Crown Conversations: The Los Angeles Reign of Ontario Kings
The Cardiac Kings have moved half their squad from the heart ward to the intensive care ward and have recalled what feels like at least 50% of their AHL squad as a replacement
In a scene befitting a Hollywood horror movie, the local hockey team has transformed from a plucky band of average humans to the walking dead. These once ordinary men are now frightful brain eating zombies with a craving for flesh that cannot be denied.
Okay, maybe things aren’t quite THAT bad. But they are pretty dire. Injuries and illness are a natural part of being human and nothing epitomizes that more than sports, particularly at the professional level. Rivaling 2018 for their oddest rash of injuries, though, the Los Angeles Kings are limping into the home stretch of their season more than a little banged up and bruised. All six of their defensemen who started on the opening roster have now been placed either on Injured Reserved or Long-Term Injured Reserve.
The first domino to fall was Sean Walker, when he suffered season-ending ACL and MCL tears in a collision with St. Louis’ David Perron back in October. Drew Doughty also missed an extended period of time after he bruised his knee during a Dallas Stars game. In Doughty’s first game back, Alex Edler broke his ankle about one minute into the Minnesota Wild game.
Stepping up in their stead had been the team’s younger defensemen Matt Roy, Mikey Anderson, and Tobias Bjornfot along with occasional Ontario Reign call up Christian Wolanin. Olli Maatta, who was expected to be the 6-7D, was also tapped to fill in.
But as the pages of the calendar turned from February to March, the Kings were not so lucky to escape the early injury bug. Within the span of one week, Mikey Anderson, Drew Doughty (again), Matt Roy, and Tobias Bjornfot all left the lineup with various maladies of some sort. In Boston, Anderson took a reverse check from Brad Marchand, came back for two shifts, and didn’t return after that. In that same game, Doughty also apparently injured his right hand at some point. He was seen on the bench testing and looking closely at his hand, though he finished the match and even took shifts in overtime. To add insult to the already very lengthy list of injuries, Matt Roy suffered some kind of upper body ailment three days later in the OT loss to the Sharks. He played the entirety of the game, but was unavailable for the team’s trip to the Tank the following night.
For those keeping score, that’s (in order of loss) Walker, Edler, Anderson, Doughty, and Roy unavailable with various upper or lower body afflictions. But wait, there’s more! Because the immediate losses of Anderson, Doughty and Roy weren’t enough, Tobias Bjornfot also got hurt in the game versus the Florida Panthers. None of this accounts for the injuries to Viktor Arvidsson, Brendan Lemieux, or Dustin Brown—all three of whom went down at or around the same time as the defensemen.
This podcast episode was recorded prior to puck drop of the Panthers game and the loss of Bjornfot in OT. The Kings’ season now rests on the shoulders of four rookie d-men in Jordan Spence (who hasn’t even completed his first full pro season), Jacob Moverare, Austin Strand, and Sean Durzi along with veteran Olli Maatta and tweener Christian Wolanin. On the forward front, Martin Frk, Gabriel Vilardi, and Rasmus Kupari are all getting another chance to shine and hoping impress enough to make their recalls permanent.
The trade deadline looms large as 3:30 p.m. EDT on March 21 rapidly approaches. General Manager Rob Blake and the Kings’ front office have some big decisions to make. If none of their big name key players are ready by or before Monday, how patient should they be? Further, how reliant should they be the on the Ontario Reign’s defensemen whose next matchup isn’t until Friday, March 18 but are sitting in second place and look poised to make the Calder Cup payoffs? Should the Kings cannibalize the Reign’s roster for their own self interests? As it stands, Ontario only has five defensemen on their current roster. Sarah and I touch on these topics and ponder the team’s pitiful lack of offense with an eye towards the future. Plus, with all things considered, how close really are the Kings to being contenders? What are they still missing to be more competitive in the playoffs?
I’m hoping to have at least two more podcasts coming in the next few days, pre and then post-deadline, depending on schedules and my own ability to transcribe episodes in a timely manner.
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INTRO: [Musical interlude plays, then VO] Are you ready for the most informative, well-thought out hockey podcast on the Internet? You are?? Sorry, it’s just Crown Conversations with your hosts, Robyn P. and James Nicholson.
RP: Hello and welcome to a very sad, strange, twisted edition of Crown Conversations. Only sad, strange, and twisted because that’s how Sarah and I are. James is too busy so he is unfortunately not joining us tonight. It’s just me and Sarah recording this just about two hours before puck drop against the red, red, red hot Florida Panthers — oh god, they’re gonna die.
SA: [laughs] That’s the nicest way to put it, I think.
RP: Um… [pause] The... Okay. For those of you who do not know, the news came out Matt Roy is also out of tonight’s game. So, for those of you keeping score at home, the Kings are down literally five of their six starting defensemen: Edler, Doughty Roy, Walker… [pause] And who am I forgetting?
SA: Mikey Anderson.
RP: And Mikey Anderson. All hurt. All within–well, okay, Edler and Walker have been out most of the season but you know, the last three all within the last week. So… And the Florida Panthers are a very good hockey team. And their hopes are riding on a pair of rookies in Jordan Spence and Jacob or Yakob, or Jacob, what–the Swedish Moverare guy and, and Christian Wolanin and, and Austin Strand and, and Tobias Bjornfot and Olli Maatta [laughs in disbelief].
SA: It’s so dire. Like…
RP: Oh my god.
