After the 2014 NHL season, which featured the single most exhausting playoff experience I could have imagined, I openly wondered if this was the end of the Kings’ epic journey. Personally, it sort of felt like hockey was over. Fade to black. Roll the credits. Leave the theater. That was the ending any hockey fan could have wanted for their team. There was nothing left after that.
The Kings apparently felt the same way. Since the three years where they steamrolled everyone (except Chicago one time), the Kings have won one playoff game. They only made the playoffs two out of the last four years. I highly doubt they make the playoffs this year, and at this point that belief is still a generous opinion given the current state of the team. There is also the long-view that the Kings are probably going to be struggling for a few more years.
Tanner Pearson got traded weeks ago to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Jake Muzzin was shipped to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Alec Martinez (Islanders?), Tyler Toffoli (Capitals?), Jeff Carter (Predators?), and even Dustin Brown (Bruins?) and Jonathan Quick (Blue Jackets?) are likely on the block.
How the hell has it come to this?
The 2011 through 2014 seasons had the Kings making some larger than average sized moves. Dustin Penner, Carter, Robyn Regehr, and Marian Gaborik all got brought in at the expense of early round draft picks. Given that the Kings were in the midst of being contenders (or at least realizing they were contenders at the last minute) these moves made a lot of sense. We can argue the merits of these players and what they brought for hours, but they all helped the franchise win two Stanley Cups.
The 2015 through current season have been a disaster. Slava Voynov got arrested and deported. While it’s easy to blame Voynov for the franchise’s downfall, it’s ignoring the mismanagement of assets under Dean Lombardi. If you are wondering about that, think about what young players have turned in a sizable impact for the Kings in that time frame. You got Adrian Kempe, who is more a complimentary piece who’s role should be more limited to former legend Dwight King’s role, and Derek Forbort who is a Willie Mitchell/Regehr/Rob Scuderi replacement. Nick Shore is in Russia.
I’ve covered that, as has anyone who has even taken a cursory glance at the Kings.
So it’s the end of an era.
Willie Desjardins, shockingly, wasn’t the answer. Perhaps having hired him and giving him a shot to implement a system in a team before they all quit in the pre-season would have been a better option. C’est la vie.
This bunch of players, while maddening at times, did have incredible success. The dismantling took place initially long before this season. There’s been no plan to reconstruct up until right now however. The reinvention idea is clearly just SPEED SPEED SPEED. We’ll see how this goes. Personally, I think a more concrete plan would be preferable. The SPEED only plan seems like another take on Lombardi’s fascination with size above all else taking priority.
Five years of collapse, and now the rebuild. It’s not easy nor fun. This is far worse than the rebuilding of 2006 through 2010. These are the guys that were brought up in Los Angeles and won. Some doing so twice.
Worst of all, this was avoidable. The aforementioned mismanagement by Lombardi and (less so) by Rob Blake has tanked this team in the most unsightly fashion imaginable. Having a sucky hockey team to watch in 2008 was expected when your top line consisted of Kyle Calder and Michal Handzus. This was currently a bunch who’s core group of stars were still intact. However the foundation was gone and there was no support now either. It was a shoddy structure with stickers slapped over dents, and also being used as tape.
It’s easy to say we as fans deserve better. Maybe. It’s easier to just not watch because no one should be subjected to watching this train wreck.
The players probably do deserve better. Mike Richards at least did. Getting traded to a team with a fighting chance is probably preferable at this point as well. Yeah, they clearly are phoning it in each night also, but unlike us they have to show up and get pasted. Not having coaching structure or half a functioning roster is not something I am going to blame Anze Kopitar for. Despite the cap hit. You’re a general manager! You’re supposed to make this shit work! You’re supposed to have a plan!
We can still be annoyed with the athletes though. Again, they clearly stopped giving a fuck. But (also) again, what’s the system? Where’s the depth? Are we really supposed to buy Dion Phaneuf is a reliable option for...anything?
This isn’t something to be remedied in a draft, or by trading for Carl Hagelin, or by signing fleet footed college free agents. This is going to be a long process. And we aren’t going to have the Cup winning bunch here.
Say good bye.
Watch the credits.
Fade to black.
The sequels are never as good. Wait for something new and hope it’s halfway decent. Currently, it may still be in the pre-production stages so buy some Rams gear and get ready for Dodger season. And maybe the Lakers will land Anthony Davis.