Are the Kings looking to compete?

The NHL is the premier hockey league on the planet, right?  So what is going on in Los Angeles?  According to Forbes 2008 rankings of the worlds wealthiest humans, Kings owner Big Phil Anschutz ranks #89 on the list.  (http://www.forbes.com/lists/2006/10/DSAK.html)  But, take a glance at where his club’s payroll currently hovers and you’ll see that it’s scraping the bottom of the barrel.  (http://www.hockeybuzz.com/cap-central/)  The Kings are nearly 30 million dollars below the salary cap ceiling and could afford, cap-wise, to nearly double the current payroll.  Also, they are approximately 10 million dollars below the salary cap floor, which were they to fail to reach would lead to their games being forfeited.  This is coming on the heels of one of their worst recent overall seasons.  Somehow, the Kings actually failed to “win” the first overall pick in the 2008 NHL entry draft with 71 points for the season.  Oddly enough, the 71 points of 2007-2008 were three points better than the 68 the club amassed in the previous campaign of 2006-2007, which earned them the fourth overall draft pick.  

Getting better?  Hardly.

This off-season has seen the Kings continue to trade away established players for draft choices and younger, less costly “talent.”  On draft day they were able to send former 2nd round draft choice Micheal Cammalleri to Calgary in a deal that set them up to acquire defensive prospect Colten Teubert.  Later, they also moved occasional all-star defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky to Edmonton in exchange for gritty players Jarrett Stoll and Matt Greene.  

But, looking closer at these deals it seems apparent that the Kings are more interested in literally passing the buck on their more expensive contracts.  Visnovsky had just finished the first year of six year deal that payed $5.6 million a year.  Cammalleri had just finished the first year of a five year $5 million contract, the result of an arbitration-soiled tiff that landed Cammalleri in the club dog-house.  Many fans were unimpressed with his performance and stories spread that he was not performing to the best of his ability.  And, after an injury that derailed an impressive start to the season he seemed to fall into the doldrums that affected the club as a whole.  

Finally, a look back at the current salary structure shows us that Michal Handzus, one of managements “bridge” players is the highest paid player on the payroll.  Somehow, management has budding phenomenon Anze Kopitar signed to one more year of his rookie contract with no bonuses available.  (Do you hear that KHL?)  Handzus, however, is the glaring problem with the Kings in terms of salary structure.  Signed prior to last season as an Unrestricted Free Agent, he seems to be un-tradable at his current salary ($4 million for three more years) considering his disappointing performance (82 games, 7 goals, 14 assists; 0.26 pts per game).  It also appears as though management would have the supporters of the club accept him as a checking line center as it doesn’t appear he’s likely to displace Kopitar or Stoll on the first or second lines (compare his 0.26 pts per game to his career average of 0.54 which includes 2007-2008).  Add to this the failures of free-agents like Dan Cloutier, Ladislav Nagy, Alyn McCauley, Kyle Calder, and Tom Preissing and its difficult to see the forest for the trees.  Cloutier, Calder, Nagy, and Handzus alone cost the Kings upwards of $15 million last season; about half of the current payroll.

Combine all this with a complete lack of movement on this years UFA market, and it doesn’t look so good in HockeyWood, or even like they’re trying.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Are the Kings looking to compete?

  1. worldhockeydaily

    Negatives –

    1 – Hiring Crawford was a horrible mistake, and it was compounded by 2 things:
    a – he should have fired him when Crawford left Bernier in for 7 goals agains in the Boston game. and b – he should have fired him after the trade-deadline earlier this year. I really don’t know how to find any positives here. DL also held onto him two months after their season ended. What was he doing?

    2. Cloutier – Wether he listened to crawford or not, his bungle. Plus he paid the guy a ton. Double Jeopardy there. Also, he’s still affecting the cap to the tune of nearly a mil. Also led to shipping out Garon who had an ok year w/ edmonton.

    3. Trading Lubo. – He should be here. I don’t care what he got, he’s one of my favorites and suffered because the team lacked quality. If DL doesn’t drive the team into the ground, he’s still looking good. Taylor had injuries destroy the team, but he was still able to finish middle of the pack. Lubo suffered for Lombardi’s follies.