SA: You know, it’s like, you always want the kids to get their chance. Like I’ve loved Jordan Spence all season with the Reign, but like, this isn’t how I wanted him to get to make his NHL debut is under these circumstances. And, yeah, I have thought for a long time that Austin Strand deserved to call up and should be playing on this team. But this isn’t how I wanted him back, either. Like, literally every game, someone has gotten hurt over the past, what, like, four, or five games at least? Like, this stinks.
RP: Oh yeah. And Dustin Brown got hurt in the Sharks–oh, we’re not gonna talk about that game–but he got hurt in the last game against the Sharks. Took a puck high up off the arm or something. Not that Dustin Brown was doing a whole lot for the Kings. God knows I love Dustin Brown. I’m a huge Dustin Brown apologist, but he has been… not good this year for the Kings.
RP: Um… But like… Who… I don’t know, Sarah, I think they’re gonna get crushed.
SA: Yeah, I don’t have high hopes for this one. You know, we’re also missing Andreas Athanasiou, who… like the, the flashes that we’ve seen of him from from him when he’s been healthy, have been great, but he has gotten hurt like every other day. Viktor Arvidsson, I think Todd McLellan said that he’s skating again, but he’s not ready to come back yet. Brendan Lemeiux, whatever. He is also hurt. It’s just like... I… Of all of the stretches for this to happen, of course, it has to happen when they’re playing what like Florida, Colorado, I think Vegas is coming up this week. This couldn’t have happened when we were playing a bunch of like… Buffalo and Ottawa and teams where like it, just doesn’t matter. This week’s schedule it’s the Panthers, the Avalanche, the Sharks, the Golden Knights, the Predators–that’s the next five games.
SA: The game against Vegas, especially, that’s on the 19th, is gonna be huge because we’re still ahead of them in the standings–
SA: Barely. Although I think I think as we were recording this Vegas is losing to the Blue Jackets,so thank you, Blue Jackets. But like… This just… I’m glad that the Kings have had enough hot runs recently that, like, even if they stink for the next week or two that they still will be sort of in the playoff hunt. But I hate all of this
RP: This-this stretch of injuries, this rash of injuries honestly probably couldn’t not have come at a worse time. I mean the good news, though, is that they also have Chicago and Seattle coming up to round out their home schedule over the next two weeks. So… god knows, I love Seattle, but Seattle is awful.
SA: Yeah, their team is not good.
RP: My fear, though, is that there’s somehow gonna find ways to lose to both Chicago and Seattle. Like, they should have picked up four points against the Sharks.
RP: And every time–I don’t know what it is about the Sharks, the Sharks always–they’re like the-the Kings’ Achilles heel. Like the Kings can get up against anybody. But somehow against the Sharks they’re always like [whiney voice] ‘ohhh, I don’t wanna.’
SA: Like it, you know, the past however many seasons, we’ve always been like, oh, it’s just the Martin Jones factor. Like Martin Jones is gonna crush it against his old team fine, like that’s just the way hockey works. There is no more Martin Jones on the Sharks. Now, it’s just the Sharks. The Kings doing this against the Sharks to make us miserable.
RP: What’s interesting is that both teams have had so much turnover in the last couple of years that there’s basically no more rivalry and yet somehow, the Sharks still act–like it’s the three guys who are left on the Sharks from 2014. They’re the ones who are like, propelling this rival- rivalry still going. And the three guys who are left on the Kings, they’re like whatever, man.
SA: Right, like please leave us alone. I mean I feel like it’s the same with like the Ducks kind of. There’s very few guys left on either side who were around for sort of the heyday of both teams. Now it’s just like a bunch of dudes. But, you know. Even during the rookie games where they have no reason to really hate each other, they super hate each other. But yeah, I… the Sharks, man. Why… Why? Why?
RP: Well, every team has to have an Achilles heel and it hey, at least, you know, it’s not Buffalo. Like it has... Oh god, poor Jack Campbell. He’s been so bad lately. I don’t know what happened. But after Christmas, he’s just gone down the toilet and oh my…
SA: And he’s hurt now. So like… Great.
RP: Well, at least we’re not the Leafs where, you know, we have high high expectations. We have moderate expectations and I think our expectations got too high. And so the universe, the hockey universe is like, whoa, whoa, readjust those expectations, people. This was a bubble team.
SA: But I mean… I will say like that is kind of the good thing about everyone having like… You know, people been so divided. Like there having a bunch of, you know, Kings people who like, you know, my-my take on the team coming into the season was like, yeah, this team could make the playoffs. But I thought they’d be like bubble team, wild card team at best. So like this is just a pleasant surprise. you know, injuries… outside of this whole injury nonsense. But like, it really feels like any success or competence this season beyond just like don’t get embarrassed every night is just a bonus since no, no one expected this team to really be in this position, let alone like not, you know, it right now not having to be like afraid of, you know, falling out of the playoffs. I mean, they need to be, but like, I don’t know, my point is that, like, this is so much beyond the expectations. Most people had that it’s like, well, we’re just gonna enjoy the ride, but also like the ride stinks now. And I don’t… It’s not enjoyable.
RP: It’s unfortunate, too, because we-we had really high hopes for Cal Petersen coming in, and he started off okay. And the Kings were doing this stupid thing where it’s like, ”hey let’s play each goalie one night and see who’s better.” And then they were even and then Cal Petersen was bad for one game and the Kings were like, “see, he’s not good enough!” and so then they put all their weight of expectations on Jonathan Quick, who was inexplicably really good to start the season and then, of course, everything after Christmas just kind of stank in goal. And now, our goalies both stink. Oh, but I’m sad because I love Cal Petersen so much.
