LOS ANGELES — Losers of six of their last seven games heading into their January 13 contest at Staples Center in Los Angeles against the St. Louis Blues, the Los Angeles Kings have blown a huge opportunity.
Indeed, the Kings could have built a nice cushion for themselves in the hyper competitive Western Conference standings before playing ten straight games on the road in February while Staples Center hosts the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards and the events surrounding the 60th NBA All-Star Game, among other events.
“It’s so important to win all these at home because we go out on the road for pretty much the whole month of February, so these are really important for us,” defenseman Drew Doughty said following a 5-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on January 6.
“Home games are important, and we have a good record at home,” said right wing and team captain Dustin Brown. “These last games, we’ve kind of let go. There’s no rhyme or reason. We’ve got to be better. That’s the bottom line. It comes back to that work.”
Getting off to fast starts, only to see the effort and intensity drop way off after that has been the issue throughout the home stand.
Head coach Terry Murray noted that an attitude adjustment and an emotional commitment are needed.
“You guys saw the game where we came out in the second period, after a pretty good start in the first, and got away, totally, from everything that was going the right way,” he noted. “Turning pucks over the in the neutral zone, not getting [pucks deep], not skating the right way, and our pursuit of the puck, whenever it did get in, was not there with enough support to recover pucks, and they kept coming at us.”
“Emotionally, we just let up on the gas pedal again in the second period.”
“Something needs to be changed with our attitude, because that’s all it is, an attitude—playing the game right,” said Brown. “We’re halfway through the year. This is a big home stand for us. The playoffs are at stake [right now].”
As Brown noted, the playoffs are at stake after a dreadful 1-6-0 record to this point in January. But having blown the opportunity to give themselves a cushion in the standings ahead of their brutal February schedule, the playoffs are no longer simply at stake. Rather, even though there still forty games left to be played, the Kings’ season is more likely in serious jeopardy.
“[The season] is definitely at stake,” Brown stressed. “It’s not out of reach. There’s still a lot of hockey to be played. We need to figure out what we need to do here to turn it around. This home stand was really important, but we’ve definitely let the opportunity slip by.”
Veteran defenseman Matt Greene said that each member of the team needs to look in the mirror as a step towards righting the ship.
“Attention to detail [is a problem],” he said. “Guys have got to buy in and play our system. Guys have to play confident, no matter what the score is. If we’re up by five or down by five, we’ve got to play the same game. Everybody has to know exactly what they’re doing or our system isn’t going to work and we’re not going to win.”
“It’s all about individuals right now,” he added. “It’s about guys looking at themselves, getting their own game going and buying into playing the team game. That’s the only way we’re going to have success. It’s the reason we had success last year, and the times we had success last year, it’s been on the team, it hasn’t been on one guy or one line. It’s been everybody working together and doing the right things together that’s going to get us on track.”
Another problem appears to be a lack of accountability among the players, as murmurs about that could be heard in the dressing room following the Kings’ 3-2 loss to the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs on January 10.
Murray has seen this before with other teams, and tried to put it into the proper perspective.
“You can talk about this stuff [such as a lack of accountability], but the veteran hockey clubs in the league, the veteran teams I’ve been on, I know exactly what [is meant whenever that is said],” Murray explained. “But when you’ve got a young hockey club like this, it’s part of the process of dealing with that and learning how to become accountable, and how to hold a player accountable.”
“That’s not an easy thing to do,” Murray added. “If you’re standing in there as a player and you’ve got 19 teammates, and you’re going to challenge somebody for something that happened, or for not doing something the right way, you’d better know what you’re talking about and you’d better be able to go out there and do it yourself.”
“That only comes from true experience and a good, veteran hockey club, because you can push yourself away from your team as a young guy if you just stand up and start to say things that are not correct. It’s a fine line, and I don’t think we are quite there with that veteran group in there yet to be able to step up and have that personality to [say] the right thing.”
No matter how you slice it, the Kings sure have a lot of problems for a team that is still expected, not only to make the playoffs, but to do some damage once there. That begs the question:
Could their season be in greater jeopardy than anyone realizes?
