The Los Angeles Kings have went from the top of the Western Conference to fighting for a wild card spot in a little over a month. The team has struggled at both ends of the ice and there are no signs of things turning around. There are also rumblings surrounding Head Coach Todd McLellan and General Manager Rob Blake, whose jobs may be on the line as we speak.
Kings struggle to regain form; win games again
The Kings are now 22-15-10 for 54 points and are fourth in the Pacific Division and are only two points ahead of the Seattle Kraken, who were struggling in the month of December. The hottest team in the NHL right now is the Edmonton Oilers, who have now moved past the Kings in the standings. This is in part to the lengthy 14-game winning streak, which ironically occurred about the same time that Los Angeles began their struggles.
Los Angeles has lost 12 of their last 14 games in 2024 and have earned nine points through two wins, two shootout wins, and three overtime wins. That is it, that is every point earned in the new year and most of the games lost have been because of fixable turnovers and players not playing to expectation, especially newcomer Pierre-Luc Dubois. The Kings are 1-4 in their last five games and have been outscored 18-12. They have dropped to 18th in league scoring with 148 goals scored.
Not only does this slump not look good for McLellan and Blake but also players playing for contracts in the 2024-25 season. The Kings will have a big off-season as a number of players will have contracts expiring. Unrestricted free agents include defenseman Matt Roy, forward Trevor Lewis, and goaltender Cam Talbot. Restricted free agents include forwards Alex Turcotte, Arthur Kaliyev, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Samuel Fagemo, Quinton Byfield, and Carl Grundstrom, along with defenseman Jordan Spence. Many players on this list could still have a bright future with the Kings. However, they only have a projected cap space of $2 million.
McLellan is in the last year of his contract and is in serious danger of losing his job. He has not played younger talent or has played them for minimal minutes, has mixed lines that have no chemistry and stuck with them, and has not been held fully accountable for the team’s collapse. He needs to quickly find a way to get this team back on track and into playoff contention or this could very well be his last season behind the Kings bench.
As for Blake, he could also be out the door soon as his contract is up at the end of the 2024-25 NHL season. While he has made some deal that make sense, this team needed more help on defense. The defense has been a big question mark since game one this season but Blake has not done a thing to solve this problem. This team needs size and toughness on the back end, even with the off-season acquisition of Andreas Englund.
While he did acquire all-star Talbot this off-season, there were more qualified goaltenders who could have been had instead and doe well between the pipes. Blake is also responsible for the big trade before this season with the Winnipeg Jets that saw the Kings acquire Dubois. Dubois has 20 points in 47 games, while the trio traded away (Alex Iafallo, Rasmus Kupari, and Gabe Villardi) has 39 points between them. Blake did not make any moves to improve the prospect pipeline either, as many Los Angeles prospects have graduated to the main roster, leaving the pipeline somewhat thin and could use some additions.
The Kings are in danger of missing the playoffs after such a promising start and successful two months to the new season. If Los Angeles does not turn this around, there could be a cleaning house situation where many faces of the Kings organization, on and off the ice, could be sent packing. Drastic measures need to be taken to turn this around and all parties need to be held responsible for this team’s collapse, not just the players on the ice.
(photo: latimes.com; Neil J. Leitereg) (photo: nhl.com; Dan Greenspan)
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