So a few weeks ago I posted a blog about how the Kings had problems finishing in regulation, relating the problem to A) scoring woes and B) their past history of overtime losses in the playoffs. For it, I was called “desperate and nerdy” and a “bad journalist” (I wish) and told it was “poor writing.” Since then, the Kings have only gone to OT 2 more times in 10 more games. So, I will concede that they at least escaped that trend. However, their record since that blog is 4-4-2, which is a downslide from the 8-1-5 record they held at the time under Sutter. The Kings’ scoring woes are a topic of conversation now and I stand by my earlier blog; the Kings have problems finishing.
The Kings under Darryl Sutter are 12-5-7, which isn’t bad. However, that’s still 12 wins and 12 losses and it still shows the Kings have problems ending games in regulation. 10 of Sutter’s 24 games as coach have gone to overtime, with 3 victories and 7 losses. As of this date, no team in the league has less goals than the Kings. You can blame Mike Richards cooling off, blame Dustin Penner’s fall from grace, blame Gagne for being perpetually injured, blame Jamie Kompon (as I am wont to do, regardless of the validity of such claims). It’s no one player or coach’s fault.
The Kings are consistently inconsistent when it comes to scoring and this team as it is won’t do damage in the playoffs.
Bring on the hate mail, but it’s how I feel. Something has to change and when you’ve already replaced the coach, it’s time to think trades. Now, I’m not a trade-happy kind of guy who thinks Player-X is the answer, but it’s abundantly clear the Kings need to add a goal scorer. Preferably one that scores goals this time.
With the Kings popping up in trade rumors for Rick Nash (yet another right wing), I’m sure Lombardi is doing his shopping. However, we know how well the Kings fare when it comes to landing the prize pig, so don’t get your hopes up. If there’s some kind of conversion chart of “Kovalchuk -> Penner” or “Brad Richards -> Mike Richards”, we could probably figure out “Rick Nash -> _______.”
But let’s pretend for a second that the Kings land Nash. He’s very expensive and the Kings will have to give up as much salary as they take on given their cap situation. That means the “Bernier, Johnson, and a 1st” won’t really make enough space unless there’s some garbage thrown in. Let’s say Penner. That’s not going to be comfortable for the BJs because they’re up against the ceiling as well. I would expect some more dealing on their part as well, since we’re hearing rumblings of a restructure in Columbus.
Even in a world in which Bernier, Johnson, and a 1st gets you Rick Nash, the cost to the Kings causes trickle down. Bernier has lost his luster as the Kings’ savior in net since Quick has been great AND consistent. However, the Kings will probably want to add an experienced NHL backup if Bernier leaves. Jeff Zatkoff is capable but if this is all for a playoff run, it would be wise to add experience between the pipes and not kill the kid’s confidence if he’s needed down the stretch.
I have my problems with Johnson, but he has improved defensively this season and has a very affordable cap hit for the production he brings. While he may be the Kings’ most appealing trade piece, he’s also an important piece of this defense. So if he leaves, are the Kings happy without him? Voynov makes the case that they are and could capably take the 2nd pair spot with Martinez making his way back into the lineup permanently in the bottom pair.
The 1st round pick is a vexing suggestion. After stockpiling picks for years, the Kings have suddenly stalled out in the prospect department. Don’t get me wrong, there is still quality in the well with Toffoli, Vey, Deslauriers, Muzzin, etc. However, it will hurt a few years down the road when those guys make the jump.
Trading value will get you value and with Bernier or Johnson the return will be good (hopefully). What the Kings need to do is shed deadweight. A player not worth his contract is a huge divot in the budget for a team and for the Kings that divot is named “Dustin Penner.” I think the first thing the Kings need to do is find a selling team to take on Penner for whatever they can. ”Future Considerations”, ie. nothing, is fine. Just opening up the cap space is a boon (see: Boston Bruins unloading Marco Sturm).
Working in the Kings’ favor? Depth at defense. With Doughty embedded as the team’s top offensive defenseman, Johnson or Voynov or Martinez are possible value-getters (yes, I said value-getters). Is Hickey a value-getter? He’s an RFA this summer. Is he someone the Kings might throw in?
It’s a tricky situation to navigate. The Kings can’t get caught cutting off their nose to spite their face. Otherwise they’ll just trade one problem for another. It will be interesting to see how Lombardi handles this one.
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