I will be the first person to admit to being a pessimist. I’m also cynical, jaded, and full of rage that I tamp down nicely with alcohol consumption. That said, I can still be disappointed, and this season’s Kings are disappointing.
2015 was a minefield of fuck ups with the Slava Voynov fiasco pretty much dominating the whole year, off the ice (most importantly) and on the ice (less important obviously but still sorta fucking with the team). 2016 had Mike Richards made himself untradeable. Jarret Stoll was too cool and left. The Milan Lucic trade. Lucic walking a year later.
The Kings defense was in disarray in 2015 with Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, and Brayden McNabb taking on way bigger roles. By the time they adjusted, the offense was a mess in 2016, which was “remedied” with Vincent Lecavalier. The defense was paper thin still.
This year, the defense had more rookies arrive, NHL readyish. Kevin Gravel and Paul LaDue have been welcomed additions, and Derek Forbort has been showing off that he’s more than ready for a top 4 role. Truth be told, he probably should have been on the team all of last season too, but, hey, Rob Scuderi. The offense remains an enigma, as it has been since 2010.
There has been plenty of bad luck this year, sure. Anze Kopitar got hurt and has hit a goal post with every shot attempt. Tyler Toffoli got hurt. Marian Gaborik got hurt to start the year, and he and Dustin Brown aren’t producing points like top 6 players. The bottom six is relying a bit too much (relying on them at all that is) on Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan for offense.
Guys aren’t producing, and the team hasn’t been managed well enough to address the issues this year. Or for next year either at this rate. That’s the disappointing part. Adrian Kempe and Johnny Brodzinski are close to being the only impact guys in the wings. Kempe is still up and down, with flashes of brilliance, Kings’ patented ineptitude, and stretches of invisibility. Brodzinski...who knows.
Michael Mersch is close to guaranteed a spot in Los Angeles next year, but he’s Dwight King minus the fun smile and ability to play defense. Beyond that, well, Michael Amadio is a ways out still.
This offseason the Kings are gonna lose a player to Vegas. It will likely not be Dustin Brown or Marian Gaborik what with their contracts that are treated now like they were written with feces. With the plethora of quality defenders, it likely will be one of them (assumption). The Kings still have to pay Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. One of Muzzin or Martinez, will likely be gone via trade or expansion. The team should actively shop Gaborik, who’s hit the point in his tenure where he looks bored and gets traded for a smaller return. LaDue, Gravel, and Forbort are ready to be mainstays. McNabb looked like a top pair defender early this season before he got hurt and apparently left his brain in a doctor’s office.
The pipeline needs time to restock, and at this point the Kings need to treat this as their primary concern. They’ve slipped from being contenders, and unless they suddenly swap out Jake Muzzin for someone like Jamie Benn (which shouldn’t need to be stated but is 100% not happening it’s a fucking joke people), they won’t be next year either.
The top 6 next year as of now is Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Pearson, Toffoli, Gaborik, and Brown. It’s the same group as the 2014 run. It’s just not 2014 anymore. The bottom 6 could have Nic Dowd, Nick Shore, Trevor Lewis, Adrian Kempe, Mersch, and Brodzinski. It’s a lot of unknowns, plus the known quality of Lewis and Shore not scoring much but playing defense pretty well. It’s a weird transition phase for a team that looked poised to be a top team in the league not too long ago.
Prediction: The Kings squeak into the playoffs inexplicably and win a Cup just to make me look like an idiot.