Los Angeles Kings are a hot mess

Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images
Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images /

The Los Angeles Kings are having a heck of a horrible start to their 2018-19 season.

The heady three-year run when the Los Angeles Kings were among the elite teams in the NHL is a distant memory for anyone watching this latest iteration of the two-time champs. Their two goals per game (as of Friday, Oct. 19) rank fourth-lowest in the NHL while their 3.29 goals against average is the 10th-highest.

While the Stanley Cup banners are hanging in the rafters, they flutter over hushed crowds who sit in stunned silence (or groaning misery) as they witness the miserable, dysfunctional collection of jerseys skating futilely on the Staples Center ice.

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This is a team with no identity, desperately clinging to the past with the aging core of Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and Jonathan Quick. They are lost when it comes to figuring out how to compete in today’s NHL.

The initial six-game sample of this year’s Kings is bleak and that is being generous.  There is no team chemistry or identity. Leaders are lost or silent, newcomers are woefully out of sync, special teams are laughably inept, and goalies are hung out to dry facing wave after wave of outmanned rushes.

So where does the fault lie? There is plenty to go around. Ilya Kovalchuk looks like a square peg, incapable of fitting into any hole, circle or otherwise. Undisciplined penalties taken in the offensive zone (looking at you, Adrian Kempe) are not the exception but the rule, making up the majority of the Kings slow skates to the penalty box. Effective zone-entries are non-existent as opposing teams make a mockery of any attempts to mount sustained pressure in their defensive zone.

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Who’s To Blame?

General Manager Rob Blake must shoulder a portion of the blame, as his off-season moves have not panned out just yet. His moves appear to have been made out of a combination of haste, panic, and desperation.

The biggest helping of the blame must be heaped on head coach John Stevens. Here is a coach who speaks about adapting to the “new” NHL but the fact is that he is a remnant of the old guard. He was by Darryl Sutter‘s side and learned his “defense first” mentality. It was a method that attained the highest level of success.

But that was then, this is now and the now has Stevens thoroughly flummoxed. The league may have transitioned but he is struggling to discover what it means for him as a coach and the players he draws up plays for.

Kopitar is a legitimate superstar and one of the best players in the game. Doughty is a perennial Norris Trophy candidate who consistently leads the league in ice-time. He’s a coach’s dream. Nothing needs to be adjusted with those two, send them out on the ice and watch the magic.

Rather, it is the youngsters, the still rough-around-the-edges kids who need to be molded into the new identity that the Kings must adopt and Stevens has demonstrated that he has no plan. His Eyore-style post-game press conferences are already growing old.

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Creating Chemistry Requires a Plan

Chemistry must be forged on the ice among linemates but night after night Stevens sends out players who have no idea when it comes to where their teammates will be. Passes go awry and confusion reigns. Jeff Carter an elite scoring center bops around lines nightly. Alex Iafallo is leaned on far too much at this point in his young career. Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson cannot find their place or regain their once prodigious chemistry.

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Yes, Dustin Brown has not stepped on the ice this season, and it’s true that Jonathan Quick missed 4 games but that’s hockey, no team escapes injuries. Stevens does not have fall back plans for these inevitable bangs, breaks, and bruises.

When the Kings won their first Cup in 2012, they replaced coaches mid-season and the rest became history. Just sayin’….