    4. He loses points purely because the Ducks won a cup while he was GM – though that itself is not his fault. (This I don’t actually hold against him. The way the ducks got their hand’s on the Cup should be educational to us. As much as I praise Taylor, Corey Perry was picked just after Boyle and Tambellini. ahhhhh)

    5. Finishing worse each season so far than the preceding season. – Della, JDM, Nooch. One, even two times is ok, but to finally strip the team down after faltering with your efforts two years in a row is pitiful. I don’t want to hear that he was rebuilding from the start. Rubbish.

    6. Trading Avery. It was positive to show this guy the door, but what has been the return? F in the transaction department. How can you not bring in a decent player to start helping the team?

    TBD –

    1. Trading Cammalleri for a gamble in Tuebert. – This may turn into a quality draft pick, but what was the price? He alienated an arrogant player with arbitration and brought in, and paid better, Handzus and Nagy. To add to the insult, Calder for almost 3 mil? Preissing for almost 3 mil? Stuart for, what was it, 3.5? Don’t forget that Teubert was had for Cammalleri AND Norstrom. Don’t forget that. I know Modry was a part of the deal, but why? Lombardi got his clock cleaned on this one. He got too little for Norstrom, and gave away too much in Cammalleri. Awful. I like Teuberts scouting reports and potential, but awful.

    2. Drafting Doughty over Bogosian. Lewis and Hickey being the other key picks so far. – I have high hopes for Doughty, but think that I may have taken Bogosian based on what I’ve read about him. This could go either way so it is TBD. But Hickey needs to perform really well to justify the gamble he took drafting this guy. He’ll either look like a genius, or a heel. He could likely have gotten him much later, but I really have no clue. I don’t see why he should be praised for the team being bad enough to take that gamble, though.

    3. New coaching staff. – Somebody’s got to be the Coach! And it couldn’t remain Crawford. I don’t know enough about Murray to say pro or con. He seems like a quality guy, but that doesn’t always work out. Its the Kings and they can make good guys look bad. I would have preferred someone a little revolutionary, like Kopitar’s dad or something. My dream was Larionov, and I just heard a story about him that makes me rue that it wasn’t him even more. LARIONOV. He’s a local guy, too.

    4. Richardson – This guy better sparkle because I don’t know why Stuart was even traded to Detroit if Lombardi was essentially gonna trade that pick for Richardson. Good luck to the man, but I will be expecting a lot. I know you all think Stuart could have just walked, but if he hadn’t gone to Detroit and won a Cup, he’d be much more likely to be here for a few more years.

    Nuetral –

    1. Nagy – Come on. This is a negative. Paid too much, and got little for it. Once again. Nice job paying this one year guy more than Cammalleri. Awful.

    2. Calder – If he’d gotten Daniel Cleary for 1.5 and he’d done what Calder did, it would be bad. Cleary was still wanted by the wings because he’s a quality player who contributes in a role he wasn’t drafted for, like Maltby, whom I love. Calder is a bust and I don’t see him redeaming himself this year. I hope he can prove me wrong.

    3. Losing Blake for nothing. – What happened here? Couldn’t trade him to San Jose who sent a 1st round pick to Buffalo for Campbell? Couldn’t trade him to Colorado who sent a 1st round pick to Columbus for Foote? Was he asleep at the wheel? Then he can’t resign him despite Blake to help with JJ, Doughty, and Hickey? Awful. He shouldn’t have wasted 12 million over two years in the first place then. Awful. Plus, I believe Blake felt like his reputation was being spoilt here. My personal uninformed opinion, but he was left holding the smoking gun, wasn’t he?

    4. Preissing. – did he play for the Kings last year because I hardly noticed. For that much money, he could have gotten something better, right? Who else was knocking down doors to give Preissing so much?

    5. Stuart – losing him is washed out by getting some return on a player that cost us nothing. – Totally disagree. Stuart isn’t the a Norris guy, but he’d be a great guy to have this year, and next. The funny thing is that blake, stuart, and Lubo all took so much criticism last year but I have a hard time seeing how they deserve it. Bad coach, bad system, bad UFA help (except Stuart) and they’re to blame?

    —- I have some more negatives to add.
    Where is the return for Sopel? He’s as good in my mind as Stuart. He’s too big to get abused and can move the puck up ice. I was against trading him in the first place. Miller, I don’t expect much for, but Sopel’s trade was stupid.

