It’s just 11 days in and the month of January has been a busy one for the Kings. 2011 has not been kind to the Kings so far and with the All-Star break approaching fast, it’s time for the Kings to start thinking about what needs to change. The dreaded possibility is that the question might actually be, “Who needs to change?”
Of course you can cross one name off that list and that’s Jack Johnson. Johnson was inked to a 7 year deal with an approximate cap-hit of $4.3mm per season.
In short, I like the deal. I like the term, I like the cash dollars, and I like the cap-hit. In an interview with Rich Hammond, Dean Lombardi essentially said this is what a deal should be; a fair amount of money paid to a player in accordance with what the team expects from him.
Johnson is having a career year and has really stepped up, especially when Doughty was struggling at the start of the season. Having both Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson on the blue-line for the Kings is huge in keeping the team a contender for years to come. Next up will be signing Doughty who will likely garner more money, a larger cap-hit, and potentially a longer term.
First, let me explain where my analysis on this subject comes from. Obviously, I’m a blogger and a fan. So when I speculate, it’s reactionary to what is happening. Hopefully I’m providing an insight that is indicative of what Kings fans are thinking as they watch their team play their way through the season. I’m a bit of a centrist, far from the “The Sky is Falling!” group and equidistant from the “Lombardi is a Genius” crew.
That said, the Kings just lost to the Leafs last night. Of course every team in the league is dangerous, but if the Kings are striving to be one of the elite teams in the league, last night proved they aren’t there yet.
The Kings have dropped all but one of their contests since the start of the year (1-4-0). In interview, again with Rich Hammond, Terry Murray cited that pretty much everything was a problem. He mentioned scoring, the fundamentals, and playing a full 60. Hearing him say “the fundamentals” is not a terribly settling thought. Shouldn’t those be, well, fundamental? Shouldn’t the team have that stuff down?
Regardless, fans want answers and results. The addition of Marco Sturm has been a positive one, but I would argue that it did little to solve the Kings’ problems. Part of the problem was an overabundance of depth scoring and a lack of a 1st line scoring winger. The point of targeting Sturm was to address that problem when all it ended up doing was adding another depth scorer to the rotation.
Looking back on the summer, it’s easy to fault Lombardi for spending so much time on his failed attempt to sign Kovalchuk. However, there were no other viable options that could really solve the Kings’ problems on the 1st line. Headed toward the trade deadline the Kings have a glut of support scoring forwards who might feel the bristle of the guillotine on their neck hairs. Handzus, Williams, Ponikarovsky, Sturm, Parse, Richardson, Simmonds, and Lewis are all UFAs or RFAs come season end. It’s possible we could see any of them depart in a package to get scoring help. Or make room for World Junior standout Brayden Schenn…
I also recently said that the atmosphere surrounding the Kings felt like one where a coach could be on the chopping block. I’m not suggesting Murray is the problem or that he should go, but when a team goes through a stretch of 1-7-0 followed by 1-6-0, no one’s job seems safe.
I can’t remember who said it, but earlier this season I read the words, “You don’t want to be playing your best hockey in October.” As of now, that’s the story of the Kings’ season…
On the All-Star Game…
Anze Kopitar will be the Kings sole representative at the 2011 All-Star Game in Raleigh, NC. Kopi deserves the nomination for his strong play, even without a 1st line left-winger to play with. While other Kings likely deserved some recognition as well, such as Quick, Brown, and even Justin Williams, I look forward to the majority of the team getting some much needed rest.
The All-Star Game will take place on January 30th in Raleigh, NC. A full list of All-Star players can be found on TSN.ca.
The Kings will try to get back to winning on Thursday at 7:30 pm PT at Staples Center against the St. Louis Blues.
About the Author
Written by Eric Cooney
Eric Cooney was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina, and lives in Los Angeles, CA. He shares his thoughts on the NHL as one man who is a northerner, southerner, east coaster, and west coaster. Follow him on Twitter @EricCooney