LA Kings in the Hunt, Don't Hit the Panic Button

Mike MillerContributor IIJanuary 12, 2010

Last night I sat on my couch and watched the LA Kings lose to the Sharks in a 2–1 heartbreaker.  It was the third straight loss and seemed to generate as much frustration on the ice as it did in my living room.

Last Thursday the Kings lost to the Detroit Red Wings in a game they out-shot, out-hit, and out-hustled the Wings.  There seemed to be a lid on the goal as young goaltender Howard stood on his proverbial head.

Saturday the Blues came to town and there was a clear hangover from the Thursday night game.  The Blues scored on the first shift off a wrist shot from the point after a clearing attempt failed.  In the end the score was 4-3 but as an observer it never felt that close.

As a fan and amateur analyst I sit and wonder what is going on with the Kings. 

Are they too young? 

Is it the lack of experience? 

Is it the coach? 

Is it the system they are employing? 

What piece of the missing formula puzzle are they missing?

The Kings are currently the second youngest team in the NHL.  They are stuck with the “potential” label.  With the exception of Ryan Smyth, Rob Scuderi, Sean O’Donnell, Justin William, and a few others, there isn’t a lot of experience on this team.  The Kings are still learning how to win consistently. 

The problem I see with being young and going through winning slumps is the toll it can take on the mind.  It can cause them to start doubting themselves.  Hopefully the small list of veterans can help keep them on track and believing.

When you look at the way the Kings have lost two out of the last three one simply can look at how they lost and realize that a 2-1 record could have been had.  They completely dominated and outshot Detroit and should have won that game.  Detroit just got the breaks that night. 

Against the Sharks last night they once again ran into a hot goaltender.  If they would have kept their physical electric play up that came around the time of their goal the outcome surely could have been different.

This is Terry Murray’s second year with a group of young players.  Before Terry took over this team had no identity.  As a fan watching the team I had no idea what they were doing on the ice.  There seemed to be a complete lack of system.  Guys were running around trying to do it on their own.  Now the Kings employ a system that is physical and high energy.  There is a lot of checking and dump and chase combined with a "puck moving puck" control system. 

If you haven’t seen it, watch the Kings on a power play.  The combination of Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty on the blue line is exciting and explosive.  They move without the puck amazingly well.

So does it come down to a missing piece of the puzzle?  It might, I personally am not convinced.  There are rumors on the World Wide Web that the Kings might be in the Kovalchuck sweepstakes if Atlanta decides to trade him.  As exciting as that sounds it also scares the heck out of me. 

Dean Lombardi has spent the past four years restocking the cupboard the previous GM left bare.  There was constant mortgaging of the future to win now, and it never worked out.

The Kings' prospect list is deep and full of promise.  The team on the ice is really, really close to breaking through and making a deep playoff push.  Considering what the Kings would have to give up getting a big name, it doesn’t seem worth it.

If they want him, go and get him when the free agent period begins.  They are one of the teams that have the cap space.  If he wants to be in LA and the Kings want to pay him the option will be there.  Please make sure not to handicap the future with some ridiculous cap-destroying salary along the way.  Hockey is the ultimate team sport.  One person doesn’t make a team. 

The Kings played the Sharks last night.  Ron Wilson is the Sharks GM and gets credit for their recent success.  The biggest thing he has done was pull off the trade for Joe Thornton and he was able to do that with the talent Dean Lombardi stockpiled as the GM for the Sharks.

Dean Lombardi is in the process of building the Kings into a winner.  It is taking longer then many fans would like but it appears he has completely recreated the Kings.  He’s constructing a team that potentially will win and win for a long time.

Kings fans, be patient, greatness and a possible dynasty are coming.  This isn’t basketball—drafting one really good player does not a contender make you.

Terry Murray, do what you do.  As a fan you have my trust. 

Dean Lombardi, I am drinking the Kool-Aid.

LA Kings players, quoting Journey, “Don’t stop believing.”  Your time is almost here.  Keep playing smart and hard.  Keep up the physicality.  The pieces are there and the synergy is coming.