Do the Kings need a Blues-style wake-up call?

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The NHL is a copycat league. Once a few teams enjoyed success mining the AHL for head coaching talent, the herd followed to an almost comical degree. So even though it’s ludicrously unfair to ask this question, I cannot help but blurt it out anyway: do the Los Angeles Kings need a St. Louis Blues-style wake-up call?

Los Angeles Times beat writer Helene Elliott spoke of the possibility of a “jolt” coming on the heels of the Kings’ 4-2 loss to the surging San Jose Sharks. The thing is, GM Dean Lombardi doesn’t have a whole lot of obvious players to trade, unless he would opt to deal from his significant treasure chest of defensive prospects.

With that in mind, I cannot help but wonder if head coach Terry Murray will be the unfair scapegoat much like Davis Payne was in St. Louis. Let’s look at some of the factors that could justify the move – some of which might seem oddly similar to the Blues’ issues.

  • A mediocre record: The Blues fired Payne at 6-7-0 while the Kings are 6-5-3. Los Angeles is on a five-game losing streak in which they’ve generated just two points. That’s a scary trend in a brutal Western Conference and a cutthroat Pacific Division.
  • Limp offense: Murray’s Kings are scoring just 2.14 goals per game, the third worst total in the league. Some grimace that former Kings prospects such as Brian Boyle and Teddy Purcell’s offensive games have taken off once they left Los Angeles, too.
  • A big batch of home games: The Blues will roll out the red carpet for Hitchcock with five games in St. Louis while the Kings’ next four games will come at home.
  • Heightened expectations: While the Blues carry playoff aspirations, many (including certain PHT staffers) believed the Kings have the potential to go to the Stanley Cup finals.

Murray is a good coach who helped the Kings go from an unshaped mass to a playoff contender, but some might believe that they need a new voice to get that extra boost to the elite level.

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail, but there are enough similarities that the situation isn’t outside the realm of possibility. What would you do if you were in Lombardi’s situation?

Blackhawks bolster Central lead, shine harsh light on Penguins’ struggles

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Blame it on injuries if you want, or emphasize the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall hot finish to the season. Either way, Chicago scorched the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 5-1, a contest that felt more or less over by the time the first period ended 4-0 in the Blackhawks’ favor.

The Blackhawks scored by committee on Wednesday, with Artemi Panarin (goal, assist) and Patrick Kane (two assists) being the headliners. Meanwhile, former Penguin Marian Hossa has quietly climbed to 25 goals on the season.

Meanwhile, the Penguins limped through this one and have now lost four consecutive games.

With this result, the Blackhawks look like close to a lock to win the Central Division title. Meanwhile, the Metro crown is virtually unthinkable for Pittsburgh, and the Penguins might also need to accept the likelihood that they may not enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round.

They’d probably accept that more easily if they can get healthier and get back on track. Wednesday was a little worrisome in those regards.

Video: An early taste of the Tkachuk-inspired violence in Kings vs. Flames

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BREAKING: the Los Angeles Kings really don’t appreciate Calgary Flames rookie-pest-forward Matthew Tkachuk thanks to that elbow on Drew Doughty (and the fallout from all … that).

Tkachuk responded by critiquing Doughty for “complaining to the media,” so there was testiness from the start.

There was jawing before the game. Then Jake Muzzin rebuked Tkachuk’s kind offer for a fight. Finally, Keith’s son dropped the gloves with Brayden McNabb:

It wasn’t the only bout of the opening frame, and there could be more blood to come beyond this Jarome IginlaDeryk Engelland feud:

Players from both teams better keep their heads up (and on a swivel) tonight. The Flames have to hope that this doesn’t result in injuries, judging from what happened to Johnny Gaudreau.

Avalanche sign Toews-like first-rounder Tyson Jost

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Things have been pretty bleak for the Colorado Avalanche this season, but at least they can look to a high pick in the next draft … and maybe dream about how their top pick from 2016 may pan out.

The Avs signed Tyson Jost, the 10th pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, to an entry-level contract on Wednesday. Colorado notes that he’ll jump right into some NHL action to close out this season.

It’s a nice sneak preview, as NHL insider Bob McKenzie noted on an NBCSN appearance (see above) that doing so will not burn the first year of Jost’s entry-level contract. Nice.

Even nicer? McKenzie also compares Jost favorably to … (drum-roll, though the headline spoiled it) Jonathan Toews.

Most obviously, the two both starred at the University of North Dakota. For the sake of fun, here are their numbers in their final years in the NCAA:

Jost: 16 goals, 35 points in 33 games, +17 rating (2016-17)
Toews: 18 goals, 46 points in 34 games (2006-07)

Naturally, Toews enthusiasts in particular will tell you that points aren’t everything … but maybe there are some shades of the two-way Blackhawks center there?

The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy raved that Jost has “man-strength already” back around the 2016 NHL Draft, as you can see in this profile.

“Jost oozes confidence and already looks like NHL captain material for the future.”

Hey, that does sound at least somewhat Toews-like, doesn’t it?

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In other signing news, the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington reports that the Buffalo Sabres signed UMass-Lowell’s CJ Smith. More on that below.

Video: This Kane-to-Panarin goal is all sorts of ridiculous

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When people were arguing against Artemi Panarin‘s Calder case, they often discounted his work because of Patrick Kane‘s brilliance (at least when they weren’t focusing on age questions).

It always felt a little unfair to Panarin.

Do we blame a great wide receiver playing with an adept quarterback? Sure, it’s an interesting discussion to have, but it seems fairly clear that there’s a symbiotic relationship between Panarin and Kane.

One could see that plainly in a 1-0 goal for the Chicago Blackhawks against the Pittsburgh Penguins that … admittedly was driven by Kane’s almost audacious creativity and skill.

But still, Panarin has 26 goals this season because he’s really good, too. This season has been a nice showcase for such thoughts, and a reminder that – like most great combinations – they make each other better.

(Seriously though, Kane was out of his mind there.)