Not a fictional start, is it insiders?
The difficult opener at home left the Kings with a 0-2-0 draw, after losing to Vegas and Seattle. For a team that entered the season with expectations to build and grow from the playoffs berth last season, this isn’t the start of the season anyone would have hoped for, although it’s also something Todd McClellan warned us could achieve. With the new forecast comes a different kind of season.
Although last night’s game got me thinking about this time last year, when we didn’t know who the LA Kings were, what they were all about or what kind of team they were going to be. We knew they had improved the staff, we knew they had a vision of what they wanted to do and who they wanted to be, but that wasn’t clear with a couple of games. We’ve seen a lot of penalties, we’ve heard the phrase “manage the game” over and over again, and even on nights when the team was playing well, they didn’t get the results they deserved.
McClellan made an interesting comparison after the loss to Vegas, which was that the only reference point we had to compare was last season’s team. But the team we used was the team that finished last season, not the team that started. Last year’s team had an identity in the second half of the season of being organized and difficult to play against, with predictability among teammates allowing anticipation and checking ability that frustrated the opponent on a night to night basis. The identity was so strong that it felt like it was there the whole time, but it took time to come together.
McClellan has followed up on it a few times now by saying that you have to rediscover who you are every season as a team. That’s not to say that everything the Kings built last year disappeared in the off-season, because it didn’t. The identity the team created last season could be the same we see this season as well. Last year’s team was built to win matches a certain way and by the time the calendars turned to 2022, the team was running full speed playing that way and winning that way.
Sharing two quotes here – one from practice on Wednesday and one from after yesterday’s game. Both paraphrase, but for reference –
10/12 – Now that we’re going to have to put the second game against the first because we’re now starting to get a clue this year. Maybe we’ll be a losing team, a gambler, score five goals a night and get it done that way, I don’t know, but that looked like we wanted to play. If we as a group feel our identity has to go and we’ll try it out that way, great, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Either we redefine our identity, or we experience it in a different way.”
10/13 – We are trying to figure out who we are, how do we want to play the game? For the media that was there this morning or yesterday, it doesn’t happen automatically, you have to re-create yourself every year. The reference point we had after the first game was last year, and now we have six periods in the bag.
I wonder if I was personally guilty of hearing what McClellan said, but I didn’t actually listen to him. I’ve certainly been looking at those first two games in a similar way in my mind to the way the team has played over the past year. Of course, the takeaway is that this wasn’t good. However, comparing this year’s team to last year’s team isn’t really helpful at this point. 5 of the 18 skaters from Game 7 are not with the organization and none of the lines or pairs from that night are still intact. On paper, the Kings have a better roster and a more talented pool than they did last season, between off-season acquisitions and what we’ve already seen as some internal growth from players like Gabe Villard and Quinton Byfield, with these three players among the team’s best stories throughout pre-season. The opening two games. Now, we have to see what this team, assembled on paper, can build on the ice. This may take longer than six periods to appear in play.
If this is the same approach as last season, the Kings have some steps to take.
Last night was definitely better defensively – the goals against her included a powerful goal, an odd rebounding (ish) goal and another goal that came right after the play expired. This is a bit more like Kings than on opening night, which saw upwards of 50 shots on target. The next thought process, at least me anyway, is that the Kings are still the same defensive team they were last year, but the extra speed, skill and offensive talent will correct the areas that hurt the team, which were below-average scoring output.
Can this year’s team win as they were supposed to win? surely. 80 games left on the calendar It’s too early to hit the panic button. Today’s players said they believe this group is fully capable of playing the way they played last year, and although the team has come back with several injuries at the same time, there is still more than one talented group. The pieces are there and the players believe in what they have. However, is it time to change our approach and view this team as a new entity, still figuring out what kind of team it wants and needs to be? Likely to be.
With five games on the road – all against teams that should be vying for a playoff spot – Philip Danault may have said it was the best of it yesterday. It’s time to go to the war zone and get it done. The Kings last season earned a point from 30 from 41 road games, the best mark in the Western Conference. There is no better time than the present to take on a positive trait from last season.