With the Los Angeles Kings sitting on a 19-25-5 record in the basement of the Pacific Division and the second-worst record in the league, it might not seem as if fans have much to hang onto for the last portion of this 2019-20 season. Fortunately, that is far from the truth.
It’s true they are not the most riveting team to watch. Whether it’s them losing in blowouts, or coming out strong only to lose their mojo and then the game, it won’t be like this much longer.
Here are several reasons to watch the Kings for not only the rest of the season, but for a long time to come.
Head Coach Todd McLellan
Many fans are not happy with the new coach. With theIr current record, there are plenty of reasons for people to not like him. But the team is starting to buy into his “Go faster, shoot more” system. It may not be showing in their overall performance, but they aren’t being supremely shellacked anymore.
As Drew Doughty said, “We haven’t had one of those in a while. As much as we’ve lost a lot of games we haven’t had any full lopsided games at all… So I guess in a way we are happy with that. Even though we have too many losses we’re improving all the time. Everyone’s getting better individually and as a team and yeah, it’s exciting, but we have a lot of work to do.”
McLellan is also instating a mentality of accountability and he’s not afraid to call his players out. After an 8-2 loss early in the season, he ranted to the press,
“Some of the players that I think we’ve counted on, or we need to count on, have to play a lot better or they don’t belong in the league,”
Lest you think the Kings are just going to roll over and tank the rest of the season, these guys are pros, have too much pride, and won’t let that happen. But if it does, McLellan will be there to teach them how to care.
If there are no signs of marked growth next year, decisions and new evaluations should be made.
Kopitar and the Other Veterans
Keeping your eyes on Anze Kopitar, the team’s captain and lone all-star this year, will make you happy to be a Kings fan. He’s a big body at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds with an excellent shot, amazing hockey sense in all three zones, and rarely makes mistakes. He’s fun to watch and seems like he could score or create scoring opportunities (and stop the opponents from getting them) anytime he’s on the ice.
Known as one of the top two-way forwards in the league for the last bunch of years, he tops the list of splashy veterans which includes Doughty, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, and Kyle Clifford. Their jobs don’t just include getting it done on the ice. They also need to set the tone and establish the culture in the locker room, especially with all the young guys the Kings have now and will continue to bring in.
Watching the Hatchlings Grow
The Kings, deep into the commitment of rebuilding, have some exciting young talent to watch, starting with Alex Iafallo. At 26, he is the oldest of the young guns, who netted his first career hat trick against the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 30. He consistently has his name on the stat sheets and is also a star in the community; he’s often seen doing outreach, including cleaning up beaches.
Adrian Kempe, who shows flashes of brilliance, both for the Kings and in international competitions, is just 23 and will come into his own in the near future. Blake Lizotte, 22, is fun to watch because this pint-sized player (5-foot-7 and barely cracking triple digits on the scale) is unafraid to dig in with the big boys. He’s demonstrated tenacity and smarts on the ice and will as well, become a full-time, big-time contributor.
With some of these guys underachieving through the first half of the season, the question arises about whether they can step it up. However, with each one giving us glimpses into what he is capable of, with just a little more consistency and growth, good things are on the horizon.
When judging a team’s future potential, start looking at their prospects. With nine players on a list of the top 124 prospects, more than any other team, and ranked number one as having the best prospect pool, the Kings are stacked with studs being groomed to lead the team into the future.
Start learning the names that will soon be seen on replica Jerseys in the stands at the Staples Center for years to come: Alex Turcotte, Rasmus Kupari, Akil Thomas, Tobias Bjornfot, Cal Peterson, and others.
The Best Arena
They say that Madison Square Garden is the most famous arena in the world. Well, that may be the case, but the Staples Center has been ranked as the best venue in hockey. It’s relatively new, it’s shiny, there’s good food, and situated in the heart of LA Live, there are few better places to watch a hockey game.
The Final Reason to Celebrate
At least we aren’t the Detroit Red Wings.
At 12-37-4, the once-proud, once–mighty Winged Wheels dwell in the sub-basement with 28 points, a full 15 below the Kings. They have a whopping minus-93 goal differential which means they’re a huge mess in all facets of the game.
If you keep all this in mind, the rest of this season will be enjoyable with much to cheer for, leading into next season.
A writer for the big, small, and computer screens, producer, and screenplay consultant