Why I Haven't Learned To Love The L.A. Kings
It's the perfect week for some rambling this week, with the draft not even close yet and our Hawks still on lockdown until the changes can come. You got one yesterday, so why not delve more into the addled mind of your least favorite SCH writer? Most likely, like me, you haven't got anything better to do. Let's see if I can keep it going...
Anyway, I know a lot of Hawks fans are rabidly cheering on the Kings as they look to end this tomorrow night. There are a variety of reasons, but I think the big one is that most fans love that kind of team. And I did, all season. Even though they couldn't score at a sorority party if they brought Dave Matthews himself to it with them, their size and surliness kind of makes all hockey fans smile. I picked them to go to the Western Conference Final before the season, and I thought they would win the Pacific Division at a canter. In hindsight, they almost certainly should have.
And now I'm uncomfortable.
Before a bunch of Kings fans call sour grapes, and the Royal Half sends me tons of emails calling me a backstabber in our budding friendship with them, let me get a few things out there. The Kings are probably the team, other than the Rangers maybe, that I watch the most other than the Hawks on Center Ice. They have several players I love, and a couple I've spend many nights dreaming were Hawks (*cough* Dustin Brown *cough*). Even with his performances this playoff, I still think too many people don't realize how good Anze Kopitar is. Mentioning him in the same breath as our captain is certainly not a crime. He even has a goal in the Final (oh am I going to get it for that one). Drew Doughty is one of, if not the, most exciting d-man to watch when he's not trying to be Spider Man and Batman at the same time.
Add to that that having lived in L.A., when both the Kings and Hawks were utterly terrible, and having met a fair number of Kings fans (which is not easy out there, it's not unlike locating a leprechaun), I felt a kinship with a fandom that was certainly the blacksheep in the Southern California sports world. Though they were few, they were not short in passion or knowledge, and generally had an awesome taste in music. And they were certainly a hell of a lot better than the entitled Ducks fans, who had a Cup dropped on them with little to no suffering. Whereas Kings fans have waited essentially as long as we did. For those, I am happy that they will feel the reward that we knew not so long ago.
And yet, I watch the Kings steamroll through these playoffs, and I'm filled with dread. And I think I've finally know why. Because now, there is a team that seems more likely to embark on a dynasty/dominant age than my beloved Hawks. And I was convinced the Hawks could do it after a step back last year. Had a bounce or two gone the other way, it still could have been the Hawks this year.
But the Kings will not have a cap-acolypse. Only Jarrett Stoll is a free agent who would be considered vital, and they've got Loktionov waiting anyway. All the d-men will be around next year, with cap space. Kopitar, Brown, Doughty, Voynov, Richards, Carter, and most worryingly, Quick, are on the right side of 30. Some by a distance.
So they're not going anywhere.
Let's also say that as dominant as the Kings have been, they've gotten a pretty nice draw this spring. With Shooty Twin hurt and Ryan Kesler being basically held together with string and hope, they haven't seen a team that has a lot of offensive depth. The Blues and Coyotes went ridiculously stupid. The Devils have actually had long stretches of play the past two games where they caused any blue-liner not named Doughty into turnovers. But those chances have fallen to the Ponikarovskys and Zubruses of the world. Maybe it would have looked different if they fell to the Sharps, Hossas, and Bollands. Then again, with Quick playing like this, they could have fallen to Messier, Kurri, and Anderson and it probably wouldn't have mattered.
To go with that, the Kings will never get this from Dustin Penner again. In fact, they probably won't be suckered by what is so obviously yet another playoff-contract drive from him, just as he did in 2007 before he started eating. As McClure said to me, Dwight King's results really aren't much more than what would happen if Bryan Bickell could be in the right place more often. Jeff Carter, playoff clutch? Won't happen again.
But next year, the Kings won't need Quick to be this good to be good again, because Mike Richards isn't going to struggle to score this much again. Neither will Dustin Brown. They have kids coming through. It's frightening. And Quick may always be this good -- please let him be in Sochi.
And when I look at what the Hawks might do this summer, I still don't see any possibility that sees them being able to comfortably handle the size of the Kings. Sure, they're going to try and do it through speed, and maybe that will work. Didn't against Phoenix, and how'd that look when it ran up against the Black and Silver?
Call it jealousy. You're probably right. Call it unreasonable. It might be that. But after all we went through as Hawks fans for a great majority of our lives, one Cup didn't make it all go away (though it came so close). I wanted my Hawks Dynasty. And now I see it being taken away.
I'm already hiding behind the couch for a Kings-Hawks playoff series that's coming next spring.