Embrace the rebuild

A case for accepting the inevitable and preparing for the future.

I sit writing this on the couch while watching the Kings-Jets game and I find myself wondering if it is time we Kings fans embrace the idea of going through a complete and total rebuild. Sure, we won the game 4-1, and it felt great to see the team play well, but as it stands, the Kings currently have an 18.5% chance of getting the first overall pick and a 100% probability of having a top-four pick in the 2019 draft.

I look at what Toronto has done over the last four years in their own rebuild and I’m continually impressed at how quickly they went from a laughing stock to a powerhouse. However, before we begin to think about turning it around as quickly as they did, we must fully resign ourselves to the fact that this will be a painful process.  While we can all dream of making another run at the Stanley Cup as a surprise contender, I think we can admit,  whether it’s publicly or privately, that this team isn’t capable of making it.

In a recent “Off Day Watch” here on JFTC, Sarah illustrated the point quite clearly, with some fancy stats and analytics by people much smarter than I, that what the Kings do on the ice amounts to is ... not much. There isn’t a lot of scoring for or against, and the shots they do get are ineffectual. So something has to give.

Off-Day Watch 12/17: “Not Only Will You Die It Will Hurt The Whole Time That You’re Dying”

It’s Just Business

In the last week or so the trade rumors have begun to swirl around the team which involve some big names. I fully understand there is a sense of loyalty to those players who have been with the Kings for one if not both of the Stanley Cup winning years. However, hockey is a business and when performances do not measure up, changes need to be made. Loyalty is one thing, but if you look around the sporting world you will see plenty of examples of organizations and coaches being overly loyal to certain players which has ultimately hurt the organization.

In hockey you can’t fire the players but you can set the tone by firing the coach. The management has done just that by relieving John Stevens of his duties, and replacing him with Willie Desjardins. (What a success that has been...)

A number of trade ideas have been floated in speculation for what the Kings could get in terms of draft picks and prospects. Some of the players that have been mentioned in connection with being traded include Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Alec Martinez, Jake Muzzin, and even Jonathan Quick. All of these players carry manageable cap hits and have no trade restrictions in their contracts, making them much easier to move.

I’m personally not against recommending trading any and all of the aforementioned players or others so long as we aren’t trading away prospects that we need. If you can find a trade partner and can get an equitable return, then it’s worth consideration.

Jeff Carter, 33 years old, $5.275m cap hit

They could get a decent return for Jeff Carter who, at his peak, averaged around 60 points per year, if other teams are looking for middle 6 scoring depth. He also has increased value due to being a center and having extensive playoff experience. If Vilardi ever cracks the lineup or if we, for the time being, want to give up Kempe at center, then it’s definitely worth considering a trade offer for Carter.

Tyler Toffoli, 26 years old, $4.6m cap hit

Toffoli, I’m not so sure about trading, depending on the offer. He’s still young and has a scoring touch based on past performances, as he averages between 40-50 points per year. Unless we got something really good in return because of his age, I get the feeling that with more dynamic linemates, he could once again start to fill the back of the net.

Alec Martinez, 31 years old and Jake Muzzin, 29 years old, $4.0m cap hit each

Good defensemen are at a premium in the NHL. With very manageable cap hits and contract terms, teams looking to make a deep run in the playoffs would be willing to pay a premium for good defense, especially if that defense came with Stanley Cup experience.  Toronto, for example, is in desperate need of defensemen, and if either Martinez or Muzzin were of interest, that could make for an interesting trade. If either one left, it would be a blow to the Kings’ defensive corps; however, when looking at the situation, if you’re going to go for a rebuild, you may as well go all in.

Jonathan Quick, 32 years old, $5.8m cap hit

Arguably the toughest pill to swallow, but the hushed rumors have begun to float around that Quick could be amongst those considered for a trade. I like Quick, but I can’t imagine what a 35 year old Jonathan Quick will look like. With Ken Holland asking for a first round pick for Jimmy Howard, the return for Quick could be quite substantial. Cal Petersen has played very well and has made a strong case to stay with big club even when Campbell returns from injury. As much as I like Quick, if you can get a solid return for him, I wouldn’t be opposed to trading him and running with a goalie tandem of Petersen and Campbell. There are worse goalie tandems on better teams.

The Kings need to jump start the rebuild. I don’t think any of us want the Kings to be eternally in rebuild mode, similar to the Arizona Coyotes. I like the majority of the players on the roster, but at this point, the management needs to prioritize the overall health of the club rather than remain loyal to those players who have brought success in the past. It’s not personal, just business.

Let the Kids Play

The additions of Brendan Leipsic and Nikita Scherbak via waivers have been astute acquisitions and have added some youth and speed to the lineup, even if they don’t turn into long term players for us. I wish they would get more playing time, in all honesty. More importantly, the youngsters like Matt Luff, Cal Petersen, Austin Wagner, and Sean Walker all have the makings of good NHLers but aren’t given much playing time by Desjardins. If it weren’t for injuries, these guys would be in Ontario playing top line minutes.

The other prospects in the system are showing promise and there are good pieces for a sound team in the making. The likes of Gabe Vilardi, Matt Villalta, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Rasmus Kupari and others will make good additions to the team in years to come.

However, these guys need playing time to develop. If the team does decide to go for a full scale rebuild, the younger guys should be playing all throughout the Kings lineup night in and night out. There will be growing pains, there will be mistakes, but they will get better. If Rob Blake doesn’t hit the big red reset button, send the kids back to the AHL as soon as possible so they can develop.

All I ask is that the management does something. The status quo cannot continue. I’d rather see the young guns learn the ropes in the NHL than watch the team listlessly find its way through this season. It is painful enough; at least give us hope that change is on the horizon.

With the season already lost, what should the Kings do?

Trade everyone you can!187
Make little changes, but don’t trade away any core players.32
Do nothing; this team will bounce back. 5
My thoughts are complex and require a comment to explain. 24