SA: Yeah. And it feels like, I mean, from talking, you know, I’ve talked with Locked on Kings I’ve talked with some other people who are like much closer to understanding what goalies do than I am. And you know from from their perspective, it feels very much like you know it.. it goal.. being a goalie is such a like mental sport more so than any other position and, you know, they’re probably is some of that, you know, mental struggle that has gotten into Cal Petersen of, you know, everyone knows that he’s supposed to be the heir apparent to the net and, you know, this was supposed to be his year and you just signed a big deal. And so, like now it’s just all gotten in his head, which, you know, terrible timing and so good for Jonathan Quick to, like be decent again, for the beginning part of the season. But like, I feel like Cal Petersen will turn it around, but I need him to turn it around quicker, especially now that everyone on the team is dead.
RP: [laughs] Just so long as we don’t need to recall Garret Sparks again, like any of his–
SA: Well he’s hurt, so it doesn’t even matter.
RP: [Surprised] Oh!
SA: He hasn’t played in like months.
RP: There’s so many injuries to goalies this year, I literally cannot keep up. I was talking to someone about the Habs and I was like, I forgot who I was asking about–oh I was asking about Jake Allen and Scott Mala from Locked on Canadiens, he’s like “Jake Allen’s been hurt since January: and this was mid-February and I was like ah damnit [laughing].
RP: And I was talking to somebody else the other day and somebody else was like, “um no, that–the goalie’s hurt.” Okay, never mind. Forget what I said!
SA: Yeah, it’s, it’s been, it’s been weird. And I mean, yeah, Garret Sparks being hurt really puts a lot more pressure–and he, like he left a game like, midway through once and has literally never been seen again. So I have no idea what happened. I don’t remember anything like suspicious happening. I don’t remember there being a hit to the head. Like just literally no idea what’s going on with him and of course, like, he hasn’t even been seen around. You know, sometimes you see if you’re at, you know, at games, especially minor league games, you’ll see, you know, the scratches or the injured guys just sort of roaming around. Like he hasn’t even been sighted. So, I’m like, did he get abducted by aliens? I don’t know. But you know that puts a lot more pressure, too, on Quick and Petersen to also not get hurt because behind him, we’ve got Matt Villalta who, you know, all respect due to Matt Villalta, but I don’t think he’s ready yet for the NHL. So, you know, you don’t have goalie problems right up until the second you do have goalie problems.
RP: Yeah. Well, just so long as they don’t go through a similar rash of injury of their goalies like they did a few years ago. I forgot what year it is. I think it was like 2018 or something. Like Jonathan Quick strained his groin and-and Jack Campbell strained his groin like two games later and then Dusty Imoo’s son strained his groin. And then, whoever else was the starter. I think it was Peter Budaj was still with the team. Peter Budaj strained his groin. Like…
SA: That season was rough.
RP: Like, “what the F is going on?”
SA: Yeah. Like you have that many injuries happen all at once like you know? Like twice is a coincidence, more than that is you know, something to be concerned about.
RP: Yeah. Yes. So let’s just hope and pray that it’s not Matt Villalta time.
SA: Gosh, please. Sorry, Matt. But we’re–you’re not ready.
RP: Oh, I forgot that you’ll have to ask this. When you do your Locked on podcast with… when you do, when you talk about the Reign. I want to know what happened to Jacob Ingham. it seemed like, at the beginning of the year, they were both like him and Villalta over doing really well, maybe Villalta had the edge. But especially with Garret Sparks injured, I wonder why they didn’t call up Ingham and I wonder if it’s just the team going extra slow with Ingham .
SA: Yeah, that’s been something I’ve noticed lately with the goalies, in the Reign too, you know, since it’s been Villalta. They’ve kind of been rotating a little bit between Ingham, Parik, and the third guy John Lethemon and Lethemon, right now, is up with the Reign, which I found curious because usually it has been… what’s his name… Ingham. And yeah, I think that’s a good question to-to ask Jared about whenever we talk because I’m like, okay, is the team just trying to get you know, Lethemon a little more experience, too, a little more exposure, see what they have in all three goalies? Like what’s, what’s the deal there? Because, yeah, it is odd that, you know, you would have expected Jacob Ingham to be the next guy up and he’s still hanging out in Greenville, South Carolina with the Swamp Rabbits.
RP: Yeah, because he’s not on Ontario’s roster and then to start the year, they signed Garret Sparks and I thought that’s really interesting. I wonder what the plan is? And the plan was to send Ingham to the ECHL, which I guess makes sense so that way both guys can get starter time in net.
SA: Yeah, and like that made sense, like Sparks made sense, because I think we’ve seen like, coming back to like the earlier point of like we’ve seen what happens when the Kings don’t have goalie depth. And I think they realize like, oh crap, like if something happens to Quick and Petersen, like we’re hosed and so signing Sparks made sense and he, you know, he got to play in that one game. He looked really good, whatever. You know, you need a number three, who, you know, can play at the NHL level so that they got that. Of course, now Garret Sparks is like missing, so… See how well that worked out.
RP: Maybe Peter Budaj can come out of retirement.
SA: Maybe. He’s–he actually works for the Colorado Eagles now. So we’d have to steal him, which would be fun.
RP: That would be fun. I mean, Peter Budaj was such a good sport when he was in the AHL.
