… So, on the evening of the Leap Day, and headed into March, I don’t know if there’s much to say here without feeling like a broken record. The same things I’ve said about the lack of scoring all season long are still in focus from my point of view.
- I still think the Kings’ shooting percentages, both at five-on-five and with the man advantage, are abnormally and unsustainably low. At some point, they will improve. The chances have been there all season long, with rare exception, and it’s a matter of time until those chances will be converted.
- I think that the lack of leadership in the front office can’t help but have a certain impact on the overall mood of the team, and with it, the play of the team. Unrealistic expectations, which were in place before the season started, have clouded everything this team has done and has tried to do this season. Instead of fostering a mindset of “We are still looking to improve, and still building”, the mindset was “We have everything built and in place, and all that’s left is the formality of playing out the season”, when anyone who’s been around this game (or any sport, really) for any length of time can tell you the season is never a formality. There was such a lack of respect within the organization for how difficult it truly is to even MAKE the playoffs, let alone succeed in them. If it were the first season that this management team was in place, it would almost be forgivable, but it isn’t – it’s their sixth season, and they should have known better. A lot of Kings’ fans should have known better, as well.
- Replacing a defensive coach with a more defensive coach certainly didn’t look to shake the Kings out of their offensive funk, and surprisingly enough, it hasn’t. Although the Kings have had more games where they’ve scored 3-4 goals than they did under Terry Murray, they have also had more games where they’ve scored 0-1 goals as well. Presently, they are more inconsistent offensively than they’ve been all season long.
- The Kings opened their season with a top six that was largely brand new to the team, and a bottom six as thin talent-wise as I’d seen in years. How people could expect the Kings to score at any kind of acceptable pace out of the gate was utterly confounding to me, and showed a clear lack of understanding how hockey works.
All that being said, I will say the Kings have made recent progress. The deal for Jeff Carter was a real shake-up; trading away someone like Jack Johnson, who was thought of as a core player here, was a definitive acknowledgement by this organization that they didn’t feel the team had enough offensive talent up front to be successful. That acknowledgement, in itself, sent a clear message to the team and the fans.
With the deal for Carter in place, the Kings were able to drop Dustin Penner into a role where he could build his game and his confidence back from the depths. Playing alongside a center in Jarret Stoll who will win the vast majority of faceoffs and thus ensure puck possession, and with a wing in Trevor Lewis who will bust his ass and play all two hundred feet of ice – Penner seems to be ready to turn his season around. With the chances that line is creating, along with real threats on the wing in Carter and a rejuvenated Dustin Brown, teams can no longer simply look to shut off the center of the ice against the top two lines, and as such, the Kings should reap some benefits there. A permanent home on the blueline for Slava Voynov adds yet another new dimension to this team, and I personally believe there’s something very special about this rookie.
I’m not really interested right now in how many points the Kings will supposedly need at the end of the season in order to reach the playoffs. I’m more interested in seeing if this team can maintain some level of consistency in the challenging games which await them. Ten of their next twelve games are against conference rivals who are looking to either solidify their playoff seeding (Detroit x2, San Jose, Nashville x2, Chicago, St. Louis, Vancouver) or trying to get in the picture (Anaheim x2). They have another date with the defending World champions; this time in our house. The games will let us all know if the Kings are worthy of being included in the playoff discussion, far more so than any projections. All of our questions will be answered. The trade deadline is over; the organization has served notice that they haven’t given up on this season just yet, and now it’s time to let the team do what they’ve been assembled to do.
You think that maybe it’s over? Only if you want it to be. Are you gonna wait for a sign, your miracle? Stand up and fight.
This is it.