Column: Time to commerce? Kings should decide how greatest to develop into Cup contenders
The breathlessly overhyped NHL commerce rumor market paused briefly this week when the Kings introduced they’d secured a cornerstone defenseman — however the participant in query wasn’t Jakob Chychrun, who’s being held out of Arizona’s lineup for what the Coyotes known as trade-related causes.
Signing 23-year-old Mikey Anderson to an eight-year, $33-million contract wasn’t a splashy transfer by Kings normal supervisor Rob Blake, but it surely made sense economically (a $4.125-million wage cap hit) and strategically. Anderson is a robust shutdown defender, suits nicely with Drew Doughty on the highest pair, and is changing into bodily assertive. He’s evolving into a possible chief because the Kings transfer deeper into their post-Stanley Cup period and towards contending once more.
The Kings, who will start the ultimate third of the common season Friday at Anaheim towards the draft lottery-bound Ducks, nonetheless have a methods to go earlier than they are often ranked amongst front-runners for the Cup. For one, there’s that pesky unfavorable objective differential: They’re the one staff at present holding a playoff spot that has given up extra targets than they’ve scored, 185-184. That’s a galaxy away from the Ducks’ wholly earned minus-92 differential, but it surely bothers coach Todd McLellan.
“And it’s something that we’ve talked about and addressed,” McLellan stated by cellphone Thursday. “At the point where we did address it I think we were minus-11, and it’s very rare that a team, one, makes the playoffs, and two, has success with that type of differential. So we were conscious of it and we’ve spoken to it and since then, it’s only been two games but we got that number down a little bit. But it has to improve.”
The Kings’ goaltending stays a query, although bargain-bin discover Pheonix Copley saved their season when Cal Petersen imploded and Jonathan Quick faltered. But Copley, just lately rewarded with a one-year extension price $1.5 million, has by no means performed a Stanley Cup playoff sport. Quick, within the last yr of his contract, has one win in his final 12 appearances. Petersen is taking part in repeatedly within the American Hockey League, the place Blake stated he has been gathering wins and bringing his goals-against common down. Even if Copley (their solely goalie below contract for subsequent season) continues to work his magic, Blake may need to dip into the commerce waters for a veteran goalie for the brief and long-term.
Blake has resisted plunging in for Chychrun, 24, an affect participant who will deliver Arizona some mixture of a major draft picks and prospects. Blake most popular to attend whereas forwards Arthur Kaliyev and Thousand Oaks native Trevor Moore returned from accidents to be able to higher choose the staff’s total defensive efforts. If he doesn’t like what he sees — or if the necessity for a bodily presence on protection crops up once more — Blake has till midday Pacific time March 3 to reconfigure the combo through commerce. He has gathered sufficient property to make a deal that gained’t compromise the top-tier roster depth.
“I think we compete with some of the top teams, and they’ve showed that,” Blake stated when requested if the present staff is a Cup contender. “Our defensive structure, I’d like to see our group with this offensive group for a little while. We’ve got 27 games left here to just get in, so that’s the battle we’re looking at.”
Adding a brawny, left-handed taking pictures defenseman to stability the excess of righties wouldn’t harm, even when it’s not a participant of Chychrun’s caliber. But McLellan stated he doesn’t see an pressing have to shake issues up.
“I think there’s a lot of questions right now because the trade deadline is coming up. We are comfortable with the team that we have. We like the group. We like the chemistry. We like a lot of things about our team,” he stated. “Do we have to play better night in and night out? Yes, we do. But we think we have pieces.
“Now, if we can improve the team — if that’s a defenseman, a forward or a goalie or whoever it might be — great. But if we don’t, it’s not an excuse or a reason for us not to push forward and try and be as successful as we can.”
Blake stated he has seen extra consistency just lately, a distinction to the Kings’ maddeningly disjointed performances early within the season. “They play well with structure, and they’ve been up to challenges,” he stated.
In the ultimate third of the season McLellan additionally desires extra consistency from the Kings, who outscored the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins 11-2 in profitable their first two video games after the All-Star break.
“I would like us to play to our identity a little more consistently. It was erratic early in the season. Very erratic, and I think we talked a lot about that,” McLellan stated. “Then we started to settle in, and we’re still looking for that consistency, a game that we can count on night after night for 60 minutes. And I think we’re close. I think we can do it. But we’ve got to push a little bit more.”
They have about two weeks to resolve if merely pushing more durable will get them deep into the playoffs, or in the event that they want Blake to make a transfer that will get the commerce market buzzing once more.