And he was so good for Jack Campbell. Like, everybody just talked… Everybody who played with Peter Budaj, they just absolutely raved about him and they said, what a good mentor he was. And I think that’s kind of the other thing that they have with Garret Sparks, is that they’re like, at least if we have Garret’s Sparks, then he has NHL experience. He can be a good mentor.
SA: Yeah, yeah. It’s… You need... I feel like teams don’t realize how much they need that like number three veteran kind of guy until they don’t have them. And then like, oh, well, now none of our children know what they’re doing.
RP: Well, we could ask the habs what that feels like.
SA: Oh gosh.
RP: They started out the year with two mediocre AHL goalies and then they were down to Sam Montemblow [pause] – but I can’t say his name, I don’t speak French. Mon… Montemball… [pause] No, I’m not gonna try it again.
SA: That guy.
RP: Yeah, that guy. So there’s they’re down to him. And he, he has these spates where he does really well, and then he’s really bad. But of course, that’s kind of the Habs in a nutshell.
SA: That’s been their season.
RP: But now they have Marty St. Louis to help them turn it all around.
SA: They’ve looked decent since then. Like, congratulations. You have a… You’re having fun again.
RP: You know, it’s… He said something interesting that I shared with James and Ryan. And he said–Marty Saint Louis said it was all about the reads. He doesn’t want to take away the ability to make reads for his players. And I think that’s something that’s kind of missing with the Kings. Because I felt like at the beginning of the year, it was Kopitar’s line and it was Danault’s line. They were the guys who were able to make the reads both offensively and defensively. I mean, nobody reads a defensive play like Danault. Jesus that guy’s everywhere. Like in the best possible way. He is insane to watch. But like the, the third and fourth lines don’t know what they’re doing.
RP: It seems to me that they don’t know what they’re doing, either? That was just my personal opinion.
SA: Yeah. No. It… The the third and fourth lines like, I mean right now, especially like since that the top line with Kopitar and Kempe and whoever else they decide to put up there like that line, unfortunately, has kind of disappeared lately and so, unfortunately, the Kings are right back to being a one line team essentially with Danault and Moore and whoever they put on that wing since Arvidsson is hurt, too, like with them doing all the heavy lifting. Athanasiou was great until he got hurt again. You know, I think this is… Jesse Cohen from All the Kings’ Men tweeted this and I think he has a little bit of a point of… His analogy was basically, like this isn’t the time to like, try to make the same recipe even though you’re missing ingredients, it’s time to try to make a whole new recipe. So it’s like okay, you know you have like Danault and Moore who work well together and whatever for that third spot. And now you have this mishmash of AHL guys and lines that are working but not really. Like if there’s any time for Todd McLellan to just say like okay, line blender go, like this is it. Because you’re running out of guys who even have chemistry together because they’re all hurt. So, instead of trying to replicate the same stuff we’ve seen from the Kings when they’ve been at their best and everyone’s been healthy, like let’s-let’s change it up. Let’s-let’s do something wacky and maybe you’ll hit on a success and we won’t have to be so like, “oh God, we lost all of our games because everyone is dead.”
RP: I feel like he’s tried that the last two games. He tried that actually in the last three [doubtful tone] games?Except for some reason that he keeps punishing Byfield. First, it was putting Dustin Brown on his wing and-and then it was just not letting him see the ice at all. Like, in… I went to the Sharks game on Tuesday? Monday. I don’t know what day it is anymore. I went to the Sharks game with Ryan, and we were like, where’s Byfield? I don’t know if he touched the ice in the third period.
SA: Yeah, probably–
RP: I really don’t know if you would if he touched the ice or not. I saw him at the beginning of OT, I was like, oh my god, they’re gonna put him out in OT! No, he was just stretching.
SA: Just hanging, just hanging. Yeah, no. The, the curious case of Quinton Byfield has been interesting and it’s like well Todd McLellan trusts him sort of, kind of to a point but not really. And yeah, like Byfield hasn’t exactly been given the biggest chance of success anyway with like with his linemates. Like it’s kind of like… There’s definitely some people who have been like [mocking tone] “oh, Quiton Bustfield” and for those people, I will come and fight you because like chill out. But yeah, it’s just like be patient with him. Like most players aren’t phenomenal like when they’re 19 years old. Yeah, he got four shifts in the third period of that game. Played about two minutes total? I can’t really do math very well. But a little over two minutes which, you know, in a-in a game that you need offense and you need something to happen, you know, maybe that’s not the smartest choice to like, sit him. He certainly had some good plays. He just hasn’t been able to finish. You know, it’ll, it’ll come together eventually, but it’s really frustrating watching Todd McLellan not really seem to like know what to do with him. Like at some point you just have to rip the bandaid off and say, “okay, go” and if make a mistake, you make a mistake. Fine. Try to make up for it next time you’re out on the ice. You just have to let them go. So it’s, it’s been weird. Especially seeing how like, you know… Obviously… I, I did point out that, after the Kings lost that game, the the game that Jordan spends debuted in the Kings, it basically blown every debut this season for their young players that they’ve caught up from, from the Reign. So I was honestly didn’t have high expectations for Jordan Spence’s debut because they’ve just screwed it up every time. But you know, I feel like time had really good things to say about him and you know, respecting his performance in his first NHL game, didn’t get the win, blah blah, but it for whatever reason, it just seems like Quinton Byfield doesn’t… Like they just don’t know what to do with him yet and they’re not giving him linemates who gonna be able to help him out the best and help set him up for success. And, you know, it’s one thing for Todd McLellan to not really know to do with Gabe Vilardi who, I think, we all know is very talented but just hasn’t been able to stick. But it’s another thing for Todd McLellan to not know what to do with your like, you know, number two, overall, whatever draft pick. Like you, you can’t ruin this one, Todd. Come on.
