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Two years after winning the Cup, the Kings’ ‘mix’ comes into question

Apr 23, 2014, 2:37 PM EDT

San Jose Sharks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Three Getty Images

Oh, how quickly things can change in the NHL.

Two years after winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, the Los Angeles Kings find themselves down 3-0 in their first-round series with the San Jose Sharks, one loss away from getting swept out of the playoffs without even winning a game.

Dating back to last year’s Western Conference Final versus Chicago, L.A. has now lost seven of its last eight postseason contests. As a result, some are wondering if changes need to be made.

From the Los Angeles Times’ Helene Elliott:

Time is running out on their season and, maybe, on this group.

They’ll always have their 2012 Cup triumph, the sweet memory of rising from the No. 8 seed to dominate every playoff series they won and bring indescribable joy to fans who had suffered through decades of disappointment. But with a young team and a stud goaltender in Quick, that seemed like only the beginning of an era.

Now it seems near an end, because the mix simply isn’t right anymore.

Los Angeles has six players signed to long-term deals: Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov, and Jonathan Quick. Anze Kopitar is only locked up for the next two seasons, but it seems unlikely the Kings would ever let him become an unrestricted free agent. Youngsters Jake Muzzin and Tyler Toffoli probably aren’t going anywhere either.

Besides those 10 players, though, one has to wonder how much the roster could turn over in the next year or two. The NHL is a young man’s league, and key cogs of that 2012 championship team — veterans like Willie Mitchell, Justin Williams, and Jarret Stoll — aren’t getting any younger.

There’s also the matter of goal-scoring. Specifically, the lack of it. As much as the Kings control the puck, they just don’t put many in the net. In 2011-12, L.A. finished the regular season with the second-worst offense in the NHL. A championship helped that fact get overlooked. The offense improved to 10th in the shortened 2013 campaign, but it struggled again this season, finishing fifth from the bottom of the league, averaging just 2.42 goals per game.

Some of that could be related to personnel, and maybe there’s a bit of bad luck mixed in there, too. But for general manager Dean Lombardi, it’s at least worth asking if coach Darryl Sutter’s system is stifling the Kings’ creativity. Because let’s put it this way: a player with Doughty’s considerable offensive talents is capable of more than 37 points in a season.

Now, that being said, there’s always the risk of overreacting. We’ve seen what happens when teams try to become something they’re not, and the results can be ugly. (Just ask fans of the Capitals and Canucks.) The Kings won the Cup with great defense and goaltending, plus a healthy dose of size and strength. The core is still fairly young. Heck, save for a bad bounce, they could only be down 2-1 to the Sharks, with a chance to tie the series Thursday at home.

Still, if you’re not constantly trying to improve, you’re asking for trouble in the NHL, where there’s not a ton of difference between a championship team and first-round victim.

  1. areaman714 - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    Not today, not tomorrow, not for a loooooooooong time . . .

  2. areaman714 - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:43 PM

    Yep. Pretty much the Kings’ future . . .

  3. qauzaq - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    I’d give this group another season before I’d make any big moves. We have to hope Brown and Richards will return to form next season.

    • bigtganks - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:02 PM

      Now we know who Mike Gillis is on the message board. ^^

      • qauzaq - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:53 PM

        Im sorry, but you don’t blow up the team after one bad playoff run.

    • fpstratton - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:13 PM

      Totally agree. Helene Elliott is full of it. I’m not sure about Richards, but Brown can and will come back and have a great season. This team allowed fewer goals than any other team in the NHL. Just a few weeks ago, they beat San Jose. They have had a dreadful three games, no question about it, and they do need to add another younger defenseman and some more speed up front, but this is still a very good hockey club! No need for media hysteria or panic. They are losing to an outstanding team.

  4. thailer35 - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    Not saying he isn’t still likely going to be a solid goaltender, but Quick’s numbers in these last three games have made him look a lot more human, and I’d be squirming in my seat thinking about that 10 year contract if I was the kings.

