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.]