RP: [laughs] He’s trying.
SA: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
RP: You know it’s also interesting because I think one of the best ways for a rookie to be able to cut his teeth and really maybe score some… I’m not gonna say gimme points but at least start scoring some points and kind of making a better show, is if you put him on the power play. He didn’t get any power play time in the second period. And I think
RP: And I think they had like two power plays.
SA: Yeah, that’s insane, especially considering how bad the Kings power play is. Like…
RP: Carl Grundstrom was on the power play before Quinton Byfield.
SA: Oh no, I hate that. I hate that. I mean Carl Grundstrom, my guess is, sort of fulfilling the Dustin Brown role of go to the net and maybe it’s gonna bang in off of your butt, which, cool, like a goal’s a goal. But yeah, to not have Quinton Byfield on the power play is… like… it’s insulting honestly, like, just put him on there. He surely cannot do any worse than like some other guys you have out there. Because again, no one’s scoring power play goals in general.
RP: God, they almost gave up, I think like three shorthanded goals (ed note: referencing the Sharks game in LA, not the terrible game at the Tank and this was recorded before the Panthers game). Hey, at least Trevor Moore scored a beauty of a shorthanded goal.
SA: He did.
RP: That was fun. Before the Kings went and ruined it all, but you know, that was fun.
SA: It was a really fun like 12 seconds.
SA: The interesting thing and I noticed this since they came back from Boston which was I guess it’s only been two games–er, yeah, two games. But it–and it it’s been an issue often on several times this year–they, there passes aren’t connecting. So this was an issue a couple weeks ago when they first saw Boston in that horrible game that which we shall not talk about. I was at that game and I was depressed entire time. And I went with my friend who was a Bruins fan, so I was doubly depressed. Anyway. But the thing is the passes were sloppy, it was either a head or behind, so it was… There was no tape to take passes? Everyone looked kind of disheveled, disjointed. And I was like okay they look like they’re playing a three-in-four whatever like it’s a bad game. I’m sure they’ll score one goal. No. But it was, again, the same issue that I noticed against the Sharks and this is why I was kind of like, are they try–I know they’re professionals of course they’re gonna try, but at the same time, I was like, have they talked to each other?
RP: Have they met? Do they know they’re on the same team? Olli Maatta is great–at passing to the other team. Right up the middle, tape-to-tape passes right to the other off, right to the opposition, no problem; rim it around the boards to somebody in traffic, no problem at all. Get it out under duress? Yeah, that wasn’t happening. And I don’t mean to blame Olli Maatta because it was an issue with everybody. I mean, even Kopitar was like pass–rimmin the puck around the boards when there was like six guys there, like three in white, three in black. And I was like, what, what are we doing? And this feels very systemic to me.
SA: And it’s like, it just seems like they’ll… It just takes like one bad game and then things snowball sort of. Because we’ve seen this team be really, really good and play very impressive games and get wins that they deserve and in those games like everything goes right and we’re not seeing this like terrible passing and bad puck control and whatever. And then it’s like, well, you had one bad period and things just go disastrously from there and I mean, I guess credit to this year’s Kings versus like the past three years’ versions of the Kings in that this year, I have a lot more–well, injuries not withstanding, because right now, again, it’s literally like the Los Angeles Ontario Reign at this point. But overall this season, it’s been kind of, like, most games when they’ve been down, or they haven’t looked good I’ve still kind of had confidence that they’ll at least come back and make it competitive and for their most part, that’s been true. Again, that terrible game against Boston… Different…
RP: And that last game against San Jose.
SA: Right, and that last game against San Jose. But like, most of the games that they have struggled in, like, you still are kind of watching at the end being like, “I don’t know, maybe there’s a chance.” But there haven’t been many games that I’ve wanted to like turn off midway through because I’m like, “this is useless.” So I mean that’s an improvement on past seasons where it’s like, once they were out of it, they were out of it and they just never came back, came back from from being down, so I guess that’s better. But yeah, you still would like to see them look like they’ve ever met each other before and not be like, “oh, I thought you were going to be standing there.” Like…
RP: Yeah, I mean, it’s… I feel like it’s only Danault and Moore, like those are the only two guys who ever know where the other ones are. And it’s interesting because… [pause] It’s interesting who they struggle against and maybe it’s the whole playing down to your opponent thing. And we know the Sharks are really bad. I think they’re like, I don’t know, 28th or 26th or something. They’re like waaaay out there. But we saw them get up against Boston. Boston was that “no quit” game. Like, I didn’t watch the game because it was at a terrible time for me. It was four o’clock and I’m totally swamped with work, I couldn’t turn on the game. And so, I’m sitting there later in the day because I recorded it because I’m still a weirdo who has cable, and I’m watching the game and I’m sitting there and my dog sitting at my feet and I’m sitting there rubbing his head and I’m like, I need to stop petting him because I’m gonna rub a hole in his head because this game is so intense.
SA: [laughs] Yeah.
RP: And this game because I felt like as much pressure, as-as much pushback as Boston gave the Kings, gave an equal amount of pressure and push back. They were outmatched. But they… It was the “no quit grit” thing that we’ve come to expect from them this season. And I hate saying that the “no quit grit” because it’s nonsense, but we really did see them put their heart and soul into that game in order to force overtime.
