The First Meaningful Games the Kings Have Played in Eight Years

via www.vivisect.org

If you want to know why this is happening now, that's why.

The franchise has not played a meaningful game since 2002. I guess I should say won a meaningful game, since I'm ignoring the catastrophic collapses of 2003 and 2006. But it always seems a little weird to me to refer to a past team's performance when we're not talking about the same line-up, or even management. It's just the Kings logo that did those things. This Kings team has never played a game that made any difference to anybody, other than the possibility that they might upset someone else's playoff chances, or increase their own draft position. But none that are meaningful in the sense that playoffs are meaningful, or a playoff race is meaningful. Frolov, Brown, Kopitar, Quick, Doughty, Simmonds, Parse, Clune, Harrold, Johnson, Drewiske, Quick and Ersberg have never been to the playoffs. Only Frolov and Brown were here in '06, for that great tent-folding. Frolov was a rookie for the '03 reverse-classic. No one from management was around for those. They've have success for other organizations, but for this management team, with these players, this is all new territory.

Silver Lining?

If there's a silver lining in the way the last several games have gone, it's this: the Kings have an opportunity to learn how to win games that matter, in an environment that is something less than all-or-nothing. They really only need five points out of their last seven games. That's how many points they've earned from the previous seven, and they sucked. So this is doable.

But to do it, they're going to have to un-hex themselves from the spell that says, "hey, you don't belong here; you suck and everyone is about to figure that out, and they will point and laugh." There are different versions of it. There's the "everyone's going to figure out I'm too old" or "figure out I can't repeat what I did in '05," or "figure out that I'm not really a great leader," or "figure out I'm not Jagr," or "franchise goalie." Etc. Etc. Imposter Syndrome.

But that's why we have veterans, right? To counter-act such effects. Smyth, Stoll and Greene went to the finals four years ago. Williams went the same year with the team that won. Modin got his name on the cup in '05. SOD in '07. Scuderi in '09. Richardson played nine playoff games for the Avs, four years ago. Halpern has about 25 playoff games under his belt. Jones, probably has a few games, too, but I'm too lazy to look it up.

And there's also Terry Murray, who is 20th all-time in wins and 24th in playoff wins. So he knows something about it. (p.s. note to all the people calling for Terry Murray to be fired: hahaha. Murray was on the short-list for Coach of the Year until the last five games. The Kings have 90 points. The Kings are likely to be going to the playoffs for the first time in eight years. Etc., etc..)

So I have to believe that the Kings know what the plot is and know what they have to do. I hope they're not just babbling about "intensity" and "desperation" or whatever other boilerplate cliches that I think just confuse things. Look, basically, the Kings are having a group panic attack. It does not help a person having a panic attack to tell him he needs to be more desperate or intense. And they don't need false confidence, either. What they need is trust. That sounds stupid, doesn't it? Trust in what?

THE SYSTEM.

They need to stop thinking and redouble their efforts to play the system.

Because they don't have to worry about anything else when they do that. They don't have to decide whether or not they deserve to be here, whether everyone's going to figure out they are no good with one foot in the KHL or Switzerland. They don't have to do anything big. They just have to do several very specific little things with every ounce of guts and ability they can muster.

*****

A couple of days ago, I said somewhere in the comments that I thought Lombardi should bring up Moller, scratch Halpern, and give Quick half the remaining games to show he's back on track, after which, if he's not, bring up Bernier and ride him.

I still think they should bring up Moller. I believe he can use even the paltry five minutes a game to inspire his teammates with his willingness to gnaw at the ankles of giants. I don't know what Halpern is doing, but it's not helping. As for Bernier, I expect he'll play the next two games and if he wins those he will keep getting starts.

I don't think there's anything wrong with Quick. I just rewatched the goals from last night. Not his fault. Even if they were, he's exhausted (see new baby), and I'm pretty sure everyone knows that Murray would have played Ersberg more if he hadn't been so iffy this season. 

The blame for this little crap-out goes to the Brown/Kopitar disappearing act. They're freaking themselves out. And that's freaking everyone else out. If you look at all our losses this season (and last season), the common denominator is that in most of them those two players were shut down. Teams know this and key on them. Wouldn't you?

The last thing to keep in mind is this: randomness. Hockey games are affected by randomness more than other sports. You're going to lose some games. Slumps happen. And it's up to the team's leaders to shake it off. That's how you turn things around. 

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