Kings To Trade For High Scoring Wing
With the Kings ranked 26 th in scoring through 80 games, the team’s front office left no doubt in which direction it will go to improve this off season.
“We’re in a much different situation than we’ve been in quite some time,” said Dean Lombardi, general manager and vice president of operations, during the team’s first Fan Forum Teleconference. “The one thing that’s different than in the recent past is that I have the cards to play to go after that (big, high scoring wing) in a trade. We need someone with the size as well talent to match up against teams like San Jose particularly. We have the farm system and depth to make that kind of deal. We don’t have to go for as many young players now.”
Many of the Kings’ top executives, including Lombardi, Luc Robitaille, Coach Terry Murray, and Assistant General Manager Ron Hextall, recently answered call-in questions from fans for 80-plus minutes. The entire Fan Forum Teleconference can be heard in its entirety on the Kings’ website. “Our biggest need is to improve our five-on-five scoring. Honestly, I thought the (offensive) numbers would be better this year based on how the players performed in the past (LA averages 2.48 goals a game). But our focus was on defense and we’ve significantly cut our number of goals against (the Kings rank 12 th). Between the goaltender and four or five defensemen we’re 19 to 24 years of age. We need our defensemen to continue to get better.
Lombardi said the Kings tried to get that big, high-scoring forward during the season but we’re rebuffed. “We thought a player was going to be moved, but the (other team) never seemed to make the commitment to move this player. You know it takes two to tangle. We’re in a different situation now in that we’re looking for the player who is the right fit. We’re past the stage of having to go after seven free agents. When asked by a caller as to why the team did not pursue veteran center Mats Sundin of Vancouver or wing Brendan Shanahan of New Jersey to balance the Kings’ youth, Hextall said both players wanted to play on Stanley Cup contenders and did not fit the organization’s plans. “Plus, we didn’t want them to take playing time away from our younger players,” he added.
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As to the team’s slumping towards the end and losing out on a possible playoff berth, Murray blamed the team’s inexperience. “In post all-star play, the good teams become really good teams and create separation from the other teams. The checking becomes tighter, the hits heavier….what you’re doing in the first half of the season doesn’t always work in the second half. We must be able to make the adjustments that come with experience.” One might think that the Kings’ final two games (at Vancouver Thursday and home against the San Jose Sharks Saturday) are meaningless. Not so says Murray. “These games are crucial for this hockey club,” he said. “They are big games against teams already making the playoffs,” he said. “We are getting a chance to find out what it’s going to take to beat these types of teams. If we win, it will give us a great boost going into the off season.”
King Khronicles: The Kings split the first two games of their three-game road trip into the Canadian Northwest, losing to the Calgary Flames 4-1 on Monday and helping to eliminate the slumping Edmonton Oilers from the playoffs 2-1 on Wednesday. Rookie Wing Wayne Simmonds suddenly has become one of the team’s hottest players, scoring three goals and four assists in his last 13 games after totaling 14 points (5 goals) in his first 67. He scored the team’s only goal against Calgary, which out shot the Kings 38-24 (20-6 in the second period) in beating them for the fourth straight time and 10 out of the last 11.Against Edmonton, Simmond’s eighth goal of the season was the game winner. Alexander Frolov’s 31 st goal was the first score of the game. The Oilers gave up two goals on giveaways in the first 3:55 and then dominated play only to be turned away by luck and another superlative goaltending performance by Jonathan Quick. Edmonton lost seven of its last nine to fall out of playoff contention. The Kings, out shot 39-29, are now 4-7-4 when scoring twice.
By Bob Trostler
Los Angeles Kings Correspondent