SA: Yeah. And like that’s that’s been the biggest… You know, I feel like whenever I talk with people about, you know the Kings and what things look like from the season and you know it does look like… Chances are they will make the playoffs. Like knock on wood, all these injuries, anything could change but like chances… They’re in a good position right now and even if they lose some ground because of this tough spot with injuries like they’re still looking okay. But I still don’t like… I don’t particularly peg them to maybe get out of the first round. They might win a game or two, but I think that it’s-it’s that lack of consistency. It’s the we see, you know, that game against Boston like you said that was just, you know, yeah, the no quit, the, the fact that they stood up to one of the better teams in in the league and came away of the win, that maybe they didn’t even deserve, but they won it anyway. But then to turn around and have these, like, totally miserable games against like the Sharks and stuff, you know, doesn’t give me a whole bunch of confidence for, you know, navigating a seven game series. But… And you know that’s why I’m like, okay, no they shouldn’t go out and like–well now they might have to at the deadline go out and actually do stuff because again everyone on the team is dead, but I’m like, okay, like I don’t want Rob Blake to go and do anything insane. Like this team isn’t just one guy away. This isn’t the, like, Marion Gaborik trade that’s going to put you over the top. You know, I think if they’re gonna make trades, it should be like guys with term left or like, you know, actual hockey deals to make the team better in general because no, they’re not gonna win the Stanley Cup this year and if they do, like everyone can replay this and like make fun of me for being wrong but guess what? So will everyone else. Everyone else will have been wrong too, so it’s not just me.
RP: Yes. I will… I don’t know. I don’t know. I will do something crazy. But like… Not literally eat my hat, but I will eat my words.
RP: If they-they manage to somehow win the Stanley Cup. But I was thinking about it the other day and I was thinking, what is this team missing? Well, if you want to compare it to the 2014 team in terms of–the 2012 and ‘14 teams in terms of, at least structure, what are they missing? So in my opinion, what they’re missing most importantly, they’re-they’re three guys away from at least being competitive. I’m… I feel like they’re still missing their Willie Mitchell. Possibly also their Matt Greene. And here’s the thing about the Willie Mitchell and the Matt Greene types: as what you’re missing from Willie Mitchell is that steady veteran presence. And I know that veteran presence is a little bit overhyped in the little bit like… over relied on, especially… It’s become a cliché in and of itself. But the thing about Willie Mitchell, and this is what James kind of mentioned to me and I’m like, oh, you’re right, is… It’s… He has, he had an ability to calm the game down. So he was really good at making reads. He was really good at knowing where to be, but more importantly, like he had the right amount of… experience and having been around for enough time that he can go, “Hey, we’re down one goal, all we need is one,” you know. Or it’s the 3-1 lead. You know, “Hey we’re only down two. If you get one who knows what can happen? We can certainly get another one after that.” So they’re missing that Willie Mitchell type that veteran leader who, maybe he has, maybe he’s won a ring, maybe he hasn’t–I don’t think the the win, the the pedigree isn’t necessarily important so much as the quote unquote “leadership” factor and again, overhyped, I know. But it does serve a certain purpose. The other thing I think they’re missing is they’re missing kind of the… the Justin Williams, but also the Jeff Carter type. So, you know, Justin Williams, the heart and soul guy, they kind of have it, they kind of don’t. This is a youngish team. They haven’t quite been through the grinder as much as the 2012 team was. Like, that 2012 team… They got knocked around quite a bit in 2010 and 2011, so that really made a difference and that’s… that’s… roster had actually been–the core of that roster had been together quite a while. The core of this roster has been together… uhh… Well, I don’t even know who the core of this roster is at this point.
RP: And so, you know, they’re still kind of searching for that identity. But then of course you have the Jeff Carter, the Marion Gaborik, the… the Mike Richards… The game breakers. These are the guys who are gonna come up big in big games. The guys who are gonna score that timely needed goal and I said to, I think I said it to Ryan the other day. I said, “you know, I feel like Philip Danault is their Jarret Stoll. He’s that piece that Dean Lombardi went out and got a few years ago, like a few years before they managed to win their first Cup. And so he’s much better in terms of like raw skill than Stoll was. But in terms of like what he provides as far as like, you know, when that critical face off win you need to win that faceoff–faceoffs are never important until they are.
RP: Just the most ridiculous thing. He’s that guy. But he also provides that veteran leadership. He’s a guy who can be kind of that calming influence. I still think they need the Jeff Carter type, though. They really need finishers.
SA: Mmmhmm. Yeah. And I mean that’s been the problem with the Kings for years is that they like they don’t have one. And you know, I think that you know we know Arvidsson is a guy who scores goals, we also know that he’s very streaky and like he hit–that, that is who he has been this season and so I wouldn’t necessarily call him a finisher. He’s definitely helping in terms of goals but, you know. Yeah. We we don’t have that guy who, you know, you know when he has the fuck on a stick that you’re gonna be like, oh this is dangerous. It’s not like, you know, oh that shot sure did go ten feet wide of the net, didn’t it? But I-I think the-the Justin Williams type character is kind of what I thought of immediately, too, whenever, you know, you kind of start thinking about who this team is missing and you know, it’s like you-you need… You know you would think that you would have enough sort of character leadership in the room with guys like Kopitar and, and Brown and Doughty who have been the whole way but I feel like you–yeah, you just need that one other guy to kind of help, you know, keep everyone on even keel and maybe that outside voice, you know someone has been outside of the team gives a little bit of a different perspective. But yeah, I feel like they’re close and it’s gonna be interesting to see the moves that Rob Blake makes to get them closer because, yeah, at this point you are gonna have to start saying goodbye to some of the prospects that we all love in order to get those guys.
