Chemistry Gone From The Los Angeles Kings

It’s over. With the St. Louis Blues victory over the Colorado Avalanche last night, the Western Conference playoff teams have been determined. It will be combinations of Chicago, Minnesota, San Jose, Edmonton, Anaheim, Calgary, St. Louis, and Nashville. Realistically the Los Angeles Kings, the only team currently out of a playoff spot that has any remaining hope of making the post-season will not make up the eight point difference that stands between them and St. Louis and Nashville with only ten games left. Los Angeles is not going to suddenly right the ship and go on the long winning streak necessary, nor are the teams they are trying to catch going into a prolonged slump.

It is quite a fall for the Kings who were Stanley Cup champions only three years ago in 2014, after winning their first Cup in 2012. Somehow the winning chemistry has been lost and the Kings will be out in the cold despite almost being handed a playoff position on a silver platter during this final quarter of the season. What is revealing is that at the trade deadline, the Kings added goaltender Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning and then Jerome Iginla from the Colorado Avalanche, while the St. Louis Blues obligingly traded their best defenseman, Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington and the Kings fell while the Blues rose.

Only a year ago, Los Angeles and Chicago were trading Stanley Cups, each winning on alternative years. Last year it was supposed to be Los Angeles turn to win but one of the teams favored to win it all was instead eliminated in the very first round in only five games by the supposedly over-the-hill San Jose Sharks. The Kings had brought in Vincent Lecavalier and Milan Lucic to bring them back to the top but the chemistry obviously did not click.

This year, Lecavalier retired and Lucic was allowed to go to Edmonton, but the Kings have been mediocre at best. Star goaltender, Jonathan Quick got injured but backup Peter Budaj did a credible job until he was traded for Bishop who has not been what Los Angeles expected. It was a strange trade anyway with the Kings just getting back Quick after a serious injury and who would obviously be doing most of the goaltending. The Kings needed help elsewhere and the aging Iginla, well past his prime was not enough. It has to admitted that huge sums of money have been wasted where they could have been spent more wisely.

Still it is a mystery why the Kings, once so formidable have fallen so far so fast. Jonathan Quick is still here and so is star defenseman Drew Doughty. Up front there is still Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar and coach Darryl Sutter is still behind the bench. The goal differential is a bad -6 but that does not tell the story. The Kings are actually a good defensive team but they are not scoring goals. It would have been better to have made a trade for forwards and defensemen who would have boosted the attack, not Ben Bishop. A top forward or an attacking defenseman are the obvious choices in this year’s draft.

It is still possible for the Kings to make the playoffs but it is highly unlikely. The forwards who were making a difference with Kopitar and Carter have been allowed to leave and the wrong players have taken their place. The Los Angeles attack has to be rebuilt. The winning chemistry that brought two recent Stanley Cups has vanished. The Kings, so recently one the envied teams in the NHL are in a real muddle.

Ellerby Traded to Kings

Little late on the wagon here, but Keaton Ellerby has been traded from the Florida Panthers to the LA Kings in exchange for a 2013 5th Round Pick. Just an opinion here, I expect him to either be sent to the Monarchs, or be the six defenseman with Drew Drewiske being sent down. As the tenth overall pick in 2007, he certainly hasn’t been living up to his potential. Players such as Ryan McDonaugh (11th), Kevin Shattenkirk (14th) have been leaving their footprint in their respective NHL teams. Just going to give you guys a little scouting report on Ellerby. Skinny 6’4 Defenseman out of Okotoks, Alberta. He’s a shutdown defender who has the potential of greatness. Do not expect him to be the next Erik Karlsson. He’s the type of guy you want on the back end just to stable the ship. He will not have highlight reel hits or flashy goals, but he will be the first one in back in a rush. He’s a good skater, but has trouble staying out of the penalty box. If he worked on his frame and his discipline, he could become a good second pair defenseman.

It’s really hard to say who wins the trade because with a draft pick, you really never know if they will pan out. You can have gems like Pavel Datsyuk (171st) and Carl Gunnarsson (194th), but you can also have top picks not pan out, most notably Hugh Jessiman (12th) and Alexandre Daigle (1st). If you come back to me a few years from now when the draft pick has developed a bit i’ll give you a definitive answer.