After what I felt was some diluted content and the occasional vapid editorializing in last year’s WUWTKs, I wasn’t sure if I would bring the column back this year or try and replace it with something BRAND NEW AND BETTER. In the end, I’m glad I chose to keep the column, and look forward to continuing WUWTK and treading the fine line of commentary that remains honest without becoming overbearingly opinion-driven. It might not be as sharp following a November shootout loss to Winnipeg as, say, after a Game 7 win over San Jose, but I enjoy having these conversations and trying to spur debate and find that regular, recurring columns reinforce visitation, and clicks are clicks are clicks. If there’s one thing I’m not particularly fond of, though, it’s the final WUWTK after Game 82 or the final playoff game. There’s not another game, and the early off-season post-mortem will delve much deeper into the topics worth raising once the final chapter of the season has been closed.
But, hey, there was a 4-3 overtime loss to Anaheim last night. In keeping with the trends of a disappointing season in which the Kings took on water to the tune of a -18 first period goal differential, they surrendered a goal 27 seconds in but ultimately bounced back and etched out a fine performance against a team that finished 29-8-4 at home this season. It was a long game. The first period took 47 minutes, and the special teams stops and starts made for an extended second period, as well. With the goal reviews and the brief overtime session, it was a good thing we were able to get out of Honda Center last night before
the earth merges with the sun Wednesday’s playoff openers began. Darryl Sutter chose not to Play The Kids, which I get. This is the last game this particular group would be together, the team had an opportunity to keep a participation trophy divisional title away from Anaheim, and with changes looming I understand the decision to defer to the veterans in the room. I mean, they’ve intricately followed and fostered Adrian Kempe’s development for the last three seasons, so what else might they learn from those 11 minutes he would’ve played between Kyle Clifford and Andy Andreoff? I’m already angry at myself for nitpicking lineup decisions, but the one player I’d have liked to see in the game was Jonny Brodzinski. Adrian Kempe can build off the two goals he scored in his 20-year-old debut, but Brodzinski, who has played well, will still go head back to Ontario and venture into the off-season with a “0” under his goal column. For intangible stuff, it would’ve been good for him personally if he had hit pay dirt rather than a pair of posts during his late-season opportunity. Regardless of that, the Kings look like they have a player who can provide contributions next season.
At the end of a season in which the Kings failed to make the playoffs and fell in the standings after Jonathan Quick’s return, there are obviously valid questions about the direction of the management, coaching and personnel on this team, and ultimately, decisions will be made and shared that affect all three groups. Independent of the hockey operations decisions that loom, there’s a less visible group that deserves a lot of credit for putting some extra miles into their jobs. So many of us are asked to do so regardless of what line of work we’re in, but the Kings’ business operations, which began their 50th anniversary celebration in February, 2016, worked overtime to execute celebrations of an important milestone commemorating the franchise’s longevity while hosting marquee events that included the All-Star Game. It’s disappointing, but perhaps representative, that the team did not play past 82 games in its 50th anniversary celebration, and those who work for the team share much of the same frustration that those who comment on this site and elsewhere do. A lot of work goes into this labor of love, and while I speak independently of the organization, here’s a stick tap and head nod to broadcasting, public relations, digital and social media, marketing, game operations, ticketing and customer service, hockey development, community relations, video and production, analytics, partnership sales, merchandising, business development, human resources, and lastly, perhaps the busiest mammal in the entire organization, Bailey. Blueprints for the 50th anniversary began taking shape more than two years ago, and there was an extra effort put in by so many behind the scenes this past season.