    • chanceoffleury - Apr 23, 2014 at 8:48 PM

      If the Canucks got rid of Luongo’s contract, the Kings would be able to get rid of Quick’s in worst case scenario. When you look at the deals Lundqvist, Crawford, Rask, and Price have signed in recent years, Quick is actually on the bargain end for a top tier goalie. And Crawford is the only one of those goalies that won a cup.

      As a Pittsburgh fan I pity anybody who wants to talk to me about “postseason goalie problems”. I’ve been able to stand behind the product Fleury’s given me the past 4 years, so I think LA can handle one off year with Quick.

  5. patthehockeyfan - Apr 23, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    “But for general manager Dean Lombardi, it’s at least worth asking if coach Darryl Sutter’s system is stifling the Kings’ creativity.”

    Say no more. Other coaches have figured out the Kings’ game plan, and they’ve figured out a way to beat it.

    Age is a factor, yes; but, the game plan has gotten predictable.

    I love the Kings and Sutter, and I’d love nothing better than to see them win another Cup. Some changes have to be made for that to happen.

    • imleftcoast - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:04 PM

      The Kings are awful to watch. Their mix didn’t ‘make sense’ until the day they won the Cup. I don’t really understand Helene’s statement about mix. The Sharks talent level is just sick. They have four solid lines. The Pacific has great teams, and it’s going to be tough to get to the semi-finals for the next 5-10 years.

      With that said, of the six signed to long-term deals, only Doughty looked good last night. Quick had some good saves. Jarret Stoll, Justin Williams and Trevor Lewis are decent players, but Stoll took a ridiculously bad interference penalty with 2:02 to play and the season hanging by a thread.

      • pirovash88 - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:30 PM

        People have been saying this for years, it’s nothing new to Kings fans. “The Mix” is what brought a Cup to L.A. and they’re more than capable of doing that if they stick to Sutter’s system.

        I’m not saying some changes aren’t warranted, because they are, but i wouldn’t exactly count this team out, like everyone in the League did in 2012. In this League, you can’t underestimate anyone. Take Colorado for example, not much change in the roster during the off season, but look at what they’ve accomplished this year with the right coach. Get your players to feel like they can win and they eventually will.

      • imleftcoast - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:38 PM

        The Kings never got respect until winning the Cup. I wouldn’t trust anyone referring to a mix. However, I wouldn’t say those are six awesome long-term contracts based on last night’s performance, and Sutter’s system is awful to watch.

  6. sanfranbruinsfan - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:11 PM

    Where is blomfeld????? Miss that chap :)

    • hammerhead5573 - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:48 PM

      Bloomfield, is the exact reason why fans should really pump the breaks throughout regular season. You can talk all the crap you want but other fans do not have memory loss. He doesn’t bother me, but anything he gets in return is well deserved.

  7. hockeyflow33 - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:28 PM

    They’ve been one of the most successful teams during the last few seasons and now a bad showing in 3 games is cause for blowing up a team?

    Come on.

  8. gbart22 - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:30 PM

    It won’t surprise me to see them move Richards elsewhere maybe to Edmonton in a gagne Richards deal which I think would work well for both teams and be a straight up hockey trade

    • kaptaanamerica - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:30 PM

      Nobody wants Richards at this point.the guy is a shell of his former self. Maybe the lifestyle has caught up to him…

    • kaptaanamerica - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:32 PM

      Nobody wants Richards at this point.the guy is a shell of his former self. Maybe the lifestyle has caught up to him… he needs to be moved but zero will come back.Maybe a late round pick…

  9. gbart22 - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:35 PM

    And I agree with a previous poster if they blow up the kings because of one bad playoff run then they’ll be going back to mediocrity. Was Roy done when he had that trouble in Montreal? No. Sometimes you just have a down year. You’re not going to win the cup every year. Make minor tweaks here and there they will be fine and quick is still a wonderful goalie and people can say all they want about the sharks and how “sick” they are but for all that “sickness” and high octane offense they have yet to win a cup or even get there for that matter. People over react to every thing these days

    • fpstratton - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:20 PM

      Amen to that. The Kings, with their current system and lineup, will be in the mix in the Western Conference for several years to come. They are running up against a team that is playing unbelievable hockey. Let’s not do like the Lakers and blow up a still-good product and transform a franchise from a 50-win season team to a 25-win lottery pick team.

