L.A. Kings 20 Game Assessment & A Look Ahead

I consider the first 20 games a good measure for what the season may hold. The NHL schedule is 1/4 fulfilled, teams have seen enough home and road games, leaders have risen to the occasion or failed to do so, offseason acquisitions and rookies with “potential” have shown sufficient merit or lack thereof and the team’s personnel “needs” have gained clarity. While the cliché “it’s a long season” applies, games 1 – 20 offers a fair opportunity to evaluate team performance and projections.

The LA Kings sit at 10-7-3 (23 points), 6th in the Western Conference and 3rd in the division behind San Jose and Phoenix who share the same 23 point total but have 3 and 2 games in hand, respectively. Minnesota and Chicago lead the Conference with 27 points. Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets and their rapidly diminishing fan base bring up the rear.

The Kings’ season has seen three streaks – a 4 game win, a 5 game loss followed by a 3 game win.

Our offense continues to languish at 2.40 goals per game although that is an improvement over October. Our goals against is still in the top 10 (7th) at 2.30. Two unexpected surprises are the powerplay at 19% (9th in the league) while the L.A. Kings’ normally top PK has struggled at 81.2% (16th). I don’t have the numbers but I question how many of those PK goals against are surrendered by our second kill unit. As for the powerplay, at the risk of bringing rhyme to this article, Ethan Moreau must go.

Let’s look at a few categories

On-Ice Leaders

Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards. This 1-2 punch at center has met expectations. Mike Richards, captain hustle, is exactly as advertised. Skilled, hard-working, chalk full of leadership by action and fiercely competitive. Before his arrival, I was a little surprised how near iconic he had become in Philadelphia at such a young age. I kept waiting for the horrible surprise to come along. We gave up a lot for him in Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds. To date, Mike Richards has shown himself worth the cost.

Anze Kopitar (pbuh) is simply a hockey God. When I started the Kopitarian Faith his rookie season, I knew he would live up to the deity status which, even back then, was self-evident. 5 on 5, powerplay, penalty kill, score, shut down, play physical, open it up, doesn’t matter. He not only rises to the occasion, he exemplifies each and every one. He is also 6th in the NHL in scoring with 23 points, tied with Marian Hossa. The fact I see Joffrey Lupul’s name ahead of Kopitar annoys me to a frightening level.

As for Jonathan Quick, it’s his net. Our brilliant coach, Terry Murray, has apparently decided that he is riding Quick until he breaks. Stupid? Pretty much and willfully so given the lesson that should have been learned two seasons ago. At this pace, Quick will play 70 games. Perhaps Murray is saving the month of December for all Bernier, all the time.

Disappointments

1. 5 on 5 production but, then again, Terry Murray still coaches this team. If it wasn’t for the powerplay (shocked I am even writing that), we may find ourselves near the bottom of the standings.

2. Dustin Penner. At this point, it’s just piling on. Between the injuries to his head, heart and now finger, this very charming and personable left wing is either the most tragic example of a Terry Murray coached team (Ted Purcell says hello with a waving middle finger) or one whose young career is coming to an end.

3. Kyle Clifford. This Big Red Dog has lost his bite. Perhaps he needs to fight every other game to keep his edge. I hope not. If he does, his NHL career will be a short one.

4. Jarret Stoll. Miscast as a second line center, we all heard and believed that he would fit perfectly on the third line. Here we are. 1 goal and 5 assists. He does win faceoffs but is he even near the top of the league in that department? I would be surprised if he is. At this rate, could Stoll be packaged in a trade? Andrei Loktionov looks every bit ready to take on that third line center role so long as Terry Murray doesn’t put Ethan Moreau, Trevor Lewis, Kevin Westgarth or Trent Hunter on his wing. Personally, I want to see Stoll moved to 2nd line left wing although Loktionov has looked damn good there so far.

5. The bottom 6 in general. Scoring depth? Not so much. I see a bunch of disconnected players with little to no chemistry. To quote Tin Cup, they all look like an unfolded lawn chair.

