Kings disaster started with change in captain
September 05, 2017 3:06 AM
by Nick Pellegrino
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of four NHL division previews leading up to the opening of the 2017-2018 season, marking the debut of the Las Vegas Golden Knights.
We’re going through each division to find the one non-playoff qualifier from 2017 that will earn a shot at drinking from Lord Stanley’s Cup in June by advancing to the party of 16 from among the league’s 31 franchises.
Sorry, “my” (present-tense) Vegas Golden Knights will not join the Elite 16 as an expansion team in the Far West.
Among the three other contestants, Arizona is a year ahead of Vancouver, both with young, bright management staffs starting to make the right moves, yet I still need to go no further than “my” (past tense) Los Angeles Kings.
Following a pair of Stanley Cup wins to start the decade, I firmly point the finger at the NBC Sports Group for messing with the recent mindset of the Kings.
When the network signed a then record 10-year deal in April 2011, the League was thrilled by doubling the number of games exclusively viewed in the USA – oh, a check for $200 million annually didn’t hurt either.
But it was the marketing aspect that killed the Kings.
Captain Dustin Brown, who led L.A. from No. 8 seed in the West to first-time champions, wasn’t deemed “sexy” enough for American audiences. Thus, in a move similar to the game-after-game-after-game promotion of Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby as the NHL cover boy, off came Brown’s “C” and Anze Kopitar was named the new captain.
What a bad move.
Brown has been considered too tough and physical to deliver the “Q” ratings factor NBC execs demanded. Since Kopitar was young and good-looking – and the team’s scoring leader, too – the patch was switched.
However, Kopitar hails from the non-media capital of the world of Slovenia (strange: it has a president and prime minister) so he had difficulty handling chores as the Kings’ front man (L.A. is anything but a media haven for hockey… or the Chargers).
Kings, please move the “C” to someone else.
Then NBC attempted another marketing scheme, making an arrangement for the NHL to host the World Cup of Hockey (and keep all the profits) rather than go to the world championships (letting the IIHF keep the coin).
The result: L.A. all-star goalie Jonathan Quick gets injured (the hamstring officially tore two weeks later in the first period of the first game – but know otherwise) and the season is lost.
In 2017-18, Quick is back, the lack of offense is being addressed – Jaromir Jagr could join the Huff-and-Puff Line (or Geezer Line) with Jarome Iginla and Mike Cammalleri – by new general manager Rob Blake and new head coach John Stevens; both were promoted when their predecessors were fired this summer.
The lone worry, the media also talks gloom and doom when a player turns 40. For Kopitar, the target number was hit last week; Quick is currently 31. Ignore it!
Which team will drop? Calgary.
Because of L.A.’s woes, the Flames were the lucky ones to undeservingly move into the playoffs. However, Calgary’s new goalie is Mike Smith, who turns 36 this season. He was named to his first All-Star Game last season (while playing for a last-place club at the time), yet Arizona didn’t want him anyway so they traded him within the division – that tells us something!
Last Wednesday the team released the jersey numbers for their current roster. Here is the list as it currently stands.
Forwards: 13 Brendan Leipsic; 18 James Neal; 19 Reilly Smith; 20 Paul Thompson; 21 Cody Eakin; 24 Oscar Lindberg; 25 Stefan Matteau;
28 William Carrier; 37 Reid Duke; 38 Tomas Hyka; 41 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare; 55 Keegan Kolesar; 56 Erik Haula; 57 David Perron;
67 Teemu Pulkkinen; 68 TJ Tynan; 71 William Karlsson; 81 Jonathan Marchessault; 84 Mikhail Grabovski; 87 Vadim Shipachyov; 89 Alex Tuch; 92 Tomas Nosek; 97 David Clarkson.
Defensemen: 3 Brayden McNabb; 4 Clayton Stoner; 5 Deryk Engelland; 6 Colin Miller; 7 Jason Garrison; 8 Griffin Reinhart; 15 Jon Merrill; 27 Shea Theodore; 45 Jake Bischoff; 47 Luca Sbisa; 76 Chris Casto; 77 Brad Hunt; 88 Nate Schmidt.
Goaltenders: 29 Marc-Andre Fleury; 31 Calvin Pickard; 33 Maxime Lagace; 35 Oscar Dansk.