  10. sharksman - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    really ? 2 years from winning a cup , solid 3rd place in the season and 1 first round playoff loss and you want to blow them up ? wth
    I say deal Richards and hopefully get 1 or 2 younger guys and it would be like a new team.
    And yes this is coming from a sharks fan.
    If the sharks had blown up the team every time they had a playoff exit it would be all rookies
    I think this just shows how hard it is to win a cup and how hard it is to win in the NHL

    • lilgurgi - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:24 PM

      When you say move Richards for hopefully 1 or 2 younger players…are you referring to something similar to what the Flyers did?

      – Mike Richards for Schenn, Simmonds, and 2nd round pick (traded from Grossmann)
      – Jeff Carter for Voracek, 1st round pick (Couturier), and 3rd round pick (Cousins)

      I would say Holmgren did a good job for the Flyers in those trades. Maybe the Kings can duplicate.

      • sharksman - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:39 PM

        exactly

      • imleftcoast - Apr 23, 2014 at 7:44 PM

        Brought the Kings the Cup. I’d say LA did fine. When the Flyers get out of the first round, they can claim to be the winner of the trades.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:11 PM

      The big difference between the return the Flyers got and the Kings potential return in a trade of Richards is the guy was an ascending player when he was leaving Philly. He was coming off 4 straight impressive years (66, 62, 80, 75 pts) and a recent Cup Finals run as a young captain. Right now he’s sitting on an 11 goal, 41 point campaign in a full 82 games. Now he’s by no means done (at 29) and he plays in Sutter’s system, but still his stock can’t be high. It would be buying high and selling low.

      Richards has always played a physical style and rarely misses games, that’s gotta take a toll. I still expect another 7-8 years before he retires but he certainly hasn’t been as productive as Lombardi thought he’d be. Big part of a Cup team but certainly a gamble. There’s no way the Kings get a Simmonds+Schenn+2nd type return.

      • sharksman - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:57 PM

        Even if you could not get much for Richards , it would be enough just to get rid of him and his salary and bring up a couple of guys from their farm system. Inject some speed and youth into the lineup and you could end up with a whole new dynamic. They have a solid D and the top guys are good enough. New blood is needed but you don’t need to blow up the team.

  11. flyboystransport - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    No what they’ll do is fire the coach and use both compliance buyouts in the off season then they’ll have wiggle room. Richards and Carter have no trade clauses that kick in which is a big reason the flyers moved both of them

  12. tripps3 - Apr 23, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    Wow. How quickly they turn on you.

  13. mcphillthy - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    What you see is what you get with Richards and Carter. Sometimes theywwant to play hockey and sometimes they want to party. Moreso than not they want to party….. Enjoy those ridiculous contracts

    • moarjam - Apr 23, 2014 at 7:04 PM

      Idiot

  14. MannySilvers - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:21 PM

    Team won the cup two years ago and went to the conference finals last year. Even if they get swept it’d be a huge overreaction to “blow it up”.

    Chicago won the cup in 2010. They lost in the first round in both 2011 and 2012. Won the cup in 2013. One of the biggest mistakes franchises make is breaking up a good team based on one or two bad playoff experiences.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:15 PM

      What’s weird with Chicago is they beat the Flyers and then they still essentially blew it up. Now it was necessary to keep the core cap compliant and it has certainly worked out, but it’s a unique situation to me.

