Purcell is not making Kopitar Suck

If you are reading this you have already read the other Kings blogs and you have seen the irate comments venting all over Ted Purcell. Ted Purcell is lost. Ted Purcell falls down. Ted Purcell is not NHL calibre. Ted Purcell shouldn’t be on the first line. Ted Purcell has naked pictures of Terry Murray. This, and every comment ever made last season about Kyle Calder now with Ted Purcell search/replaced in.

Ted Purcell is a rookie with something like 87 NHL games under his belt. He is not doing anything at all offensively this season. He has been solid on the other side of the puck, but he is infected with the worst case of goal-scoring blue balls I have ever seen. It’s easy to blame him for not “making the most of his opportunity.” The opportunity being playing on the first line with Kopitar. But in order for that to be an opportunity, Kopitar would have to be playing well, and he’s not.

He’s in the middle of a 20-something game scoring drought, in which he’s scored twice. Teddy Purcell has been on his line for 2.5 games. Teddy Purcell is a rookie who has not yet found his “game.” Maybe he never finds it. I bet he does. Somewhere else. But I can’t shake the feeling that playing with Kopitar is not so much Murray’s attempt to jump-start Purcell as it is Murray’s (maybe unconscious?) attempt to jump-start Kopitar. And that’s messed up.

Look at the evidence. Everyone’s always trying to “find someone to play with” Kopitar. Who have we seen? O’Sullivan. Okay, he has his own problems; but that didn’t work. Moulson. He was derided endlessly for wasting all of our time on the first line for ten minutes last year. Brown; he’s bugging me, too; but at least they used to have chemistry. Now they have to be separated. (I advocated for the separation and still think it’s correct, but you have to add Brown to the list of RW1 casualties). Now Purcell.

Don’t get me wrong. Purcell is not playing well. But remember how old Robert Lang bounced around and was one of those (Purcell-ish) fairly big bodies with lots of skill but with something missing supposedly until he found himself on Jagr’s wing and the all of the sudden he’s got 600-700 points in the NHL. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. Kopitar is supposed to Jagr-up Teddy. Because Kopitar is the 6-7 million dollar man. He’s our Jagr.

Except maybe he’s not. Yeah, yeah, he’s 22. But, really, so what. Purcell is 24 and everyone says he’s too old to still be learning. And Kopitar makes the big bucks, and wears an A, and is on billboards. He should be able to get Teddy a few goals or at least a “helper” or two. Why can’t he?

[BONUS ADDED PARAGRAPH FROM THE MORNING AFTER:] Think back on the games right after Smyth went down. Who was winning those games for us? Remember it was Kopitar, Brown, Frolov (and Purcell) who went into huge droughts, while games were being won by timely goals from the likes of Parse, Richardson, Simmonds, Doughty, Johnson, Jones…also Stoll, who was jump-started by Parse. Everyone but the big guns. And then Simmonds and Jones and Stoll got hurt. If you see the pattern, it’s not pretty.

Simmonds did all right as Kopitar’s RW, in the few games he filled in when Williams went down the first time. But Simmonds had to return to his place on the real first line of Parse/Moller/Simmonds. Murray has basically figured out that Brown is an ideal third liner and has placed him accordingly with Handzus and Frolov. I expect we’ll see Moller tried next, with Richardson stepping into the C2 slot.

And Kopitar has returned to his 08-09 form, where he gets the puck and I wish his line wasn’t even on the ice. Two months ago, driving to the net like he was worth the money. Now, no.

I expect Lombardi is going to have to do something to change the topic here. Four losses in a row is about the limit the Kings can endure before the season starts to slip away. I’m not veering into hysteria. I’m really only at a low simmer. Losing streaks happen. Injuries happen. The Kings got lucky (and maybe complacent) doing as well as they did during the Smyth injury. Now they are regressing to the mean. They have key guys out, although I am kinda surprised the extent to which Williams, Stoll and Jones (!) are apparently incredibly important to the team. And there’s no telling when those guys are going to return. So, I resist hysteria, but I acknowledge that losing streaks at crucial points in the season are one of those things that cause GMs to go to the decision tree.

Team loses four in a row and goes from 1st to being in danger of dropping out the playoffs. (I know it’s not quite that bad — see post on “points blown” standings below.) GM reaches a branch in the tree. One branch: do nothing, hold pat. Players will play through adversity and turn it around. Patience will be rewarded. The best trades are the ones we don’t make.

Branch two: put a stop to it; send a signal; insert your own favorite cliche. But make a deal.

