Note from the author: This column is by no means me calling out any one person in particular. It’s simply that in the middle of this kind of season, we have to find something to cheer for. It turns out that now that we are down to Peter Budaj (love the beard and love the play a couple of years ago - I will definitely take credit for the Lloyds coining the #BudajForVezina phrase) and Cal Peterson for 4-6 weeks (who knows, maybe this turns into 46 weeks?), it might be best to mitigate our expectations and have fun with what can happen when your team is truly bad.
Picked up a pretty darned good book this week, “The Down Goes Brown History of the NHL” by Sean McIndoe, for my plane ride to Montreal en route to watch the Canadiens-Golden Knights game Saturday at the Mecca of Hockey.
Somewhere over the past weekend, I arrived at the inevitable part of the book where Mario Lemieux would be carved in hockey’s Mount Rushmore and since my life has been so Kings-centric for so long, this is the story that really stuck:
“The Penguins were widely accused of tanking the 1983-84 season to get him, managing just thirty-eight points to finish behind the Devils for last place overall. And let’s be honest: They absolutely did tank, The bigger question is probably why half the league wasn’t gunning for rock bottom all along.”
So why did this resonate to me, you ask? Because of these two Kings stats: 13 points and 33 goals. Both are dead last in the NHL. The bottom line is that the Kings can’t score goals, and when you can’t score goals you can’t win games. The up tempo Willie D. Era has our LA icemen averaging 1.67 goals a game with the forwards unable to produce a goal in the last two games. Ugh.
The short term silver lining in all of this? Although my beloved Kings are terrible, at least in the last three games, at least they stopped looking otherworldly lost on the ice and generally looking like they couldn’t care less, the way they did during the last twenty games in the JS reign.
The real prize in the middle of this terrible season is the thought of Jack Hughes weaving his way through Staples Center towards a terrified opposing goalie. There’s even a sweet little hashtag that been crafted: #LoseForHughes.
Pretty sweet, right?
So as I start to get excited and imaging the Kings going into super tank mode a la the Penguins, I opened up Twitter to get a pulse on the situation after the 1-0 loss to Calgary. And wouldn’t you know it, all of the sudden the ten commandments of what fans can and cannot talk about anymore from our friends and pundits in the media. Here’s a assortment from the list:
- No, we can’t have Coach Q. Why in the world would the Kings pay seven coaches for goodness sakes?
- The whole #LoseForHughes things is silly.
- Any trade proposed is a ridiculous one that is fantasy only. It wouldn’t even work on XBox.
- Don’t blame John Stevens. He was a nice guy.
- Stop blaming Willie D. The players need to try harder.
- Any trade for Artemi Panarin is silly (even though he allegedly listed the Kings behind the Rangers as his top choice).
- Even though they are in last place, look how close they are to a playoff spot.
- Blame Rob Blake. The team was poorly constructed anyway with too much loyalty.
- Did we mention John Stevens is a really, really nice guy?
- Would you be happy if we trade Tanner Pearson for an equally ineffective forward who we thought had potential?
- You can’t say the Kings are too old and too slow. Look at that last shift. They looked so so fast and young.
Actually, I could keep going but I won’t because all of this really irks me. I’m not a season ticket holder but as a family, we try to get to a couple of handfuls of games a year. So far, the only joy we’ve gotten was the Columbus game. We didn’t go to the Rangers or the Ducks wins so that only leaves the putrid stench of those other pitiful losses. Yeah, not much joy in Mudville.
So, to everyone saying no, hear this: Stop Being a Wet Blanket. Fans pay to go to these games. There are no press passes for us or sweet perks. Saying what’s on our mind is all that we have left sometimes.
Maybe it’s time for the fans to have our own Bill of Rights:
- One that gives us the right to wish for silly wishes.
- One that allows us to suggest stupid trades.
- One that gives us the right to respectfully criticize the players, upper management, the coaches, and the media’s opinions.
- It gives us the right to want a coach fired, and for good reason, despite the two Stanley Cups won while standing behind our guys in black and white.
- It gives us the right for our dreams and opinions not to be called “tired and played out” when there are no better ones being offered by the experts.
I don’t have the answers but I do know that after watching 45 years of Kings hockey, I have seen some of the worst trades, dealing away number one draft picks, and poor scouting, one too many times.
What’s that old Albert Einstein saying? “If you want to know the future, look at the past.” Yeah, I think that’s it. Tanking worked out pretty darned well for the Penguins. You could say it worked nicely twice for them in the forms of Super Mario and Sidney Crosby. What are they up to? Five Stanley Cups?
Do we really want our Kings fighting for another eight seed because it worked out once before? Or do we want a generational player that can sustain this team for fifteen years?
The idea of tanking to get an opportunity for Jack Hughes has made the misery of a 5-10-1 start of a season a lot more enjoyable.
I know I am not alone in this thinking.
Time to throw your blankets in the dryer and embrace our voice. Believe it or not, we pay a chunk of the bills.