First off, sorry for the prolonged absence. I was on a long vacation and definitely suffered from blogger withdrawal. Anyone who showed a remote interest in hockey I would prattle on to forever, so it’s good to be back.
There’s a lot going on for the Kings right now, so I’d like to just touch on the few things that will be impacting the Kings… severely.
The Good: The Kings are having a good month and really a good season. Despite a few awful streaks, the Kings find themselves with 92 points and 7 games remaining. The magic number is expected to be around 97 or 98 in the West this season, so the Kings look like they’re in a good position to take a playoff spot. However, the race is still very tight.
Coach Terry Murray’s decision to alternate goaltenders was looked at with an awkward eye when he brought it up (myself included) but it has paid off. Both Quick and Bernier have raised their games and locked up wins for the Kings.
The Kings depth looks pretty good right now with guys like Toffoli, Vey, Weal, and Schenn proving their offensive mettle in Juniors.
The Bad: It looked bad when the Kings lost Justin Williams a few days ago to injury. He was having a real comeback season and has arguably been the Kings best forward this year. Then last night happens. It was a sickening sight to see Kopitar fall on top of his own foot and break his ankle.
Thankfully Kopitar isn’t down due to a head injury or something more serious, but the fact remains that the Kings leading scorer, top center, and man who just entered the Selke conversation just saw his season end. Kopitar could return if the Kings make it deep into the playoffs, but how likely is that to happen without him?
The Ugly: The Kings are looking at a tough decision here since their top two candidates to call up to replace Kopitar aren’t options. Loktoinov, who would be the obvious first choice, is done for the year with a shoulder injury. Brayden Schenn would be a great choice to replace Kopitar, but he’s ineligible until his Junior team is eliminated from the playoffs, which could be a long time. Replacing one top-line guy is one thing, replacing two is a nightmare.
Glimmer of hope: Take a look at Pittsburgh. They’ve been without Crosby and Malkin for the majority of the season and they’ve not only held on, but they find themselves in pretty good position headed into the playoffs. It’s possible to survive without your star player and I would argue the Kings have better depth than the Penguins do. The departure of Kopitar and Williams is a downer no doubt, but if the rest of the team uses it as a chance to step up and play a bigger role then the Kings can survive.
What happens from here: Well I’d expect to see Richardson used more prominently. He’s shown the offensive potential and he always has the drive and grit. Maybe Handzus or Stoll shift up to the top line and Richardson takes their place. In my opinion this is a better option than calling up anyone remaining in Manchester. The Kings will still probably recall some one to have on hand, but the answer is on the roster right now.
If nothing else, this is the opportunity guys like Moller and Simmonds need to show they can step up to the next level and compete. For Moller, it’s about proving he is a top-6 winger in the NHL. For Simmonds, it’s about showing that his down season has been an aberration and he can provide more offense.
Either way, the Kings have their work cut out for them.
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