6. I am not going to put anyone from the defense on here because, as a whole, they have played well. I want more, much more, from Drew Doughty but I am willing to wait until the end of the year to see if he brings it.

Offseason acquisitions

Bravo, Dean Lombardi. Mike Richards and Simon Gagne have “fit”. The first line left wing question has been answered for now, until Zach Parise of course arrives.

Rookies with potential

God, how I love Slava Voynov. He has been more a joy to watch. We kept hearing how his defensive acumen is not there and that he is a one-dimensional player. I think he has elevated his game. He may have been a bit of a defensive liability in Manchester but some players simply rise higher when expectations fall on their shoulders and our Russian sensation appears ready to handle full-time NHL duty.

As for Andrei Loktionov, it’s difficult to look at him as a rookie. I feel like he never left, although I missed him something fierce after the preseason – I know, that makes no sense. Will he stick? Sure, if we trade or waive someone.

Needs

1. Top 6 left wing. Lokti fills the void for now but what happens when Dustin Penner returns?

2. A bottom 6 that doesn’t suck. This one has me confounded. I didn’t expect much from Trent Hunter and Ethan Moreau and not much is exactly what we have received. Trevor Lewis is Trevor Lewis – a hard-working defensive center with no hands. If we are looking at Colin Fraser to score goals, we are fucked. Brad Richardson, Jarret Stoll and Kyle Clifford have been the offensive disappointments although I question how much of that falls on the system versus those three players.

3. Drew Doughty to get better. Self-explanatory.

4. A new coach. What? My opinion of Terry Murray has not changed. Right team, wrong coach for reasons previously stated ad nauseum. However, I recognize absent a melt down or the LA Kings missing the playoffs, Terry isn’t going anywhere.

Looking ahead, we have a nice test. The next four games are against the resurgent St. Louis Blues who lost a Davis Payne and gained a Ken Hitchcock (their sudden success being total coincidence I am sure), the Dallas Stars who have abruptly lost 5 in a row (we can relate), the Chicago Blackhawks who, despite having their ass handed to them by the Oilers 9-2, are a Stanley Cup contender and the San Jose Sharks who regularly give us fits.

At game 20, what are your thoughts on this team’s current state and prognosis?



Categories: L.A. Kings News

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23 replies

  1. Looking at total points of teams at the “20” game mark is pointless.

    The Kings are 18th in the NHL in points percentage and 10th in the Western Conference.

    Will the Kings be able to jump the teams ahead of them to make the playoffs? Will Vancouver remain behind the Kings for an entire season? I could see Dallas and Edmonton fall out of the playoffs, but I expect Vancouver to make the playoffs. That means the Kings could be fighting Minnesota for that 8th spot.

    Can someone explain how Nashville and Phoenix have a better offense than the Kings? The only Western teams that have scored fewer goals per game than the Los Angeles Kings are Columbus, Anaheim, Minnesota and Calgary. How many playoff teams do you see in that list? Minnesota is the only team currently ahead of the Kings in the standings.

    At 20 games, the Los Angeles Kings sit 24th in offense and 7th in defense. 18th in 5-on-5 differential. While playing a “shot mentality” focused system, the Kings sit 19th in shots per game. Who accounts for the failure of the team? The players or the coach’s system?

    Until Terry is gone, the Kings will be a bubble playoff team. Is it a guarantee that the Kings will be better with a new coach? No, especially with the same general system used. Maybe the entire team needs a new direction from the top down. The team doesn’t need another “players” coach; they need a new voice in the room. They are too stale and boring.

    Congratulations to the AEG owned Los Angeles Galaxy on winning the MLS Cup last night. I was at the final here in Dallas in 2005 when they last won the MLS Cup.

    • There is no guarantee in what you say. The Kings could easily be much lower without that suffocating defense.
      TM has put Quick and others in an opportunity to succeed. Look how many scoring chances they allow when they open the game up. I for one, am not certain Murray is the total problem. The guy has his faults but there is more to it than blaming the head coach.

