Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Why I Don't Think the Kings Will Make a Major Move at the Deadline

Forgive me for doing another post about hockey - I normally only do one a month - but I felt I had to post this.

There have been rumors swirling around the LA Kings all season that they were desperate to add a scoring winger - preferably a left winger - to their lineup. And to be honest, it's easy to see why. The lack of a scoring winger has long been the major hole in the Kings lineup - this is at least the third season in a row where it has been a major concern. There were all sorts of rumors swirling around the Kings last trade deadline, and they didn't address the need then. There were all sorts of rumors during the offseason, and they didn't add anyone then either.

This season, the top line of Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown have been matched up with the following players for at least one game - Ryan Smyth, Justin Williams, Wayne Simmonds, Michael Handzus, Andrei Loktinov, Kyle Clifford, Brad Richardson, Dwight King, Marco Sturm, Scott Parse and Alexi Ponokarovsky. For those too lazy to count, that's 11 different players. None of them have really worked out all that well, as they are all better suited on the line they have more normally skated with, or in the case of Sturm and Parse, have suffered injuries before the determination could really be made.

If you watched the Kings in the playoffs last year, you know they were weak in terms of scoring. And nothing has really changed. Their defensive core is one of the best in the league, their starting goalie, Jonatahn Quick, deserves Vezina consideration that he will not get. It is a very rare occassion when the Kings give up more than 3 goals in a game, and most of the time they give up less than that. So why then are they currently sitting in 9th place in the West? Simple - they cannot score to save their lives.

The secondary scoring for the Kings needs to step up a bit, sure. Other than the second line of Jarret Stoll, Ryan Smuth and Justin Williams, who have been the most consistent contributers this season, it is pretty much non-existant. Michael Handzus, Wayne Simmonds, Brad Richardson and Alexi Ponikarovsky all need to step up. You don't really expect rookies like Trevor Lewis or Kyle Clifford to score that often, but a little more would be nice.

But the truth of the matter is that the Kings need to get their top line scoring. Anze Kopitar only has 1 goal since the beginning of 2011 (although he has added 15 assits) and Dustin Brown only has two. Part of the problem is that these two just need to step up. But part of the problem is that opposing teams aren't stupid, and know they really don't have to worry about the left winger on their line (currently Loktinov) and can just concentrate on Kopitar and Brown. When you add in the fact that when things aren't going well, Brown tries to do too much - and deak through entire teams, which is not his strong suit - it becomes even easier. Yes, it is clear, the Kings need a legitimate first line left winger. Without one, making the playoffs will be a challenge, and winning in them practically impossible.

So as you can see, I understand why there are rumors flying around about the Kings - particularly in regards to acquiring Dustin Penner from Edmonton. And personally, I hope the Kings make a move. The reason I think they won't is simple - Kings GM Dean Lombardi isn't as desperate as everyone thinks he is.

As I mentioned above, this is the third season in a row with this hole in the lineup. To this point, Dean Lombardi hasn't really made a move to address it. Sure, he brought in Ryan Smyth, but that was for the second line. And he brought in Modin last year at the trade deadline and Ponikarovksy and Sturm at the beginning and middle of this season respectively. But if he thought they were going to fill in the top spot, it was merely wishful thinking or hope. And if he hasn't really done anything to address this problem in the past, what makes everyone think he will now? It's true that everytime a scoring winger has become available, either via trade or free agency, Lombardi has been in the discussion, trying to make something happen. But he has never closed the deal for a simple reason - he isn't willing to overpay for a player, whether that's in terms of money or in return on a trade.

Generally, I think this has served the Kings well. Recently, when there was a ranking of all 30 teams prospects, the Kings came in second. They are well stocked on goalies, defensemen and centers for years to come. And considering the age of Brown, Simmonds and Lewis, they look good at right wing as well. With Tyler Toffoli and Maxim Kitsyn playing well in Junior, we may even have the scoring left wingers we need - in about 3-4 seasons.

And that is why Lombardi won't make a major move. He is a GM who believes in building through the draft, and being patient instead of trading away talented young players or draft picks for a supposed quick fix. This is certainly preferrable to the Pat Quinn/John Ferguson Jr./Brian Burke model in Toronto, where they'll trade away anyone in the hopes of quick fix.

Overall, I like what Lombardi has done with the Kings. If he sticks to his plan, then the Kings will be contenders in a few years, and will could become an elite team in the league for years to come. However, I do think there comes a time when you have to make a move - and for me that time is now. But that's why I'm not a GM in the NHL. Lombardi will take his time. I suspect he will make a small move or two at the deadline - he always makes a couple - but I suspect a major deal involving the LA Kings will not happen this trade deadline season. (Now watch him make an ass out of me and make a trade tomorrow).

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