Superstition and hockey tend to go hand in hand, but the Los Angeles Kings may be taking it too far. Covering up a Taylor Swift banner at the behest of fans who believe it’s the cause of a curse is wishful thinking at its most desperate. All it does is help the Kings turn a blind eye to what truly ails the team.
Kings Get Crowned… Twice
It’s admittedly true the Kings haven’t been out of the first round since 2014. However, their so-called drought comes after three straight multi-round postseasons, two of which led to Stanley Cup championships (the last of which coming as a result of their successful run those 2014 playoffs).
Compared to the likes of, say, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who haven’t been out of the first round since two lockouts ago, the Kings and their fans haven’t really suffered. Considering the Leafs last won it all in 1967, maybe it’s time to turn the melodrama down from an 11.
Secondly, the banner in question, which commemorates a record-breaking 16th sold-out show for Swift at the Staples Center, was only raised in the August 2015. That was literally months after the Kings soiled the bed by becoming one of just a handful of teams to win the Cup one season and miss the playoffs entirely the next. How does that happen? Time travel?
Kings Deserve Credit
In one way, the Kings deserve credit. It would be one thing if they were just admitting to believing in magic on an institutional level. They’re conning themselves into somehow simultaneously arguing science is a culprit in their misfortunes too. Granted, time travel is only a theory, but it’s good to know that, if it actually is possible, screwing the Kings out of postseason success is actually on a list of priorities of the would-be geniuses who do end up making the breakthrough.
Obviously, the Kings are going through a rough patch, but, if they truly believe in science, shouldn’t they form some kind of plausible hypothesis regarding their troubles before bringing witchcraft into the mix? Instead of thinking through their problems rationally and moving forward, they’re going back in time hundreds of years.
Sure, NHL teams and players have their rituals and traditions. To a certain extent, superstition is part of the fabric of the sport. One need only look in net every so often to bear witness to the most notoriously superstitious breed of them all: goalies, with Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall infamously vomiting all the time, as one example.
Quick Continues to Struggle
Ironically, the net is one of the very first places the Kings should look themselves. Starter Jonathan Quick is struggling again, with a .793 save percentage through his first three games of the season (all losses). As a 33-year-old, Quick is no spring chicken and he was limited to 46 games last season due to injury. In 2016-17 he only got in 17. Logically speaking, he’s in decline with backup Jack Campbell having gotten just as many starts so far.
Thankfully, a succession plan for Quick seems to have been set in motion. If it isn’t Campbell, who’s generally been very good in relief over parts of the last three seasons, taking the reins, it will likely be Cal Petersen. After impressively debuting last season, the 25-year-old Petersen has gotten off to a great start this season with the Ontario Reign in the American Hockey League. Speaking of which, the Kings have a farm system and prospect pipeline of which they can be proud. It’s commonly ranked among the best in the league, with recent high-end draft picks like defenseman Tobias Bjornfot, who is currently on the NHL roster, and center Alex Turcotte leading the charge.
No Kings Curse Here
In sharp contrast, few if any picked the Kings to so much as make the playoffs this season. There is no cosmic conspiracy afoot. There is just a Kings team with bad goaltending, a defensive corps in flux and a forward group that must largely rely on a core of players in their mid-30s to score. Excluding Tyler Toffoli, who’s 27, you’d largely expect the top six to comprise Anze Kopitar (32), Jeff Carter (34), Dustin Brown (35) and Ilya Kovalchuk (36). That’s not even six players, it’s five. You can maybe include 25-year-old Alex Iafallo, as he’s gotten time on the top line, but he’s never hit the mid-30s in terms of points.
Add it all up and, yeah, the Kings can use any edge they can get. However, using a banner that has nothing at all to do with hockey as a crutch and a potential excuse for failure cheapens the struggles the team has gone through over the last few seasons. Doing so does nothing to address actual systemic failure. All it does do is create an unjustified sense of urgency to win right now, when the team isn’t ready to, which will only put their inevitable eventual success at risk. The turnaround was never going to be fast, but it was going to come eventually. If you force it and make trades for the present, you’ll only further weaken the overall strength of the organization.
Are Kings fans to seriously assume there would have been more championships over the last few seasons if Swift had never played that record-breaking show? Wouldn’t that mean there’d be fewer top-end prospects shaping the future of the organization… a future that, rest assured, is well-covered? The Kings don’t need to do the same to a meaningless banner. Other banners will come, ones that actually matter.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.