After a competitive 20 minutes, the Kings showed little fight in surrendering three second period goals during a 4-1 loss to the Flames Thursday night at Staples Center. For the final 40 minutes there wasn’t much to suggest that the team was doing much more than going through the standard, late-season motions in advance of a rapidly approaching end to a disappointing season, and the performance stood in stark contrast to a strong team-wide effort in a win over Edmonton on Tuesday as well as the emotional trappings of last week’s game in Calgary. Though it’s natural that the team might not be as dialed in as, say, a Western Conference Final playoff game, the last I checked, Thursday’s game still counted in the standings, cost money to attend and was broadcast on television. Still, it’s understandable and somewhat natural that a team built with a majority of players who haven’t been eliminated with so many games remaining in a season would be below its peak competitively in Game 80. The halting aspect, as Darryl Sutter referenced last night, is that there is a growing number of players who weren’t part of the two Stanley Cup runs and haven’t “gotten the experience in winning.” You can talk about the transfer of leadership to a younger and still accomplished group, but when viewed against the evolving personnel and the absences of leaders in Jarret Stoll, Justin Williams, Mike Richards, Willie Mitchell, Robyn Regehr and others, there just isn’t the same resolve in all facets of the team’s game as when we were talking about the March of the Cockroaches.
I was going to mention this last night and then thought better of it, but as Trevor Lewis is experiencing a fine season, Vegas is also stroking its goatee and thinking, “Yes, yes, good, show me more, mooohahahah.” Each team will lose one player in the expansion draft, and while I keep hearing Brayden McNabb’s name as a potential target from those outside of the organization, I’m privately hearing other names of players who are going to also get a long look and could be difficult to protect. I don’t want to start speculating on potential moves in advance of the draft that could swing the pendulum from protecting eight skaters to seven forwards and three defensemen, but Lewis is a player who, barring unforeseen personnel movement, would likely be just on the outside of the bubble should the team go the eight skaters route. Nic Dowd, Kyle Clifford and McNabb are also among those on the cusp, but given that roughly 100 or so defensemen will be exposed, I have a hard time believing McNabb is as likely to be selected as some think.