[...] Who stays and who goes? A night of nostalgia ended in boos by the Staples Center fans on Saturday night as Dallas beat the Kings, 2-1. The frustration and anger was visible in the dressing room, which not a surprise if you consider the Kings have lost four in a row, scoring an underwhelming six goals in that stretch. A major player trade was expected from the Ducks and they ended up switching coaches, firing Randy Carlyle and replacing him with Bruce Boudreau. Do the Kings run the same play with Terry Murray? Or do they end up making a rare major mid-season trade? King captain Dustin Brown was asked if he thought individuals were anticipating a shakeup, in terms of a player move. "It’s hard to say. I’ve never been on a team that’s good, that’s gone through this," Brown said. "That’s probably the biggest difference for me. We have a good team in here. We’re capable of doing everything we need to with the people we have in here.
Let's start with that, the comment from Brown that I put in bold. I don't know what he's talking about here. Losing four games in a row? The Kings have done that multiple times over the last two years, several four game losing streaks, a few 1-7 runs, a 2-10, an 0-5. And that's just from memory. Does he not know this? Or does he think that this team, the 2011-12 team, is "good" while the previous two years were not? I kind of think that actually is what he's saying here, that the addition of Mike Richards and Simon Gagne -- and all the babbling about the Kings being cup contenders that went along with it -- made the Kings "good" on paper, whereas the other teams were merely "ahead of schedule" (or pick your own euphemism for "good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to go very far").
Not to belabor the obvious, but the not "good" team of two seasons ago finished with 101 points, third best finish in franchise history. The not "good" team of last year finished with 98 points. This team is currently on pace for 85 points, which is likely to be 12 points shy of a playoff spot. Their win-% is now at .517, which is worse than at any time last season. Last season, if you recall, the Kings dipped to .521 in January and everyone on the planet (but me, the eternal optimist) said they were doomed to miss the playoffs. Only a historic hot streak in which the Kings tallied 45 points in 29 games, for a win-% of .776, saved them from that embarrassment. And key to that streak was a hot-hand in the shoot-out (5-1 during the streak, 11-1 on the season) that simply is not sustainable. In other words, if the Kings need to repeat last season's shoot-out success to make the post-season, the last six years' worth of shoot-out data say that's not going to happen.
The Kings need to play at about a .632 pace to cross the playoff threshold. That would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 31-17-5 from here on out. There are currently ten teams playing above .632, five in each conference. In order, they are the Wild, Flyers, Rangers, Red Wings, Bruins, Blackhawks, Blues, Canucks, Panthers and Penguins.
Seven of those ten teams are in the top ten in goals-per-game. Of the other three, the Panthers are 12th, and the Wild and Blues are in the bottom ten. But the Blues and Wild are both better than the Kings in goals-against, and the Panthers are just a hair worse.
If you look at 5-on-5F/A (goals-for/goals-against ratio), six of the top ten teams are in the top ten by win-%, the other four are in the 11-19 range. The Kings are 23rd. No team that is currently in a playoff spot is in the bottom 10 in 5on5FA.
With last night's performance, the projected total goals for the Kings (180.9) dropped below the 1969-70 Kings (181.26; 168 in a 76 game season), which means that they are on pace to be the lowest goal-scoring Kings team in franchise history.
There are three options. (1) do nothing, wait for the ship to turn around on its own. (2) fire the coach or coaches. (3) make a big trade to shake things up.
The first option, I think, would result in Lombardi getting fired. Unless of course the team makes a miraculous turnaround pretty much ASAP.
The second option is the clear winner. For all the obvious reasons, combined with what I'm about to say about option 3.
The third option: imagine Lombardi pulls off a big trade for a scoring somebody-or-other. Some big pieces will be sacrificed to make that happen. Who would that be? If we're lucky, it would be somebodies like Jarret Stoll or Matt Greene. If we're slightly less lucky, maybe we also lose someone like Jonathan Bernier, maybe Alec Martinez, maybe Kyle Clifford. More than likely, though, it would involve someone big, because teams aren't likely to cough up their big stars to a struggling team that has no leverage, without getting something delicious in return. Certain players are untouchable, but I would not put Brown or Jack Johnson on that untouchable list. I said this in yesterday's post. Brown is the captain on a team with leadership issues. And JJ, well, he's just a very attractive piece for a lot of opposing GMs.
I would hate to lose either of those guys. But I find it hard to imagine a big trade that doesn't involve one of them. Under these conditions.
Say Lombardi bites the bullet and deals some fan favorites away in exchange for a Big Gun. Say it's Zach Parise. Or Rick Nash. Or whoever your favorite superstar is. The Kings added Penner at the deadline, a guy who has scored 20-30 goals a year basically his entire career. Now he's virtually useless. Lombardi traded for Mike Richards, and signed Simon Gagne. They're both playing their asses off, or were, in the case of Richards. And the result is? The Kings suck. Alex Frolov was a 30 goal-scorer before Terry Murray got ahold of him. Teddy Purcell, Matt Moulson, Brian Boyle, all filled the net once they escaped his evil clutches.
Why does anyone think adding another Big Piece is going to make any difference? Since they're all asked to do the same thing, play the same way, and their numbers all plummet? Is anyone going to feel better with Zach Parise instead of Dustin Brown, if Terry Murray is still the coach?
I didn't think so.