    Guliano and Zeiler – Two years when Boyle or Tukonen could have been played in their stead. Heck, even Connor James or Noah Clarke. These guys give all they’ve got, but they don’t even have Bylsma’s talent. If the team were doing well, i could live with Guliano getting a role of sorts, but the time was wasted for nothing. Kanko even may have done something had they really given him a shot. Kanko was top 10 in scoring in the AHL a few years ago. Why was a prospect left to rot for these guys?

    There may be a rebuild underway, but no indications of that from the AHL where the Monachs went out in the first round. Where is the success with the up and comers?

    Steve Bernier traded twice in the past 6 months with no waves from the Kings. This guys a good player and could really develop into something given a steady home where he’s got expectations on him. St. Louis signed him to a RFA contract after he was traded to Vancouver. We’ll get to seem him a bit more, now.

    2 first round picks traded at the deadline last year, none to the Kings. Detroit’s 2nd rounder? Might as well call that a 3rd rounder.

    Finally, for now, no UFA’s this year? Given the track record, I can understand why, but for what reason would it be bad to sign Hossa for 8 million for a year or two? For what reason has there been no inquiry with Shanahan? Bouwmeester’s 24 and unsettled, why not offer some dross and a pick or two? Are there no free-agents that could help this team next year or for years to come? The only reason I can see for what has happened is that he wants the top pick next year. Like I’ve said, what if the Kings really are horrible? 35-40 points horrible? Will enough people go to games to keep the Kings in LA? I think the risks are large and you all know I don’t trust Ownership. The things I’ve listed don’t even get in to what I think of the production that is a Kings game. I find a lot of it embarrassing, though I know it’s becoming the norm in the NHL. The music and the lights and the blah blah blah, it just gets to me.

    Forum Days made me happy.

  2. Robert e Lee

    Well, gees, that was pretty harsh. Yet, it would be tough to imply you are anything BUT a Kings Fan. The one thing that bothers me, from the entire rant however, is the part about free agents. As I have said to a couple of other ‘long time bloggers’ on other sites, are you forgetting that the brunt of the leagues top echelon have no desire to come to L.A., under any circumstances? Now that would definitely put a crimp in any GM’s efforts to rebuild!
    Out of everything you said, my distrust of AEG/and Timmie might be my own weak spot for agreeing with you. I, too, worry about their potential for under-handedness with regards to the Kansas City situation. The promises that were made-and remain unfulfillable-leave them with egg on their faces. I have no doubt they couldn’t give a damn about Los Angeles fans and it really does look suspicious enough to worry regarding the potential for our going after a #1 draft pick (just one more time).
    So, would they be so audacious as to move our team to Kansas City? Well, I hardly think so. And, frankly, I think Bettman and the league would help divest them before it would allow such a stupid move. Kansas City proved itself as a “nowhere local” long ago and has changed little since. Of course, metaphorically speaking, Kansas City would seem perfectly suited as an ending spot for our team. After all, for the past number of years, our ownership/management have been packing off players like meat to other locales…so what better city than one of the packing house capitals of America? O.K., so not real funny, but we don’t get to make up the rules.
    I totally disagreed with shipping Cammi off and think that his personality will be meaningless should he have the kind of year that hard work produces…esp. with players like Iganla out there. Anyway, he now shares the distinction of being on one of a growing number of teams that have TWO FORMER KINGS in their lineups. For me, that was an important distinction in selecting my “Flex Pack” of tickets. Aside from Tampa Bay (duh ~) I tried to pick teams where I can also pull for former Kings to do well It should be an interesting season ahead…best to all
    Robert
    p.s. GO KINGS!!! …and GO JASON LABARBERA!

  3. cristobal

    Unfortunately, you might be right about free-agents not wanting to come here. Whenever I imply that elsewhere, though, people respond angrily.
    If the Kings moved it would be most horrible for they guys like you who’ve been a fan for soooo long. I feel I would be pissed, but in a way it would allow me to cut ties with this franchise because I just don’t see any like-ability in the ownership. Much worse than Georgia Frontierri?
    As for Cammalleri and Visnovsky, it sucks to see players with talent leave. My friend has played with lots of pros out here and said Cammalleri was arrogant, kinda didn’t like him, but I feel like it doesn’t matter if he contributes on the ice. And in sports, a little arrogance is good. Right?

    Anyway, thanks for posting and keep it up.
    I like long posts and long conversations about this stuff.

    cheers

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