid, but the Kings will only acquire him after the NHL realigns itself yet again, and Edmonton is in the Central Division. Meanwhile, the Avalanche will get put back in the Pacific right as they are coming around from currently being a flaming condom full of dog shit, and Las Vegas might have put together a roster full of talented teenagers by then after a few years of finishing 31st and maybe a big year of finishing 30th.
In short, no the Kings will never make the playoffs ever again, which is fine, until the Dodgers also start to suck.
Last question for you...Joe Thornton almost signed with Los Angeles this summer which would have been weird. Do you think that was a realistic possibility, what would you have done if he did become a King, and how much are you looking forward to doing this again next summer?
shampeon: I think it was, though I'm pretty sure it would have only happened if the Sharks didn't offer him a contract, or it was a low-ball offer. I would have hated it, first of all, obviously, but intellectually I would totally understand. Jumbo likes the west coast and doesn't give a shit about prestige hockey cities in the snow belt.
It would have been painful, but understandable. California is pretty much the best place to live, and it'd be a mercy to not see him in a Wild jersey or some shit.
Even though the Kings jerseys continue to suck ass. What's wrong you all?
Dunn: It does feel every team out here keeps getting worse jerseys.
The Sharks keep reducing their look to a practice jersey more and more. The Kings get more boring. The Ducks collect more vomit to paste to a burlap sack.
shampeon: If Joe signs with the Ducks, though, I may well walk away from hockey altogether. Maybe get really into 2nd tier English soccer. Nottingham Forest could make a run here.
Dunn: Blackpool guy myself.
shampeon: The Ducks jerseys were designed at a FedEx Office in Fullerton using Microsoft Word by a youth pastor with tattoos.
Dunn: Blackpool makes orange work! But I digress.
shampeon: The Sharks jerseys keep getting more complicated logos with fewer design elements. Eventually, it'll be an insane moving hologram of the Shark on a featureless teal sheet.
Dunn: Too bad Marleau left before their jerseys became rare Pokemon cards. He would have stayed then.
Well, this has been enlightening. I guess. Whatever. I’m busy watching baseball tonight. I actually hate hockey. I hope basketball starts soon.
shampeon: COYS! That’s a soccer thing, right? Come On You Shitheads! I gotta lot to learn. Hockey is awful. My devotion to it has been a big miss.
Dunn’s prediction: The game is cancelled. Gary Bettman folds the NHL at about 4 today.
shampeon’s prediction: Some terrible hockey is played by these two teams, but at least the refs will call slashing for the next couple weeks before dropping it entirely.