The Kings, once again, are bad. They are frustrated. They are terrible to watch. Most importantly of all, they are sliding from their once lofty perch atop the slow starting Pacific Division.
They are slow in the neutral zone. They can’t complete passes. They have no support in the offensive zone. Kurtis MacDermid is terrible. There’s more than likely a billion stats to throw out there regarding zone starts, shot attempts, player density blah blah blah. Long story short, it’s part system and part personnel (as it usually is).
The Kings under John Stevens have been trying more of a free flowing up-tempo style of game this season. It was a welcomed shift from the grueling, methodical, and tedious board game Darryl Sutter used to employ. That much has been obvious for a while.
The consequences of such a shift have resulted in the Kings giving up a lot more shots in their own end, and lower puck retention at the other end of the ice. It worked for a while, with their big guns who flourished in such a system back when they were coached by fucking Marc Crawford (remember those years? Eesh) returned to having more offensive production.
i.e. Dustin Brown.
But the Kings are running into the same problem now with Steven’s system that they had with the Sutter system. That being the depth of players involved. Even with Jeff Carter, the depth looked questionable at best. Since he lost his leg, it’s been further exacerbated. Nic Dowd, Jussi Jokinen, Michael Amadio, Andy Andreoff, and Torrey Mitchell have all had goes at being a center in the bottom six. Nothing has really worked, and Jokinen and Dowd have received the proverbial boot.
Adrian Kempe remains a work in progress, which is realistic since he’s a 21 year old rookie thrown into a top six center role. Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli both have been up and down with extra focus on them since Carter is not in the equation. Alex Iafallo has slowed down a bit, which was also a realistic scenario to be expected.
So what have the Kings done to break this swoon?
Kevin Gravel and Paul LaDue are back. MacDermid, thankfully, was sent back down. Oscar Fantenberg, whom it appears management has forgotten about, got sent to Ontario as well. Amadio is back with L.A. The shuffle continues.
All in all, it’s the same shit, different season. Kevin Gravel and Paul LaDue are back trying to provide any depth to a questionable blue line group that still hasn’t exactly recovered since Slava Voynov was outed for being a huge ass hat. There is a clear lack of a bottom six center ever since Jarret Stoll and Mike Richards departed with their fun drugs. The depth along the wings keeps getting thinner with players aging out.
Which is why we have Trevor Lewis centering the second line. All hopes rest on him now.
The system change was a welcomed and needed change. The problem now lies in the fact that opposing teams wised up to it, and the Kings still have little depth on their roster to shore things up. Stevens will now either have to revamp the system (again), or the Kings are going to need to bring in some more talent. They aren’t exactly in a position to do so, what with them shoving AHL guys into larger and larger roles, and other role players plucked up not sticking around either.
It’s something the Kings will need to address in the off-season via free agency and the draft. They’ve been spinning their wheels for the last three years, not quite terrible enough to prompt on overhaul but not being anything close to a contender. Something drastic will likely be necessary.