Today's blog is on the LA Kings. They are probably one of the most puzzling teams in the League. Any team that has the talent the Kings do should not have to battle making the playoffs.
Among the forwards, they have one of the most talented young forwards in the League: Kopitar. That kid can do anything. He is not alone. The Kings have a solid winger in Ryan Smith, who is a leader on this team. Justin Williams actually led this team in scoring at one time; he is a solid winger with fire power.
On the defense, the Kings have one of the best young defencemen in Drew Doughty. Drew is probably one of the best skaters and puck-moving players in the League. They have one of the best stay-home defencemen in the League in Willie Mitchell, who is very sound in his own end.
In goal, they have Jonathan Quick; the Olympian goalie is one of the best young goalies in the League. He is a quick (no pun intended), agile goalie with great reflexes. Quick is a fundamentally sound goalie who plays his angles and has all the talent to become a star in the League.
Yet with all this talent, the Kings continue to struggle. So I went to find out the scoop with this team; and who better to ask than Jon Moncrief, LA Kings Examiner? He would know far more than I would, which is not saying much. I asked Jon some pertinent questions on the Kings.
The Kings should be one of the best teams in the League with all of their talent. What is going on? I mean, what do you see as the main reason for the spiral in the standings?
They have certainly had a Jekyll-and-Hyde season to be sure, and it comes from their ability or inability to understand their talent level. They have it certain areas and are lacking in others. When they play their system for 60 minutes, they can beat any team in the league soundly. When they get away from doing all of the little things, they can have lapses that expose them as the flawed team they seem to be. With the Kings, itís all about the confidence they have in themselves.
How are the fans feeling right now? Is there a lot of pressure on the Kings to win?
The fans are understandably frustrated because of the way thing went earlier in the season, and the promise that this season brought because of the Dean Lombardi rebuilding plan. Making the playoffs last year meant that the next logical step was contending for a division title and winning a round or two in the playoffs. You have to remember: these fans suffered through a lot of years of ownership mismanagement, trying quick fixes and selling the future to come up short, and watching the ďyounger brotherĒ down the freeway in Orange County win a Stanley Cup already. So there is pressure on the Kings to win, but not nearly as suffocating as say in Vancouver or Toronto or markets like that. Still, the fans that Iíve talked to recently are disappointed in that they think more needs to be done in the short term. Itís hard to argue with what they are saying, but part of the historic problem has been the franchiseís unwillingness to take one step backward in order to take two or three steps forward.
The next question has to do with Drew Doughty. Have the injuries really affected his play? He has not been the same player as last year. Are the Kings happy with his play of late?
Doughty has certainly been the whipping boy for some fans, because it has been perceived that he came into the season unprepared to take the next step up that someone nominated for the Norris at 20 should. I think he came back a little too soon from the concussion, but the other issue has been that the Kings are a little thin on the blue line overall. Beyond Jack Johnson and Doughty, you have an often-injured Willie Mitchell whoís game is predicated on physicality, and two defensive-defensemen in Scuderi and Greene who are great defenders but contribute nothing offensively, putting a lot on Drew and JJ. Alec Martinez has been a nice find, but they are woefully thin back there. Terry Murray has been talking with Doughty regularly about playing his game more, not trying to do too much beyond what he can. His game Saturday night against Edmonton was easily his best game in the last month and arguably of the entire season. In some ways, these growing pains heís struggling through this year I feel will only benefit his development because he will understand that everything doesnít come easily.
Are the Kings going to be active at the deadline? Who is going to be the hired gun to get the Kings to the promise land? Or are the Kings even going to get a rental?
The answer will be determined on their upcoming franchise-record 10-game road trip. Thanks to the Grammy Awards and the NBA All-Star Game here at Staples in February, the Kings will be on the road from February 1 through February 24 and will play teams like Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia and the NY Rangers during that stretch. If they are still within eight points of a spot or in playoff position by then, then they will be active buyers to a point. If not, they may be sellers in terms of vets that might fit other teams. Dean Lombardi has never been a big-name blockbuster trade kind of GM, and I donít expect that to change, despite the reemergence of the Jarome Iginla rumors and the daily rumors of guys like Patrik Elias, Mike Fisher, and others. I think he will stay the course and look towards the summer to address some issues.
Jon Moncrief has been covering the Los Angeles Kings for Examiner.com for three seasons now, and also covers the NHL in general and baseballís Dodgers for Examiner as well. He is also the co-host of INSIDE SPORTS, a weekly sports web-TV series, and serves as a featured contributor to the college football site Bowl Gamer. Jon has been covering sports on-line and in print for over a decade, and was lead writer for the award-winning sports documentary film 4CHOSEN