My suspicion is that Lombardi is (and GMs in general are) always on the look-out for a potential deal that can improve the team, and therefore the only thing that changes is the nature of the desired “improvement.” Is it long term or short term? Is it a depth move or a core-rattler? (I just made that up, “core rattler.”) Prospects in or out, veterans out or in, etc.. Lombardi does not seem to make (and with the Kings has never made) a move geared toward short-term success that sacrifices the long-term. But I think now he may be in a situation where “improvement” means making a deal that is balanced between short-term and long-term, and maybe leaning oh-so-slightly short-term. Kind of a POS for Williams type of deal, but maybe a little bigger.

I don’t think any one player needs to go. But I do think that several of the players that might otherwise be (and frequently are) blamed for losses and for this little losing streak also happen to be players who have significant trade value. I’m thinking of Frolov, Brown and Johnson. Stoll is injured, so he’s safe (unless Dean is going to make a trade to himself — I make joke; I actually am a fan and supporter of Handzus and Williams, the two wounded guys people rant about Lombardi picking up off the “slightly used” pile — I think those were good deals, and let’s not forget Quincey was hurt, too, and that was possibly my favorite move of all; so I’m a big fan of the “get the injured guy at a discount” plan; I’m not afraid).

I’ll pick everyone’s favorite trade bait name. Kovalchuk. There, I said it. I utter the name not because I think it’s going to happen or because I think it should happen, but just because Kovalchuk is likelier than most superstars to be going somewhere in the next couple of months, and he will go somewhere, so we may as well think about what it could mean. So really:

Frolov, Brown and Johnson for Kovalchuk.

Is that overpaying? Okay, just Brown and Johnson then. Ha, fooled you. You thought I was going to say Frolov and Johnson, didn’t you? I would not be at all surprised to see Frolov be the one to stay at the end of the day (the day being March 3, I think), and someone shocking be on the move instead. But just because including Johnson in a bloggy trade idea is such a cliche, I’m going to pretend I didn’t mention Johnson, and just say:

Frolov and Brown for Kovalchuk.

I think that’s fair. Swap of two guys who are UFA, and Brown goes along to balance it out. His value is inflated because (1) he’s the captain and leader of the team, (2) he’s about to be named to the US Olympic team, and (3) people haven’t figured out he’s really an excellent third liner, not a mediocre first liner. So what if that happened?




?? / Moller / ??

Ivanans, Purcell, Harrold…Williams when he comes back, Elkins… I don’t know. With Brown and Frolov, you have a first line problem and a power play problem, but you don’t have a third or fourth line problem since you basically have three of them. Without Brown and Frolov you have the deadly first two lines (really, I would want Moller to be the second line center, but I am a coward so I’ll just stick Stoll there), a fine third line and WTF I don’t know for a fourth line.

Maybe Lombardi moves Frolov for Holmstrom and another piece (the guy is old after all) and doubles-down on gritty toughness. Maybe he does the blockbuster and also makes a separate deal for uber-grit (a prospect-sacrificing trade, maybe; that of course would possibly crush me, knowing which prospects other GMs would probably want). But we do need someone to punish those who dare to run Doughty or Kopitar or whoever.

  • First line solution.
  • Power play.
  • Someone to crush the mean people on other teams.
  • Back-up goalie.

That’s the Xmas list. Wait, what day is it?

[I’ll have to put a sentence here to bring it all back to Purcell. Maybe Teddy is like the loose thread on the nice sweater that you tug and the whole thing comes unraveled. Don’t know. I do know these three things: (1) these four losses are not on him, (2) he’s going to have a career, eventually, (3) as a King, he’s probably doomed. (bonus 4th thing) I hope he busts out of it and tells everyone to shove it up their five-holes.]

  16 comments for “Purcell is not making Kopitar Suck

  1. Dominick
    December 31, 2009 at 12:00 AM

    Wouldn’t want to see JJ go unless your banking on Tuebert or some other young player stepping up next year.I can’t think of a trade scenario that would make sense with out him in there tho.Atl will want something.Good article.

  2. quisp
    December 31, 2009 at 12:02 AM

    I don’t know. I think Fro+Bro for Ko is a go with no Jo.

  3. TomHughes
    December 31, 2009 at 12:53 AM

    Bonus question: do you think Lombardi has any extra desire to seek out Kovalchuk after not acquiring Hossa, Havlat, or Gaborik? The only thing bumming me about about this trade is losing Brown after the season, and possibly losing Kovalchuk to free agency. If you win the Stanley Cup, who cares, but that can be a big if. I would love to see Brown as a third line anchor with Handzus in the years to come.

    I love fantasizing about these trades, but its hard to seriously consider them because they might make sense to us, its all up to the GMs, and it’s so difficult to think what Atlanta might be thinking, because they are going to have plenty of trade offers, and can easily choose which team is going to pay the most.

