The Los Angeles Kings started the 2020-21 season with a bang and were scorching hot in February, posting a six-game win streak and a seven-game point streak. Their strong start to the season and point streak propelled them into contention for a playoff spot for the earlier portion of the season.
At times, LA ranked fourth in the West Division; however, the Kings’ success has recently fizzled out. Although being sellers would go against their preseason vision of making the playoffs, it makes the most sense with the trade deadline fast approaching on April 12 at 3 p.m. ET.
A Tough Playoff Race
Excluding the Kings’ rival Anaheim Ducks, whose abysmal season has virtually knocked them out of contention, every other team in the West Division has a shot at making the playoffs. As of April 5, 2021, here are the top seven teams in the West Division standings:
Colorado Avalanche: 37 Games Played (GP), 54 Points (PTS)
Vegas Golden Knight: 36 GP, 50 PTS
Minnesota Wild: 36 GP, 48 PTS
Arizona Coyotes: 38 GP, 41 PTS
St. Louis Blues: 37 GP, 38 PTS
San Jose Sharks: 37 GP, 38 PTS
LA: 36 GP, 34 PTS
Colorado, Vegas and Minnesota, for all intents and purposes, have the first three playoff spots locked up. Even if one of these three teams were to fall off, it wouldn’t allow the Kings (who are 20, 16 and 14 points behind each respective team) to pass that team in the standings.
This means LA would be competing with Arizona, St. Louis and San Jose for the final playoff spot in the West Division. Although LA has two games at hand over the Coyotes, even if they win both of these games, they would still trail the Coyotes by three points. LA and Arizona play against each other five more times this season (including tonight), meaning LA would have to win this series of games to have a shot at passing the Coyotes.
LA has one game in hand over the Blues and Sharks. If the Kings win tonight (and the Blues lose), they will trail each team by two points, merely one win. The Kings have already won their season series over St. Louis, and the Blues have a tougher schedule than LA (St. Louis meets the top three teams in the West Division in all but four of their remaining games).
Theoretically, the Blues should be the easiest team for LA to pass in the standings; however, St. Louis has dealt with many injuries this season and is just a year removed from its Stanley Cup victory in 2019. So the Blues can still turn their season around.
The trickiest team for LA to pass could be the Sharks. San Jose boasts a record of 4-0-1 against the Anaheim Ducks this season and plays them three times in the next two weeks. This should provide the Sharks with multiple points in the standings. The Sharks also own a record of 5-1-0 against the Kings and meet them twice in the next two weeks. The Sharks’ next five games are against their California rivals, and based on this season, the Sharks should be picking up a few points, which would make it tough for LA to pass them in the standings.
The Sharks have also been hot recently, riding a four-game win streak that is largely due to Jones’ incredible play as of late.
Jones is known for his inconsistency and is a very streaky goalie. Should he cool off, which is entirely possible, the Sharks could nosedive down the standings.
Overall, the Kings face a tough climb up the standings. Even if they manage to squeak into a playoff spot, would it really be worth seeing them meeting (most likely) either Colorado or Vegas in the first round? The Kings’ window will open in a few years once prospects like Quinton Byfield, Alex Turcotte, Arthur Kaliyev and Samuel Fagemo have developed into NHL-ready players. Should they make the 2021 postseason, they almost certainly won’t be true Stanley Cup contenders.
LA Could Gain Future Pieces for Veterans
The Kings are a team built for the future. They boast the best prospect pipeline in the NHL and have veterans such as Anze Kopitar, who should hit multiple milestones this season, and former Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty, who are still fantastic players.
Despite having Kopitar and Doughty locked up for the long haul, the Kings do have veterans they could trade for future pieces. The top candidate for this would be Dustin Brown. Following the 2020-21 season, Brown has one season remaining on his contract.
An often used phrased is “buy low, sell high.” Selling high is exactly what the Kings could do with Dustin Brown. In 34 games played this season, he has scored 15 goals and posted a total of 22 points. For perspective, he scored 17 goals last season and had 22 in 72 games in 2018-19. This is Brown’s best offensive season in years. Although parting with the veteran would be tough, his trade value is probably the highest it will be.
Other veterans the Kings could trade include Jeff Carter and Jonathan Quick, but it will be more difficult to find a buyer for either of these two players.
The Kings are in a tight playoff race and are a team designed to contend in the future. The odds of LA making the playoffs are not good, and they should be sellers at the 2021 Trade Deadline to help improve their playoff hopes in a few years when they should actually be a threat to win it all.
Stats per: NHL
I am a lifelong hockey fan who will be covering the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks here at The Hockey Writers. Before joining The Hockey Writers I spent two years blogging about hockey.
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