It’s Now or… Potentially Every Year After

Kings Playoffs

Today is February 27, and we are less than 24 hours away from the NHL’s trade deadline tomorrow at noon PST.

This is typically a rather disappointing time for Kings fans, especially in the Dean Lombardi era. While other teams in similar position as the Kings are stocking up on talent for a playoff run, the Kings usually at most add veteran depth.

While that is an economical strategy that conserves the long-term talent, it is hard for Kings fans to hear about high-end names changing NHL sweaters year after year without hardly any of them being black and purple.

Especially when the Kings have cap space.
Especially when the Kings lack goal scoring.
Especially when the Kings are strong in every other way.

Especially when Dean Lombardi used the possibility of the trade deadline as an excuse for not signing that big fish in the summer.

And especially when the Kings have never won a Stanley Cup in their 44 years of existence, and really only came within its grasp one time.

But trade deadline acquisitions are not the key to success in the playoffs:

  • Ask the Penguins, who in 2008 traded for Marian Hossa at the deadline. Yes, they made the Stanley Cup Finals, but lost to Detroit in six games.
  • Ask the Flames, who in 2009 traded for Olli Jokinen. They won 2 games in the playoffs.
  • Ask the Devils, who in 2010 traded for Ilya Kovalchuk. They won 1 game in the playoffs.

Sure, adding a player with a specific talent to a roster lacking in that area can be helpful on the ice. But often it is disruptive off the ice, as teammates may feel they have battled with each other in the trenches of NHL competition for 50-60 games. A new recruit who wanders in to save the day, unscathed and untested, may not be looked upon fondly by that tight-knit group.

Perhaps that is one of the fundamental aspects of the ‘right fit’ concept that Lombardi always preaches: someone who is able to bring to the table an-

‘I’m just here to help in any way that I can’

-attitude, and not one of-

‘you needed a goal scorer and here I am.”

Lombardi’s position this year is tougher than it has ever been, at least with the Kings:

  • Last season, the team perhaps over-achieved and secured a spot in the playoffs with little outside help. Trade deadline acquisitions Fred Modin and Jeff Halpern were supposed to be veteran depth guys that were not as much disruptions as they were mostly useless, especially in the case of Halpern.
  • The team has been rather successful this season, without the help of mid-season trade acquisition Marco Sturm, who has struggled to come back to form from knee-injury.
  • Now, Sturm can no longer be considered the potential first line left-winger, as the move to free up roster space by placing him on waivers worked- since he was claimed by the Washington Capitals.
  • The other possible help in the goal-scoring realm was Andrei Loktionov who was sent down to Manchester (to make room for Marco Sturm) where he severely injured his shoulder and will most likely be out for the remainder of the season.
  • Fans are foaming at the mouth for a longer playoff run after getting a taste last season and watching the young core grow both in experience and ability.

Will Dean Lombardi add that winger to help the Kings put pucks in the net? Kings fans should probably not be awaiting for savior on Monday.

Of the names of players who may be available that the Kings have reportedly expressed interest in, Lombardi will not jeopardize the future to acquire any of them:

  • Ales Hemsky is still fairly young (27) but has had multiple injuries and is not a pure goal scorer.
  • Dustin Penner, while a physical player with good hands, has probably hit his peak.
  • David Booth is a streaky winger that has already suffered a concussion.
  • Brad Richards is a true top line center and a Conn Smythe winner. However, he currently has a concussion and while he was having a tremendous season in Dallas before the injury, at 30 his best years are most likely behind him.

Brayden Schenn’s future is unknown. That is both good and bad.

  • The bad: he could be a bust and not produce at the NHL level. But he has flourished at every level he has played at already, including 7 points in 7 games with Manchester of the AHL, 40 points in 18 games with Saskatoon of the WHL, and 18 points in 7 games for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, tying a Canadian record.

It seems hard to imagine that he will not continue his success at the highest level, since he has played at the highest level possible all his life so far.

  • The good: he could be a superstar in the NHL. He could very well be a point per game player for the next decade, which is not something that can be said about any of the players listed above or anyone that is likely available at this year’s trade deadline.

Kings fans: this is not our year. But maybe next year, and many after.

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