    • quisp
      December 31, 2009 at 8:16 AM

      There would have to be significant assurances (i.e. conditional compensation) if Kovalchuk isn’t signed. But such a deal would not likely be made in the first place if DL didn’t already know what the deal was going to have to be and was all but absolutely certain Kovalchuk would sign.

      • quisp
        December 31, 2009 at 8:20 AM

        Also, re Brown, yes it would be sad to see him go; but if you look at our depth chart, it’s also pretty clear that if he’s really going to be a third line RW, that makes him somewhat more replaceable (although really of course it would be ideal to keep him and keep him in that slot). With Simmonds and Williams also on the right side, one of those three is going to have to be RW3, and I think Simmonds has pretty clearly put a claim in on RW2. Is Brown going to get better and be a true top-six guy? Could happen. But he hasn’t been playing like it ever since he became the captain.

    • quisp
      December 31, 2009 at 8:50 AM

      I doubt Handzus will stick around unless he re-signs at a big discount. Wait. That actually could happen. And I would be all for it.

  4. Denise
    December 31, 2009 at 7:36 AM

    I would just like to say that I love your blog for being oasis of sanity. I don’t know how people are still typing comments this morning, what with their slit wrists and all, but Kopitar’s problems lie with Kopi, not his linemates.

    It would be great to see Ilya happen (SO GREAT)…yet I could easily see other teams being more desperate than DL to snag him. Maybe there’s hope.

    • quisp
      December 31, 2009 at 8:23 AM

      Thank you! And yes, it’s sad about all those commenter casualities.

      It’s true lots of people want Kovalchuk, but they also have to be able to afford him (cap space) and they have to have something ATL wants. Usually, a GM would want to send his superstar to the other conference, so he doesn’t have to watch him play all the time for someone else against his own team. You’re right of course that the stars would have to align just right, but there’s no reason the Kings can’t be as attractive a trading partner as anyone else.

      Also, the Kings have just about the best pool of prospects in the league, so if DL wanted to sweeten the pot, he has the ability to do so.

  5. DougS
    December 31, 2009 at 12:12 PM

    Well said all the way through, Quisp. I am very curious as to what is going through Lombardi’s mind right now, because this the most worrisome point in the season since the opening night loss. I don’t see him making a panic trade, but I think you’re right: He probably needs to do something to get everyone to re-focus. Kind of like the Dog Whisperer guy yanking the leash to get a dog to settle down.

    I’d hate to see Brown go, too. But if you’re right that he’ll top out as a good 3rd-liner, then the Kings will have to face the unpleasant truth that they’re overpaying him. And that won’t do in the salary cap age, so the smartest thing would be to trade him while he’s at the peak of his value. That’s what the best GMs do in all pro sports.

    From reading your blog regularly, I think you and I are of the same mind about Purcell. It’s painful to see him to struggle like this because he’s going to be a better player than he’s showing right now. And it’s painful that people who don’t know any better are unfairly dumping on him and just refuse to be persuaded. I can tell from watching the games that he’s been working on the little things that coaches want you to do — and that fans claim to appreciate — but it seems like most folks either aren’t paying close enough attention, are too clueless to understand, get too much pleasure out of dumping on him just for the sake of dumping on someone, or don’t care about being fair and accurate in their judgments.

    • quisp
      December 31, 2009 at 12:56 PM

      That’s the definition of a scapegoat. There is a problem. You can’t or won’t address the real problem. But clearly some kind of criticism is in order. So you find someone you feel comfortable criticizing. Usually, it happens by some sort of tacit consensus. Last year, Calder, Armstrong, Gauthier, etc.., previously Modry… And the reason, I think, that the people who scapegoat [Purcell, in this case] instead of looking where the real problem might be is that they IDENTIFY with the player that might otherwise be blamed. Of course, it’s also true the other way, that those who defend whoever is scapegoated identify with the goat for whatever reason.

      Purcell is being thrust into a situation that is ideally-suited to an established top-six RW, which we no longer have (due to the Williams injury). Ideally, Purcell should be getting some power-play time and a regular shift on some kind of kid line or energy line (not a fourth line of idiots). But the Kings are loaded on the right side, despite having no ideal candidate after Williams for the RW1 spot.

  6. James
    December 31, 2009 at 3:03 PM

    Great post, Quisp, and great response, DougS. It certainly sounds cliche but Purcell may need ‘a change in scenery’ in order to make it in the league. It is sad how much heat people give him, though.

    As far as the trade end of things, what sort of value do you think Zatkoff has at this point? Obviously he won’t have much on his own but, in your opinion, would a package of Fro, Zatkoff and a 1st r. pick may have enough juice for a Kovie?

    • quisp
      December 31, 2009 at 6:21 PM

      I think Zatkoff does have trade value. In fact, I just suggested Stoll and Zatkoff and a pick for Jeff Carter on some other site (HF maybe). I don’t think that will do anything in the Kovalchuk sweepstakes, though. Fro and Brown even seems possibly a little light in exchange for kovalchuk.