      • Nobody has won a cup since the lockout without a top 10 offense. 2 teams have won with a defense outside of the top 15. Pittsburgh was 17th and Carolina was 20th in defense when they won the cup. Half of the teams have had a better offense than defense when they won the cup. Special teams have zero correlation to playoff success. The only constant so far is you need an offense to win the Stanley Cup.

        I will take a 33% chance over a 0% chance. But balance gives you the best chance for success, but if you are going to go unbalanced, it is better to go offense than defense. If your goal is the Stanley Cup.

        Edmonton is the only finalist since the lockout to make the Finals (they lost to Carolina, the team with the better offense) without a top 10 offense. 1 out of 12 teams or 8%. I don’t like those odds; I would rather have a top 10 offense.

        There is a reason that the Kings are 7-0 when scoring more than 2 goals. And it isn’t because of the defense, it’s because you put pressure on the other team by scoring goals. Forcing teams to chase you is more important than just sitting back. How many leads have the Kings blown and still won the game because they got that next goal? Again that’s not defense that is doing that, it’s the offense. The problem is that the Kings only have 5 games with more than 2 regulation goals, which is a putrid offense.

        • Im pretty sure if they opened up the offense we’d go from winning 3-2 to losing 5-2. Murray is not stupid as much as you would like to think. If we win it will be defense and goaltending that will win it otherwise we lose. Have faith that players will.find their offensive game and we will see Murray play a more attacking style.

          • Guise,
            it’s not like coach goes, oh, I’ll take about 60% defense tonight, and 40% offense.

            Thinking you must choose between offense and defense is a false dichotomy.

            He can improve the offense without hurting the defense, and vice-versa.

          • Of course you can open it up and play reckless and make defense suffer.

            I don’t think many are suggesting that.

          • I think he tries at times and it becomes like a failed expiriment. Sloppy play usually takes hold I’ve noticed particularly when Bernier is in net for some reason. We lack a true sniper, we also lack some guys who can win battles in the corners. It starts leading to quick turnarounds. I’ve always noticed those games when the Kings play hard and play the system, especially in previous years, games have been won. When guys don’t ‘bring it’ that night games are lost. I think that’s the epitome of Murray system, you must compete or lose.

  2. Holy shit! I just realized it was probably you guys who were passing out that pic of Lupul and Getzlaugh at the Ducks v Kings last December!!

    My wife and I got a hell of a laugh.

  3. I think the 20 game marker is helpful in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the team. I was in high anticipation of the season to start and now 20 games have come and gone. It won’t be too long before we’re at the 40 game mark.

    It’ll be interesting to see how management goes forward when Pens is off IR. The team needs to score more goals 5 on 5 bottom line. As the season progresses they’ll need to improve that but I wonder if the team really has a plan to do that. To me it doesn’t seem like they do. They can keep talking about more scoring here and there but it don’t mean shit if it’s not getting done. Talking about it and not executing it is just talk.

    I think Kopitar last season watching from the sidelines his team getting eliminated in the first round really pushed him to the next level. Maybe that 4-0 comeback win with Sj gave him serious nightmares that he doesn’t want anymore.

    On the upside I do see some good chemistry developing on that 1st line. They seem to be getting nice feeds from below the goal line to the front almost instinctually now. I’m predicting that line will be the dominant line in the not so distant future given everyone stays healthy.

    2nd line I’d rather have Loktionov there over Pens. The kid hustles, the kid grinds and he’s got some playmaking abilities that Penner doesn’t have. AND he’s not afraid to skate with the puck. Actually, I would rather him center a line with Lewis and Cliffy and put Richardson on the 2nd line. Yes Richardson is struggling but I think he’ll breakthrough soon. It may just take that first goal to really get him going.