RP: [Sad noise]
SA: I know it hurts. It hurts a lot. We should just be able to have whatever we want and not have to pay for it.
RP: I know. [chuckles]
SA: That’s how it should work.
RP: All right, so speaking of moves: the Kings have 22 games left in this year. Most of them against the Pacific and thank god the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has manifested itself in the way that has this year because holy crap the Pacific is bad. And so I think they have an outside–or a good chance of at least finishing second, worst case scenario third. I will kick myself if they finish in a wild card spot. But I still think that they have a really good chance even with this spate of injuries, especially given that Arvidsson is skating. So looking down the deadline and knowing that you have 22 games left, likely to finish two or three, but still keeping an eye on the future, what do you do? Because in my opinion, they probably should look at shoring up their-their defense in the off season when it’s much less… It’s-it’s going to cost them probably less.
SA: Yeah. Yeah, I think that, you know, it’s gonna take the team a lot of looking at–you know, obviously they have more information about any of these injuries than we will. And I think we’ll probably be able to glean a little bit about what’s going on with those injuries based off of the moves that they make. I could see them, you know, if they’re looking at their injury picture and saying, yeah, you know what, we’re-we might squeak into the playoffs. Now, we’re just gonna have fun, see what happens. I could see them looking for like, depth defensemen so that so much pressure isn’t on the kids, especially if, you know, any of these injuries to Doughty, Anderson, and Roy are gonna be even, like, medium term, I would think you’d want to bring in someone with some experience just so they’re not having to lean solely on Olli Maatta as your experienced defenseman.
RP: And Christian Wolanin. Don’t forget their Christian Wolanin.
SA: Oh, that’s right. He exists. So, you know, I-I could see that kind of move and that’s less of a playoff move and more just like keeping our team afloat kind of move. But yeah, I think the big moves should be in the offseason. You know, you’re not going to go overpay quite so much, particularly if it is like Rob Blake… Every sense I get is that he’s going for the hockey trade and not the rental trade. So you really want to overpay right now, for someone who is probably still gonna maybe be on the market once the playoffs are, like, once the offseason hits. I think you’ll have more flexibility kind of towards draft day to make those moves. But yeah, I think right now is more of a short-term move to keep the team from like totally imploding under having to play the entirety of the Ontario Reign’s defense. Because I mean, it also everything trickles down like the Reign right now are one of the top teams in the AHL and if they get decimated because everyone has to go up to the Kings like you’ve now just tanked the Reign’s season, too, which I think that you know, the team–we all know that looks at the team is you know developmental, no one really cares. But at the end of the day, I love to get those guys some playoff experience in the AHL and hopefully they go on a nice long run. So maybe you don’t take all of their defensemen because you want the Reign to be in a good position coming into the playoffs.
RP: Yeah, I think… [brief pause] The NHL teams never care about the AHL. They have no problems calling up the Black Aces even before like their playoff run is done. Or recalling guys at a crucial time for the AHL when they’re like on a hot run. But… I do feel like having that, even on a lower level, it’s a championship mentality. It–that’s one of the reasons why Dean Lombardi always loved Mike Richards. Why he was obsessed with Mike Richards. It’s because this guy has won at every level. Don’t you want someone like that on your team.
SA: Right. Yeah. Yeah.
RP: So I think you have a really good point when you say like, yeah, maybe you don’t quite want to completely recall the entire Ontario Reign.
SA: Yeah, that would be bad because then you just have a bunch of like ECHL and PTO guys and it’s not going to go well.
RP: Well, also I mean it’s a developmental league for a reason, right? So what good is it to rush your guys who are not clear–who are clearly not NHL ready? And you only were hoping to recall them for our game or two to kind of, okay now you’ve experienced what the–what life in the NHL is like, now you have something that you want to reach for, you know?
RP: It’s not, “oh god, here’s our–here’s all five of our rookies. They’re the only guys with any talent on our farm team.” [laughs]
SA: Right. Right. Like. Yeah, you can’t just like, leave, you know, poor like Brett Sutter down there, by his lonesome with a bunch of other random dudes. Like you, you can’t… You can’t like… I think the team front office seems to see the value in, you know, the Reign have a good thing going. So let’s, you know, obviously we need to fill holes on the Kings roster and give guys chances and whatever. But you know, as they’re looking down, you know, down the line towards April, May they I think they need to and should be aware that you don’t want to completely destroy the Reign, especially if you know honestly looking between the Reign and the Kings, the Reign certainly have the better chance of going on a really long playoff run.
RP: Honestly, if the Kings last more than five games in the playoffs, I will be shocked. Like, I… [sighs] god knows I love this team and I do–I’m trying to be positive about them, but like… I think they can win one or two games in the playoffs. I cannot see them winning four games and I’m not trying to be negative. I just… Where they’re at and what I’ve seen, the lack of consistency is a little bit... I think a little bit too much. And I said this in 2014; I didn’t have a podcast in 2014, obviously. All I did was write it down. I was like, they’re not gonna go anywhere in 2014. I was almost right.
SA: Right. Almost sort of.