  7. December 31, 2009 at 5:04 PM

    I love when you post your own articles quisp. I appreciate all the hunting and roaming for other articles you do, and introducing me to sites I probably otherwise would never know about, but your articles are great and your opinions very well fleshed out.

    In other words, I agree.

  8. December 31, 2009 at 8:52 PM

    With all due respect, Atlanta’s GM isn’t nearly as short-sighted as your scenario would imply. Deals of this caliber always involve prospects and picks in addition to roster players. Waddell’s been burned at the trade deadline before (e.g. Coburn) and since then he’s done an admirable job of drafting, trading and signing FAs. If Kovy’s on the block in the coming weeks/months, there’s no way Waddell will settle for 2 or 3 roster players of the ilk you mention above. If ATL is in the playoff race, Fro would likely be a part of the package since they’d still need a scoring winger. ATL would also want one of our top D or G prospects, and our upcoming 2010 first round pick — at a minimum. And I’d expect Lombardi to walk away from that deal. Unless the Kings are world-beaters at the trade deadline — i.e. in a position where the addition of a Kovalchuk might give them that extra offensive oomph to go deep in the playoffs — DL will not pull the plug on a big trade like this. He’ll wait til the summer FA season starts, or til next season for a trade, or maybe even the following summer, depending on how this team progresses. DL has his plans, and I simply don’t think we’re where we need to be yet for him to shell out some of his prized “assets” for the marquee difference-maker.

    For the short term, my personal hope is that a) we will qualify for the playoffs, b) we get good return in some reasonable, less glamorous trade (probably involving Frolov) at the deadline and c) that Kovulchuk decides to sign with us over the summer as a FA. (I don’t know if it’s possible to qualify for the playoffs *and* be a seller at the deadline, but we really need to make the playoffs this year, with our without Fro.)

    For the long term, I hope that LA achieves a level similar to NJ from the mid-90s to the early 2000s — i.e. a defensive powerhouse with a phenomenal goalie and more than adequate scoring. Keep in mind that Lamoriello is DL’s mentor. (Build from the back end out.) Once our G and D are firmly established, we will enjoy consistent success and, I would expect, be able to attract or deal for whatever offense we need. I think we’re on our way, but we’re definitely not there yet.

    • quisp
      December 31, 2009 at 10:54 PM

      Oh, I think you’re right re prospects, I just didn’t mention them since it’s kind of anybody’s guess. I agree that DL would balk probably at coughing up a top prospect AND the ’10 #1 pick, but maybe the ’11 pick, and you know what, he might just do it anyway. Depends on where the Kings are going to finish. They’re not likely to be dealing with a top 10 pick, and I would guess it’s going to be somewhere in the late teens. Which is a good pick but not necessarily worth losing sleep over, especially if Kovalchuk is the return.

      Frolov, Brown, the ’10 #1 pick and…who?

      Not Bernier. How about Zatkoff? Sure, I think he does that. Hickey? Voynov? Loktionov? Teubert? I think Lombardi probably says no to that, but then I do tend to overvalue our prospects by a little bit.

      As far as being world-beaters at the deadline…I think the Kings will be within reach of home-ice advantage, and still in danger of dropping to 10th (if they pull an ’06), sort of where they are now but slightly better off (i.e. where they were last week). If that’s the case, is that “world-beater” enough? I personally don’t know.

      I think it will come down to things we can’t know and can’t predict. Who gets injured around the league between now and then, the Olympics, which teams crap out and become sellers, what other deals transpire. Maybe Kovalchuk re-signs by then. if he doesn’t, and the Kings are in that 4th-6th area, I can’t imagine that Lombardi won’t be right there.

  9. December 31, 2009 at 11:20 PM

    No, definitely not Bernier. He is our goldmine. But sure, why not Zatkoff, or any other prospect?

    By “world-beaters” I mean something like first in the division, if not the conference, and, most importantly, firing on all cylinders. I don’t see it happening.

    Just to reflect… In 2008 ATL traded Hossa (with Dupuis as a throw-in) to the Pens for young roster players Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen, as well as their top forward prospect Angelo Esposito and their first round pick at that year’s entry draft. You’d have to imagine that for Kovalchuk the return asked by Waddell would have to be even higher. (This guy *is* their franchise, after all.) And I have a hard time imagining that the Kings will be so hot at the deadline that they’d want to pay that price anyway. But who knows? Like you said, it will come down to things we can’t know and can’t predict. I’ve been fantasizing about Kovy being a King for 2 years now, so I guess I can’t help but wonder how, and when.

    Anyhoo, many thanks for a great blog, and best wishes for the new year!


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