    Defense not too concerned about except DD. He’s not looking like the DD I’ve seen with the little things like doing a spin move at the blue line, or going coast to coast for a shot on net or really shutting down guys defensively etc.

    Goaltending not concerned. These next few stint of games will be interesting.

    • I like Richardson but if we think back to last year a big part of his year was the early hat trick against Colorado. After that a lot of hustle but not much offense.

      I would park him on the 3rd wing, add some speed to the line to give Clifford a little support.

    • I like your 3rd line suggestion. I don’t understand why we can’t have a young sparkplug line with speed (Richie can be swapped in here too). It worked great in the playoffs. I think all 4 of them are pretty similar and are pretty interchangeable (‘cept Loko, he needs more seasoning but has more skill).

      Murray is in love with the Trent Hunters, Ethan Moreaus, of the league. GRIND GRIND GRIND GRIND. Like we’re in the middle of WWI or something.

  4. Everybody needs to step up their game and improve the bottom six, that’s it. Williams and Gagne are going to have to do what they’ve been brought here to do, score. Doughty is vital to the teams success, he’s going to have to elevate his game. Forwards are not making good breakout passes, I see Anze taking the game into his own hands. Richards is Richards, great player. Brown, I don’t know about Brown, doesn’t seem like the same player a lot of times. Loktionov and Voynov must stay. Penner, what can I say about Penner, get your fat ass in shape. Still some hope for Parse to provide a little. Clifford, let’s get going.

    I still have hope for this team to finish fourth and get to.the second round atleast, but so many things must get better and no, firing Murray wont solve it.

  5. I addressed your question in reply to your Redwings post, but I offer this recap/summary: “Incoherence.”

    Last season’s brave, doomed playoff appearance looks increasingly like the “high-water mark” of Coach Murray’s tenure. And by “doomed”, I am not referring to Anze’s injury,
    but what we can expect from our team as presently configured.

    The falling-away in the area of fundamentals is to my thinking
    decisive evidence that we are falling away even from last season’s best efforts.

    It is fair to look at sub-par individual performances, but at some point leadership becomes the question, no? Are the players not playing for Coach Murray? Are we there now? If so, this that is worthy of criticism, but still points to a problem. The captain of the “Cain” was correct in calling his officers disloyal, notwithstanding the strawberries and ball bearings,
    buy the Navy also saw that their disloyalty pointed to a real problem for the overall mission.

    Is this the issue, and, have we arrived? If we have not significantly corrected these issues by midseason, then I will say “yes.”

  6. “You guys, it’s not the system, it’s the players. It’s partly Kramer’s fault. Terry Murray is doing such an excellent job, but Dean Lombardi sucks.”

    If you guess who I am you win tickets to the gun show.

  7. I would figure the Kings to miss the playoffs if this were last year’s Western Conference. But this year the Kings are lucky, the Western Conference (past the top three teams) is so lethargic that the Kings still have time to pull it together.

    In the meanwhile building a winning record by beating the worst , losing no contests against the best and scratching for OT points against the average is ominous.

    A once vibrant club, the Kings now carry at least three players who are playing out careers (and one who can not play up to his contract). The Kings feel stale and need to clean house. Those that remain are tasked with developing a club identity and as I mentioned, have the time to do it.

    As for coaching, its not that Kings hockey is not exciting, its that its not smart hockey. Coaching has the top six is channeling 6 pounds of ability into a 3 pound
    bag and the bottom four stuffed into a bag that should be burning on a door step.

    On a side note: This year the trainers left…and behold the Kings are now a team that can’t hold a lead or come back. Remember two years ago when LA wore down the opposition by the 3rd period and left them in the dust?

  8. Some comments/counter-points:
    1. Defense I’m generally okay with, but Martinez has been a pretty big disappointment compared to what he started to show us last year. Maybe we should cut Drewiskie loose and split games w/ Martinez and Voynov, and they can earn their right to play these games against each other. Maybe it would keep them both motivated.

