L.A. Kings, Down and Dirty: What’s A Mother To Do? 2/17/2012

(This article was originally published by me as a guest author at the site called “Surly and Scribe”)

L.A. Kings, Down and Dirty: What’s A Mother To Do? 2/17/2012

Vital Game. 4 Points. A familiar team, easy to game-plan against. A team the Kings have dominated so far this season at 3-0-1. Long rest, with a rare chance for 2 consecutive days of practice. Fight for the last playoff spot. Home Game.

No Goals.

We complain that Brown doesn’t fight; Brown fights.

We complain that Scuderi is a dead stick in the O-zone; Scuderi charges down below the goal line with a carry and gets a shot to the net for a potential scramble. In the 2nd period, Rob “Wheels” Scuderi leads a rush and carries it down to the circles before making a pass for a shot on goal.

We complain that both Drewiske, and alternatively his roster spot, are being wasted; Davis Drewiske dispels all rumours of his alien abduction and actually plays in a game.

We complain that Doughty is too happy-go-lucky, struggles defensively and is inconsistent getting shots thru; Doughty is game-faced, effective and tough in the corners, sells out for some hits, makes a couple of unreal passes to spring guys in alone, QB’s the power play masterfully and rings one off the post after a real nice move to get the shot thru.

We complain that the system is too defensively oriented; the Kings outchance Phoenix by 247 to 3. Approximately.

But no goals.

Loose pucks in the crease, one-timers from on-rushing defensemen, net-front presence, toughness, decent start and massive energy spent in the first period, gritty play, good power play momentum, excellent defense, goalie holds them to one goal and the team holds their opponent to 21 shots for the game, line adjustments in the 3rd, fights, brawls, shots, rebounds… but no goddamn goals.

By almost any measure, this was a great game by the Kings. But, just one measure counts. Goals.

The irony is excruciating that the worst power play in the league won the game. The Kings got their chances throughout the game, and a golden chance late in the 3rd with a power play of their own. A blown call prevented a 6 on 3 with about a minute to go, and who knows what would have happened. Still, we had a 6 on 4 for a minute and a half.  With no results. Nothing at all, despite good movement, variety of effective shots, loose pucks, every ingredient required to bake a game-tieing-goal brownie. Then, OT…yum.

This game was an improvement in almost all areas over many of the games the Kings have won. I wish I could say that it was encouraging to see such spirit, or that if they play that way every game the wins will come.  But saying those things would only be desperate lies.

This game, our top line was shut down. Kopi was brave, and brilliant, but his line’s efforts were nullified. Our 2nd line was much the same; decent play, tough matchups, but no results. Just like in playoff hockey, games often come down to the 3rd and sometimes 4th lines making the difference when the top two lines for each team cancel each other. And in this game, our “anemic system” produced Richardson with at least 4 solid chances on the rush on outnumbered attacks, and even from sustained pressure. But, no finish. Same with Lewis; solid chances on the rush and from possession time in the O-zone, but no finish. Lokti zipping around, making great passes, stealing pucks, but no results because his linemates’ foot speed outpaces their hand speed.

This team has some of the best 4th liner players in the league. I would say we have about 7 or 8 of them playing regularly.

This team needs a shake-up, to blow away the dustbowl of scoring impotence that plagues them like Pigpen’s cloud of dirt. These guys care, they play their guts out, but many are just positioned out of their depth. They are put in positions to succeed, but those positions do not match their skill sets. Sure, maybe one guy can step up on a team and play out of his mind and over his head, but the Kings are asking too many guys to do that. We are counting on scoring from 2 rookies in Nolan and King (who’ve replaced Hunter and Penner), then Lewis, Clifford and Richardson. Those 5 guys have 11 goals in 58 games. Take away Nolan’s and King’s goals and add in Penner’s and Hunter’s, and you get 16 goals in 58 games. Kopi and Richards can’t carry this team every night, but on their worst nights they can probably break even and hope the bottom 6 simply chip in more than one goal every 4 or 5 games.

Everybody knows it’s depth; Penner the letdown, Gagne the injured, Stoll the truncated. But, out of 9 potential top 6 players, you expect injuries, slumps and disappointments. And, to say the bottom 6 are just victims of being on a low-scoring team like everyone else is circular reasoning and a tautology; the team is a low scoring team due in large part to the recurring vacuum of scoring from the bottom half of the forwards.

It’s personnel. It’s selection of personnel. It’s management of personnel.  It isn’t Kompon, it isn’t even Sutter, and I don’t really think it’s system. I think it’s just the general management of personnel. As in GM. As in Dean Lombardi.

It looked good on paper. It was supposed to work. I was sold. A lot of people were sold. But, it isn’t working. It’s not a phase, it’s endemic. The season is severely threatened, and something must be done. Too many contract clocks are ticking to let this year be wasted with no playoff appearance. The team needs a shakeup, or else management needs a shakeup.

 

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