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This season feels worse than any of the previous 5. Damn these expectations! The boys need to man up and start winning, my gf can’t take my post-loss grumpiness anymore.
If they lose again tonight, I will not continue to support this team. At least Anahiem cares about winning and they are ahead of us. We are a embarassment and a disgrace to Southern California. We should have won Monday. And our younger players are messing it up along with Quick.
If your support for this team is so thin as to threaten to “leave” them for any other team, let alone our cross town rival, than I say…see ya! Don’t let the door hit you on the A#$ on the way out!
I find it hard to believe that any pro athlete doesn’t care about winning (pride)…you know the organization want’s to win… win’s = money.
Our younger players are not the one’s messing up…Clifford, Martinez, Lewis…all doing fine. It is some of our veterans that have to re-focus ( Stoll, Zeus, Poni).
Have a blast cheering for the Quacks…the grass is always greener
The Kings have been saying the same quotes for weeks regarding what they need to do. They ring hollow now as a result.
Same quotes? No way. You haven’t seen TM say there isn’t a personality in the group that can yet step up and say what needs to be said. That is a big statement. I’ve never seen it.
Great stuff Gann! I’ve been feeling that way for quite a while and it’s interesting to see Murray talk about it. These long losing streaks are more than system mistakes. It’s about holding players accountable. It’s either the coach or the players themselves that will do it and I’ve been saying all along that TM isn’t the kind of guy to call people out in the middle of the room. That leaves the captain and the assistants. Unfortunately, these losing streaks tell me the Brown doesn’t quite have what it takes right now to stem the tide before it gets out of hand. There’s definitely a little bit of turmoil going on in that locker room.
Brown is a fine captain. But he has only been to the playoffs once, so he still lacks experience in terms of what it takes to get there consistently. As such, I would instead be looking at the older veterans. They need to step up and help Brown out in the dressing room more.
I’m sure it’s not like in the movies, but it reminds me of the many times I’ve seen a leader in name only be out-led by the real leader. I remember that dynamic being explored in Aliens and Platoon where the men follow the gritty leader instead of the higher ranking person. I think there’s an element of human nature that looks for this kind of leadership and if it isn’t coming from the guy with the ‘C’ on his sweater, it has to come from somewhere else. The problem is that as soon as that happens, the guy with the ‘C’ becomes Captain in name only.
Its all about emotion and focus. They read too many of their own press clippings and forgot how much hard work it takes to dominate teams even if you’re better than they are.
Great article Gann. I totally agree, our season is in jeopardy, been saying it all season TM is responsible for making his team mentally tough enough. I could see this from last year. Bad summer by him and staff in my opinion. Growing on the ice is 5x easier than growing off it to understand the game, leadership, being a celebrity, role model, etc. It seems this team wasn’t ready to take the next step. Maybe next season.
Gayle, start supporting Anaheim please. The less fair-weather fans the Kings have, the better my chances of catching a T-Shirt at the next game are.
Haha I blocked Gayle. All she does it hate. Remember last season when we lost to Canucks in playoffs badly on the road. First and only time i really saw from her all season. She made sure to point out how we were heartless, gutless, no effort, spineless.
I’ve never heard such words from a fan. And I can be pretty critical myself, LOL.
You’re over-analyzing. Brown is a fine captain, as I said. This is his team. For the Kings, making him captain and letting him grow into the role was the wise choice. He’s still doing that.
LOL. I’m sure you’re right, but that’s half the fun! As for how Brown grows into that role, time will tell how it goes. Of course, I hope it works out great, but I have my doubts.
I will continue to blame the young core. They play well enough but there are several mental lapses during the game when they lose focus. This team has the talent to go far but it’s a matter of motivation and focus.
Good scribbling, I enjoyed it.
Rogie and Marcel Dionne are the two reasons I care about hockey.
We are a young team have we all forgotten this? We are not creeping on teams like last year or getting points by taking the game to a shootout. We are not playing that bad (2 goals against in the last 4 games), but we need to fix the power play!!! When you are not scoring in 5 on 5 situations it becomes more important to score with a man advantage. Go Kings Go