    2. I don’t think it’s fair to bag on Hunter when Murray hasn’t given him a fair shake. I simply don’t understand why Moreau has been in almost every game with his constant fuckups and Hunter has only been in 8? I’m not expecting miracles out of him but it seems pointless to have them both and if Moreau has repeatedly shown he lacks discipline with the dumb penalties then it’s clear he has no place here, especially with Hunter to fill the same roll.

    3. I just don’t know what to say about Stoll, Clifford and Richardson. Considering Stoll goes UFA next year it probably would be worth dealing him. Cliffy and Richie I suspect would benefit from, and flat out NEED, some better coaching to get them back on track.

    4. I can’t believe you didn’t say anything about Brown. I’m not sure what to say, other than he seems to be slowly coming out of his funk, but it just isn’t happening quickly enough. The hitting is coming back, but there seem to be shots he’s missing he just shouldn’t and that is not helping at all.

  9. im just glad that dumb ass dutch hasnt spammed this page with his retorts to everything you have written, he may think his analysis is rock solid but i think most the readers here know hes an idiot. anyways thats my two cents. has nothing to do with the post but hey i needed to say that.

  10. If ask Dean Lombardi a direct question about this that or the other, he will lul you to sleep, so he never has to answer the question. I have never seen someone dodge giving an answer that isn’t total bullshit. Last season after getting used by Kovalchuk and family to have Dustin Brown be a tour guide for couple of days in Los Angeles because they have never been here was just pathetic!
    Lombardi then adds insult to injury by telling everyone just how good Scott Parse is, knowing full well he was done for the season with that hip flexor problem. According to Dean everything was ok, because they signed Alexi Ponikorovski who scored a whopping 5 goals.
    What really pisses me off, even without Kopitar and Williams, the Kings had the Sharks beat! How the fuck can not win a single game at home? Hell, SJ gave you a 4 goal headstart and you still managed to fuck that up. Sure you can blame the players for not sticking to the system, or maybe if you had called a fucking time out when you saw the wheels starting to come off the wagon, hell pull the goalie, but no! Murray just stood behind the bench looking like he had a bad reaction to botox because there was no emotion or movement of his lips.
    Maybe if you pulled that “choke” skit with the Kings, it might have worked this time.
    The so called hockey experts keep blowing smoke up Lombardi’ ass, just like they did with Doughty after his 2nd season. Problem is, Lombardi can’t get a high end UFA to sign here. Gagne is one of those exceptions, along with Mitchell. Both players were considered to high a risk because of concussion issues. Gagne showed last season that wasn’t a problem anymore and thank god Mitchell signed.
    LA Kings best group of prospects in the NHL.
    LA Kings serious contenders to make a deep run into the playoffs.
    LA Kings one of the best group of goaltenders.
    LA Kings one of the best teams on paper.
    You would think with organizational depth like this and all the talent on the current roster, this team would have a better record then right now.
    1. Defense is not that good, full strength and PK. Too many goals scored within 10ft of the goal.
    2. Defense is not physical enough.
    3. No shot blocking by forwards. In the 1st few games of this season, I saw Mike Richards blocking shots like he was back in Philly, problem was he was alone.
    4. Goaltender management. A big contradiction at the current pace 17 games for Bernier. He played in 25 last season.
    5. 3rd line lack of production, constant changes.
    6. Bad trade! Penner has just gone AWOL. He’s a nice guy, we all heard about being out of shape, coming into camp lighter looking great. No goals yet.
    7. Stoll, where do you start? If you could have a shootout specialist, that is where Stoll belongs. He might chip in a few PP goals in a season, but he misses the net so much he’s a liability.
    8. After seeing improvement in the PP early on, it seems like Jaime Kompon is back incharge. If I ever wanted to teach pre–schoolers how to play hot potato, I would just plug in a recording of the Kings on the PP.
