Could Joel Quenneville be the answer to all of the Los Angeles Kings problems?
The Kings have been the laughing stock of the NHL early on this season. It can’t just be coaching that has left the Kings brass to scratch their head in disappointment. Stand-out goaltender Jonathan Quick who has a history of being hampered with various injuries throughout his career once again fell victim to his previous misfortunes.
Quick injured his knee during a Kings’ practice early on in the season limiting him to only 4 starts. Quick was anything but impressive posting ugly numbers. He would start the season 0-3-1 with a 4.55 goals against average and a bad .855% save percentage prior to his injury.
Jack Campbell the 26-year-old, was once a highly regarded goaltending prospect who’s stock has simply fizzled over the years was forced to guide the ship with the departure of Quick.
In his 12 starts, he has proven not to be the problem. He has handled himself quite nicely between the pipes posting a .923% save percentage and an impressive 2.33 goals against average. The statistics do not measure up to his 5-7-0 record.
Ilya Kovalchuk decided to return to the NHL after playing his last five seasons in the KHL. Kovalchuk struggled early to fit in with the Kings. The timing on the power-play was a bit off. Although being nearly 36, Kovalchuk finds himself playing as a top-six forward on the club. He leads the Kings with 14 points.
Don’t be surprised that he leads the Kings in points as much as realizing that a mere 14 total points are tops for the club. A season that has seen Anze Kopitar struggle to produce offensively and Jeff Carter maybe finding himself over the hill and halfway down the other side. Carter was only able to play in 27 games last year and has only recorded 4 goals in his first 21 games this year doesn’t bode well for him or the Kings.
Stand-out defender, Drew Doughty in many people’s eyes is the most complete defenseman in the league. I mean there is a tonne of top-end defenders throughout the league. If you don’t think he is the “top” defender you must realize he is in the conversation. Drew has been a “plus” player over his last six consecutive seasons. This year he is a “minus” 9 with only 1 goal and 11 points.
When you throw all of these issues into a blender and mix up the cocktail, there is no need to look much further into the lack of success the L.A Kings have endured early on this season. If a franchise’s top players are failing to perform at their expected level of play, it will indeed be a long season.
Rob Blake has already made a coaching change early on this season sending John Stevens to the unemployment line. Blake brought in veteran coach Willie Desjardins. The choice with the likes of Lindy Ruff and Ken Hitchcock at the time came to me as a little surprise. Desjardins was somewhat underwhelming as the bench boss aside from his first season with the Canucks in 2014-15 when he recorded 48 wins. Since then he has not been an above .500 head coach. In his first 8 games with the Kings, he has recorded 3 wins.
Blake recently made an eye-rolling roster move shipping Tanner Pearson out of town in favor of Carl Hagelin. I mean really? I get it, it isn’t a franchise type move, but Pearson netted 15 goals last season and is an excellent third line physical winger. Since the move, Pearson has 2 goals and 3 points appearing in 4 games with the Penguins.
Carl Hagelin scored 10 goals last season with the Penguins serving as a lineup swiss army knife playing wherever his services were needed. That being said he was primarily a fourth line winger. The move seemed like more of a desperation move by Blake to shake things up rather than a logical step to better the franchise.
So that brings me to the original question. Could Joel Quenneville rescue the L.A Kings? I think Joel is the best coach on the market and if he wanted to work, he would have a head coaching job tomorrow.
The Kings are down in the dumps so why would Joel rush into that position right now? I expect Q to ride out the season as a bystander and pick his destination at the conclusion of the season. He is the second most winningest coach in NHL history only to the great Scotty Bowman.
The Kings when they are firing on all cylinders have some similarities to the Chicago Blackhawks where Q found tremendous success at the tune of three Stanley Cup Championships. Anze Kopitar is a terrific 2-way center. Similarly to Jonathan Toews, Kopitar is excellent in all zones. Kopitar might actually have a higher offensive ceiling as a matter of fact.
Drew Doughty is basically a younger Duncan Keith style of defender. He loves to rush the puck from his own zone and has the ability to carry it through the high traffic areas end-to-end with his remarkable skating ability. He doesn’t have to make a risky exit pass out of his own zone he can simply skate his way out of trouble.
Jonathan Quick when healthy has been a top goaltender in this league, but some may ask if his best days are behind him now at the age of 32. Jack Campbell seems quite capable of taking some of the workload off of Quick’s shoulders in the near future and provide a nice 1-2 punch in goal.
If Rob Blake decides to open the wallet, and that’s what he would need to do to entice Joel Quenneville. It would be a great option with a familiar style of pieces in place and a new voice that the Kings may need to find themselves back into contention. The talent is still throughout the roster, and Q himself may have just needed a fresh start. It will be something to keep tabs on moving forward.
stats from nhl.com