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Dead on arrival

kill me now too please

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Los Angeles Kings
please save us
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

At this point in time, it has been safe to say the Kings are bad. Not like bottom tier of the league bad. Worse than that. Like this team shouldn’t be playing against NHL teams. Jack Campbell stood on his head for the two wins on the season, which came against sub-par teams that still, frankly, outplayed the Kings entirely and deserved wins. Every other game has been nightmarish loses, and the ones that haven’t ended in blowouts deserve to be examined by the Pope to see if they qualify as miracles.

It’s beyond John Stevens who at this point has no idea what the fuck to do. The roster is locked in, but on paper shouldn’t be anywhere close to this bad. There is no help arriving besides Dustin Brown. The Kings are dead.

Unless of course Dustin Brown provides a huge boost to the team’s depth and “intangibles” upon his return. Brown was the captain at one point. He and Anze Kopitar did drag this corpse of a team into the playoffs last year.

But it’s hard to imagine things changing just with one guy returning.

As one insider has analyzed things:

Great. So the Kings are having an existential crisis. I mean, I have those regularly but that’s because I just turned 30.

Maybe the Kings just stopped giving a shit? I did after the 2014 Cup win. How do you top that? Win again? Sure, maybe. But would it be as exciting? Nope! Maybe that’s what’s going on. What would happen if like half of your roster just retired all at once?

In the meantime, Stevens has tried to “motivate” the team by saying they suck. I don’t think it worked, and if anything the team likely agreed with him. Tanner Pearson has looked the worst I have ever seen him. The defense is flat. Adrian Kempe remains a goddamn bonehead who takes goddamn bonehead penalties. And the leaders have checked out according to actual people around the team that cover them regularly.

Don’t get distracted from Stevens having been out-coached entirely the last...several months. But it is bigger than just him. Since 2014, the Kings lost Justin Williams, Jarett Stoll, Mike Richards, Dwight King, Marian Gaborik, Willie Mitchell, Matt Greene, Slava Voynov, and (hell) Robyn Regehr. King and Regehr might be the most replaceable names of these, and even still they were large parts of the vague idea called “identity”. Also they were great for MS Paint projects.

The entire third line from that year is long gone. The second pairing on defense ceased to exist the following season. Richards, Stoll, and Greene were part of the captaincy of the Kings during their tenures. Mitchell and Williams you could certainly include as part of the leadership of the Kings as well. Voynov, purely from a talent perspective, was integral.

Were Richards and Stoll replaceable in the sense of acquiring bottom six centers? Sure. But they were team guys. Then the management of Dean Lombardi didn’t get bottom six centers they could trust anyway. Their roles, in terms of the depth chart and locker room chemistry, has been a void. Mitchell and Greene have never been replaced in either sense, too.

Instead we got Dion Phaneuf, who has been ran out of Calgary and Toronto and even Ottawa.

The Kings have been a team who have gotten down on themselves before. The 2014 first round series with the Sharks was a rout to start, and then the Kings pulled some history. But that was with a more talented roster with the aforementioned “character”.

Alex Iafallo and Sheldon Rempal are not names that are going to save this team. They’re the replacements for Dwight King (and the rate it’s going, the replacement for Tanner Pearson). Derek Forbort is more of an uninspiring Rob Scuderi. Jeff Carter is looking more like the Jeff Carter in Columbus that the Kings traded for than the Jeff Carter the Kings got. Paul LaDue, Oscar Fantenberg, and Sean Walker are the next candidates to attempt to replace Voynov’s minutes.

Character and leadership and culture are buzzword terms for something we can’t slap a stat on and quantify, but it’s certainly clear that the Kings miss those veterans who lit fires for the team. It doesn’t help that the Kings did a sloppy job replacing them in any sense also.

The wing depth has been addressed slightly with Iafallo, Rempal, and Ilya Kovalchuk acquired at only contractual expense. The depth down the middle isn’t there at all however, and Kempe is not any sort of answer. The defense remains to have a gaping black hole in it, with the best shot the Kings had at filing it now with Vegas following the Lucic trade that sent me to a sanitarium (IT WAS COLIN MILLER WHY DID WE TRADE COLIN MILLER FUCK).

And the team is quitting. And there is no system. You can’t throw the team into a full rebuild also given the contracts. The pipeline has only produced Kempe, Forbort, and Nick Shore (now in Russia) during the Dean Lombardi latter years. Other draft picks got spent on that Lucic deal, and stints of Kris Versteeg/Ondrej Sekera/Vincent Lecavalier/Luke Schenn/Jarome Iginla/Ben Bishop.

Are the Kings a mid-six center and decent defenseman away from being a contender again? Probably not because of the structural issues and whatever mortal malaise they are mired in. But they have been the same sore spots the team hasn’t come close to fixing since 2015. Something has to be done, and if it’s big that’s hardly the worse thing.