RP: [laughing] Well, I mean in the first round.
SA: Yeah. No. It’s… It’s… I mean it’s just ultimately, it’s just nice to actually be able to look at this team and say, “wow, right now they’re in a playoff position.” And to look at the Reign and go “wow, they’re actually really good this year.” Like we haven’t had that in a while.
RP: Yeah! Um, I forgot to mention this earlier, but you know who I was actually really impressed by? I was impressed by Jordan Spence in his debut. I didn’t notice him at all. Even when I looked for him, I didn’t see him at all.
SA: Well he’s very small.
RP: [laughs] but he quitted himself very well in his first game. And I was like, normally rookies stand out for the worst reasons and he was like… I mean, every time I saw him with the puck, he was making really smart decisions and I was like, hm, I’m impressed!
SA: Yeah, and I think the, like the few times he did make mistakes… Like, I know there were a couple of plays where he was a little, like a little too aggressive on or tried to get a little too cute and like there are plays that would have totally worked in the AHL and NHL just did not work. It didn’t help that the Kings had a bad game, too. But like the fact, the fact is that Todd McLellan kept putting him back out there. With…. Every coach, not just McLellan, sometimes is like, “oh young child, you did a bad, okay, you’re sitting for the rest of the period.” And in this case, he just kept putting him out there which was great.
RP: Well, it’s a little bit different when you have a defenseman and you’re missing like work horse and you’re relying on poor Matt Roy to play a whole 60 minutes and at the same time drag Olli Maatta up and down the ice.
SA: And gets hurt.
RP: And then gets hurt.
SA: Yeah. It’s rough.
RP: Yeah. Is there anybody that comes to mind that you think the Kings–going back to the trade deadline–is there anybody that comes to mind that you think the Kings should target, UFA or otherwise?
SA: I’ve tried to ignore the trade markets so much and I’m just… I-I… The rampant speculation. All of my like trade options are just because I would find them funny, not necessarily because like it’s the right move for the Kings. But you know I… I know everyone always looks the Coyotes as possible trade partners and like I wouldn’t complain if the Kings acquired like… I feel like the biggest names in Arizona, who are trade-bait are also guys who basically always score against the Kings. Like Lawson Crouse always scores against the Kings; Jake Chychrun always scores against the Kings… A couple of the other guys, like just all every game you’re like, oh this kid again? So I wouldn’t mind if the Kings acquired any of them because that would mean they couldn’t score against us again. Yeah, I don’t really know what the market for like depth defenseman looks like that isn’t gonna be an overpay, you know. I don’t think it’s so dire that they need to go out and sell the farm for a guy who like actually isn’t very good, which I feel like is a lot of what’s out there right now. So yeah, I don’t know, we’ll see. I-I’m trying to trust them to make smart choices.
RP: I told Ryan the other day. I was like, I think it’d be really great if we could see Hertl in black and silver. It’s never gonna happen. But I would love to see Hertl on the Kings if only so he’ll stop scoring against us.
SA: Yes. Yes. Or I mean at that rate, friggin’ Timo Meir, who I feel like scored like 14 times against this this year and there’s still more games to go like that’d be rad.
RP: Maybe uh, maybe Brent Burns and his epic beard?
SA: He’s bad, though.
RP: But so are the Kings.
SA: Eh. Hmm, can we get him for cheap? I’ll take him for cheap if like, you know, they’re just gonna give them to us.
RP: I feel like Brent Burns somehow always makes an impact against the Kings. He can be having like, the worst possible stretch of games, and then against the Kings–it’s like the same guys. It’s Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, and Brent Burns, like freaking always and what? You guys were sucking!
SA: Yeah. And like Erik Karlsson, who just came back from being like dead for three months or whatever, had like a fantastic game against the Kings. Of course, he did.
RP: Yeah but Erik Karlsson is also bad now. So…
SA: Yeah. Except for against the Kings.
RP: Yeah. Maybe we should just like acquire the whole Sharks team and just kind of filter out who we want. Although I was, I was looking at the roster the other day and I’m like, this is the who’s, who of who the hell is this?
SA: Yeah. Yeah.
RP: Like, Balcers was on their AHL team for so long, I didn’t know that they made their NHL team. I was like, “oh! Okay.”
SA: Yeah. Or watching their AHL team the other day. I was like, I’ve never heard of like any of you..
RP: [laughs] It’s Mark Donk and Flippett all over again.
SA: Oh man. Sharks.
RP: All right well here’s hoping that they don’t get crushed against Florida tonight, Sarah.
SA: Fingers crossed. I-I’m gonna hate it.
RP: Any closing thoughts on the Kings?
SA: Um, buckle up. Because the next couple weeks are gonna blow. I don’t know.
RP: Well they have–their March schedule is absolutely brutal. They have four sets of four games in six nights.
SA: No, I hate this. Good luck Cal Petersen and Jonathan Quick. Godspeed.
RP: We just have to hope that their groins hold up for the next six weeks.
SA: Yes. Lots of duct tape and bubble wrap and I don’t know… Whatever they do.
RP: Just just wrap them in bubble wrap and-and just be very gentle with them off the ice.
RP: You can’t move. We have to save your [laughs] we have to save you for [still laughing]
SA: Right, like lots of relaxation.
RP: Play Enya.
RP: That always puts me to sleep.
RP: Alright, well thanks for joining me, Sarah and good luck to the Kings and the Reign.
SA: We’ll see.
RP: Yeah. All right, thanks again. Bye.