There are many opinions and theories out there, attempting to explain the Kings’ woeful inability to score goals. Many point fingers at the coaching staff, and the system the Kings play [...]. But when you talk to [...] scouts, [or] former NHL players and coaches [...], among the most frequent comments [...] are that the Kings often fail to execute their game plan, [...] that they do not pay attention to detail on breakout plays, allowing gaps between forwards and defensemen to get too wide, preventing them from generating speed through the neutral zone [...] [, that they] do a poor job of getting traffic in front of the net, their defensemen struggle to get pucks to the net from the point, and the forwards often shy away from taking the puck to the prime scoring areas, let alone shoot if they get there [...].
I would love to hear more from these scouts, former players and coaches. My question is, how do you tease those observations apart from the coaching and the system? It was, after all, Terry Murray's (usually implied) assertion that the team wasn't "executing" in pretty much the manner described above.
A glaring example of that was highly-skilled center Anze Kopitar, who [...] did not record a shot on goal [in the Kings' 1-0 loss to Phoenix]. [...] As one league source told me this week, "with his great shot, Kopitar could be a huge scorer, but he doesn’t take the puck to the net, or to the dangerous areas on the ice." [...]
I have described Kopitar on the powerplay as a "Lazy Susan on the half-wall, telegraphing passes." I don't agree with the "league source" that Kopitar "doesn't take the puck to the net or go to the dangerous areas" (ask Mike Smith), but I do think there's something stopping him from simply Jagring his way to the net. He can do it. It's just not his default setting.
[...] Looking at the Kings’ numbers for the season, [...] the Kings were slightly better offensively under former head coach Terry Murray than they have been since he was fired on December 13, 2011. Through the first 29 games of the season under Murray, the Kings averaged 2.21 goals per game (GPG), and the power play had a 15.5 percent rating. [...S]ince Murray’s dismissal, the Kings are averaging just 1.93 GPG, and the power play is clicking at a 12.3 percent clip, a decline of more than two percent. [This is] strong evidence that coaching, namely Murray, was far less of the problem that many claimed it was.
That's a fair interpretation. However, as I pointed out when Sutter was hired, Lombardi's choice in coach did not signal a change in system or message, but a change in how the system or message would be communicated.
[...] Dean Lombardi [...] has to know his team needs a sniper up front, a highly-skilled player, a proven scorer [...]. The biggest fish at the trade deadline will likely be Columbus Blue Jackets winger Rick Nash. Other names rumored to be attractive to the Kings are Blue Jackets center Jeff Carter, and Philadelphia Flyers forwardJames van Riemsdyk. [...] With Quick’s contract expiring after the 2012-13 season, those cap hits could be prohibitive. van Riemsdyk has a much more manageable contract that expires after the 2017-18 season, with a salary cap hit of $4.25 million.
Or maybe Lombardi will abandon this whole "character/leader" thing and go all-in on dickhead-scorers, trade for both Carter and Heatley, get rid of Brown and the rest of those hard-working character guys.
For the Kings, their most attractive trade bait is skilled defenseman Jack Johnson, who has a very trade-friendly contract. He is also expendable now that defenseman Slava Voynov has proven to be NHL-ready. You can bet that should the Kings make a deadline deal, Johnson is likely going to be changing addresses.
I'm still shocked at how quickly this went from something that kinda made sense to something that was likely and widely-acknowledged by "insiders."
With Quick on the verge of earning elite status among NHL goaltenders, netminder Jonathan Bernier has also been mentioned as trade bait. But [...] Lombardi might be reluctant to give up Bernier until he signs Quick to a contract extension. [...]
It's against Lombardi's nature to trade Bernier before Quick resigns. So if he does deal Bernier now, I would take that as a measure of the pressure on Lombardi to solve this now.
Given the lofty expectations for the Kings heading into this season, that just makes you shake your head at the Kings’ acute lack of scoring punch up front. "We need to find that killer goal that will make the difference between winning and losing," said veteran left wing Simon Gagne. Given this team’s record and history this season, that killer goal is not going to come without a roster shake-up [...]. As such, the time has come for Lombardi to make a big splash and bring in the scoring help up front that the Kings so desperately need.
Except I don't know what a "killer goal" is. I think it means, score more than one goal a few times. The fact is, if the Kings "find that killer goal" every game -- that is, score just one more time every game -- they would literally almost never lose. That's not what's needed. They're on track to finish in the low 90s. They need to finish in the mid to high 90s. They don't have to win every game, just 4 out of every 6, instead of 3 out of every 6. I don't like watching the Kings not score, but there's a middle ground between the way things are and the way things would be if the Kings scored one goal-per-game more and won basically every game. That middle ground is finding a way to win one more game out of every six. So we can make the playoffs.
That suggests making a minor move, not a major one, might be what's called for. It doesn't feel like that's what's coming, though, does it?