    9. Kyle Clifford who seems like he has been told not to drop the gloves as often as last season. Playing on that 3rd line with some skill players might get him chances. He does have offensive skill.
    10. Richardson not being used the same as last season.
    This is what I have observed to date.
    Voynov is ready, problem is who to play JJ and DD with. One will have to pair with Greene, and the other with Scuderi. JJ and DD together just not a good idea.
    Martinez returns Voynov goes back. If they were to cut Drewiske loose, then A-Mart might be the ugly girl at the dance. I have seen so many send A-Mart down posts on facebook and other places. If I am correct A-mart would have to be placed on waivers, if that is the case, the Kings are now down 2 defensemen. Martinez was just starting to get his offensive game going. A-Mart is also bigger than Voynov. Voynov should not be in Manchester, but it’s not a good plan to keep him up to have 7-10 min a game when he can get 20+ in Manchester.
    The same thing applies to Loktionov. If you move Stoll to a wing, let Loktionov play center, maybe Stoll’ production goes up. Loktionov on the wing, might be good for now, but for a guy who is more used to dishing, rather than shooting its going to take more time.
    The issue with coaching is simple, the only way DL would have to do something like others have said, total tailspin. Murray is DL’ guy. DL has made a few bad choices Hickey/Teubert (Myers), Penner trade gave up Teubert a former 1st round pick, and a 1st round pick to get him.
    I seriously believe TM is a carrer killer. You might think I’m crazy, but I don’t care how lazy people thought Frolov was, how can you go from 30+ goals year 1 under Murray, to 19 in year 2? He was jerked around between the 3rd and 4th, after being one of more consistent goal scorers, in addition to using his body and skill to cycle down low and not give up the puck. On the back check, only Datsyuk was better at stripping pucks. But hey, he signs with NY for less than what Poni got, but was injured. Meanwhile those extra 14 goals could have helped.
    Wayne Simmonds, had a great year 1 under Murray, was one of the “core”. The 2nd year his points dip, his ice-time is decreaased. Simmonds seems to be seen in Philly as worthy of being out there for the PP and on a 2nd or 3rd line wing. Wasn’t it Simmonds/Richardson/Clifford who were scoring against SJ in the playoffs?
    Shit another novel, maybe next post I’ll tell you really what I see.
    Oh one more thing we all better hope nobody gets injured on the 1st or 2nd lines. If that happens, musical linemates starts again and continues. I have to admit with the exception of trying to get Penner out of his slump, and the Scott Parse experiment the lines have remained together.
    Last season that “geezer” line was on fire until injuries hit them. Why was that line not put together when all were well?
    Are you willing to allow Stevens to take the reigns? He does come from a different system, and hopefully hasn’t been brainwashed. Problem is he wasn’t effective 2 seasons ago, when he was let go and Laviolette replaced him, getting that same underachieving team to the Stanley Cup Finals.
    Playoffs the past 2 years, should have advanced in the 2nd, could have made things more difficult against Van 2 seasons ago.
    Murray has done well, but now he is well done.

  11. What happens in St. Louis, Dallas, and Chicago could really make me throw up on my shoes.

    Hell week is about to begin.

  12. Pony had a big night for the Hurricanes. Two powerplay goals and an assist. He’s already at number 5. I’m guessing the Hurricanes don’t have a quota.

  13. Interesting Stats from JFTC.

    Turnovers: Kings (203) 4th in NHL

    Takeaways: Kings (100) 29th in NHL

    Definitely something to work on.

  14. Caught a little of the Pens vs Isles game yesterday. Crosby had a great game. One thing that seemed eerily familiar was the Islanders offense. It looked almost identical to ours! And it’s no wonder why they got blown out 5-0. Yeah Cindy Crosby’s first game back yada yada but man their offense looks horrible. Boring with very little creativity. Very much that dump and grind game.

    Pens on the other hand looked great. Interesting comment made was their depth down the middle. Crosby, Malkin and Staal and that they are going to just wear down teams with that combo. Must be nice having Bylsma and Granato behind your bench.

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