  15. howintensive - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    The sky is not falling for the kings, they just got a bad matchup this year. Remember the Red Wings in 06 that lost to the Oilers?

  16. hookersdontsnuggle - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:24 PM

    JJJJOOOOOONNNNAAAAAAAATTTTTHHHHHHAAAAAANNNNNNN!!

  17. sjsharksfan11 - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:51 PM

    Maybe because their road to the cup was the easiest to anyone’s recollection? Yeah start there

    • imleftcoast - Apr 23, 2014 at 7:46 PM

      The siren song of the buttsore.

  18. pirovash88 - Apr 23, 2014 at 6:01 PM

    If by easiest you mean completely dominating all 4 teams they played against, then yes, i agree. 16-4, eat that up.

  19. jkaflagg - Apr 23, 2014 at 6:20 PM

    You don’t “blow it up”, but the idea that you keep the entire team together (like last season) was very unusual – championship teams in all sports often shuffle the deck quickly after they win, both to avoid complacency and to deal assets when they have the most value….only two young players (Muzzin & Toffoli ) have really moved into the lineup since the Cup win, and this year’s result would seem to indicate some of the veterans such as Stoll, Williams, Regher, Mitchell & even Brown may have reached their expiration date. It will be interesting to see if Sutter will be able to work in guys like Person, Vey & McNabb.

    As far as Richards….we never win the Cup without him, but his lack of production in proportion to his contract is a huge issue going forward. Hard to believe how far he has slipped from being a key member of the 2010 Canadian Olympics Gold Medal team few

  20. moarjam - Apr 23, 2014 at 7:09 PM

    Holy overreaction…

    Some years you have it, some years you don’t. The core pieces are there for another run or two. Sure maybe retool the aging D but blow the team up? Naaa

  21. joemattingly - Apr 23, 2014 at 8:20 PM

    one thing the article pointed out was the fact that the Kings are just too slow now – we can’t compete with Chicago’s speed (see 2012) and now SJ is killing us with their breakout speed – Sutter’s D and Quick’s goaltending will only carry the team so far – the King’s somewhat adjusted last night and, barring the unlucky bounce and Voynov’s wayward stick (that has to be like five or six own goals he’s scored btw), it would be 2-1 – but SJ has just got it this year and the King’s don’t – even as a King’s fan I think we would have beaten the Ducks had they been our opponent in this round – as others have said, you don’t blow up the team or fire the coach – Greene and Mitchell will for sure be gone but Pearson is a really fast roster addition – Richards is another story – I think he has just had it with Sutter’s system and wants out to a team where he can use whatever offensive skills he has left. Hopefully Carter will toe the line, especially once Gaborik plays a whole season the Kings (if that is possible, considering). But you just have to wonder what would happen with a true offensive coach, given the scoring potential we have but just can’t use given DS’s way of playing – maybe Lombardi gives him another year . .

    • fpstratton - Apr 24, 2014 at 3:25 PM

      Joe: Really good points. I think the system is still good. A terrible three games doesn’t change any of that. Besides, the problem in this series has been defense and, a little bit, goaltending. The Kings have scored 8 goals in three games, good enough for 1 or 2 wins if the defense had been playing at its regular season level. The Sharks have been playing unbelievable offensive and forechecking hockey. Ironically, the Kings didn’t score a lof of goals against the Sharks last year either, but their defense and Quick were virtually impenetrable. Oh, and they did have Dustin Penner…both the Kings and the Ducks miss him.

  22. wishingtonredslur - Apr 23, 2014 at 10:09 PM

    I blame the French Canadian refs.

  23. paulerhythm - Apr 24, 2014 at 8:55 PM

    The way I see it is, the Sharks want it more than the Kings. The Sharks are hungrier and have that, “I won’t be denied” attitude and it will serve them well throughout the play offs. Could this be the year they finally get that elusive 1st cup?

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