What the LA Kings’ recent slide means for the Canucks: Around the League

Photo credit:© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Lachlan Irvine
5 months ago
Welcome back to Around the League — the series here at CanucksArmy where we deliver you news and notes from Around the National Hockey League — oftentimes through a Vancouver Canucks-tinted lens. 
It wasn’t all that long ago that the Canucks and the Los Angeles Kings were in a fight for second place behind the Golden Knights in the Pacific Division. Now, both Los Angeles and Vegas have taken a massive step back, and the Canucks have been the deserving beneficiary.
The Golden Knights have a fair excuse for their recent slide. Injuries have decimated the defending champions’ roster, with crucial players like Jack Eichel, William Karlsson and Shea Theodore all currently on the shelf.
What’s happened to the Kings, on the other hand, has come completely out of nowhere.
Since Dec 28, the Kings have posted a dismal 2-7-5 record and have fallen out of the Pacific’s top three spots. Part is thanks to the Edmonton Oilers’ simultaneous 15-game winning streak pushing them out, but that doesn’t explain why a mostly healthy, perennial playoff team has gone on this type of skid to start 2024.
That answer lies in a lack of recent scoring depth outside of Adrian Kempe, Kevin Fiala and Quinton Byfield. Cam Talbot and David Rittich haven’t been world beaters by any metric in goal, but their decent play despite the lack of offence is why the Kings have at least collected five points past regulation.
It’s also thanks in no small part to how disastrously the Pierre-Luc Dubois trade has gone so far for the Kings. After being touted as a top centre, Dubois has just 20 points in 45 games and has already been demoted to the bottom six by head coach Todd McLellan. Meanwhile the Winnipeg Jets have turned into one of the best teams in the NHL, with the key returns in the Dubois trade — Gabe Vilardi and Alex Iafallo — playing key roles in their success.
After the Kings’ recent 5-2 loss at the hands of the Sabres, Drew Doughty had some pointed criticism for some of his teammates.
“I think we have guys in this room who are too worried about themselves and worried about their points,” Doughty said. “We get a 3-1 lead tonight, and guys start thinking it’s a cookie night. We stop playing the way we know how to play, have an awful second period and then aren’t much better in the third.”
“It’s about the team, it’s not about yourself. A lot of guys on this team need to realize that.”
Who that assessment is pointed at is anybody’s guess (and I certainly have a few). But as far as Los Angeles is concerned, GM Rob Blake and President Luc Robitaille might be at least second-guessing the potential ceiling of their team — and last night’s 5-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche certainly didn’t make things better.
It’s doubtful that the Kings will suddenly reverse course after years of upward momentum and sell at this year’s deadline, but they also might not be in the market for a big rental player, either. And that would potentially open the door for others in the market for help, including the Canucks.
One less team to worry about shopping for forwards — and a division rival to boot — gives the Canucks all the more reason to strengthen their roster ahead of the postseason. At the very least, when the two sides meet for the first of four late-season meetings on Feb. 29, we’ll be able to get a pretty clear picture of how big the talent gap is currently looking in the Pacific Division.

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