Dustin Brown

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Short on talent, Kings are in need of overhaul

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With their teams falling out of the playoff race and the NHL trade deadline just around the corner the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators have sent the message to their fans that changes are probably coming to their roster.

The mindset is simple: The team’s aren’t good enough to win as currently constructed and it is probably time to hit the reset button and start over.  It might mean a step backwards in the short-term for what will — hopefully — be a stronger, more consistent and competitive organization in the not-too-distant future.

There’s another team in the NHL that should look into hitting a similar reset button.

The Los Angeles Kings.

This week they swapped undesirable contracts with the Ottawa Senators when they sent Marian Gaborik packing in exchange for Dion Phaneuf. Phaneuf might be able to give the Kings a little more than Gaborik would have over the next few years, but it is probably not enough to move the needle in any meaningful way.

[Related: Senators Trade Dion Phaneuf To Kings]

It’s not that the Kings are terrible. They are not one of the bottom teams in the league and even after losing in Pittsburgh on Thursday night they are still very much alive in the playoff race, sitting three points out of a playoff spot (both a Wild Card spot and the third spot in the Pacific Division) with a couple of teams ahead of them.

Even though they are still “in it,” this season just seems like a re-run over the past three. They’ve missed the playoffs in two of those seasons (and if they fall short this season would be three out of four without a trip to the postseason) and have not won a playoff round since 2014.

After falling short of the postseason a year ago the Kings made some significant changes off the ice by letting go of coach Darryl Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi. The organization said all of the right things about wanting to But the results on the ice are very much the same. A well-coached, well-positioned defensive team that is tough to score against that does a lot of things well but just doesn’t have the high-end talent throughout its roster to take advantage of it and win.

They can’t score. They do not generate a lot offensively. They seem to just lack … excitement. And creativity. And just anything that makes them even somewhat dangerous with the puck.

The big three that was the foundation of their Stanley Cup teams in 2012 and 2014 is still in place.

Anze Kopitar is still one of the great players in the league, but he can’t do it alone. At age 30 he is not getting any younger, either.

Drew Doughty is still a top-tier defenseman, but his contract is up after next season and it is not known if he will re-sign with the team. If he leaves a lot of what makes their defense work goes out the door and there is really no way to replace that.

Jonathan Quick is capable of going on hot streaks where he is unbeatable in net, but he also has stretches where his play dips significantly.

Beyond those three, what else is there here to really get excited about it you’re a Kings fan? Or the Kings as an organization?

You could point to Jeff Carter being sidelined for most of the season and how much his absence has hurt and you wouldn’t be wrong. But he also appeared in all 82 games last season and the Kings still missed the playoffs by eight points.

Dustin Brown had a nice bounce-back season at the start, but his production has cooled considerably in recent months and he’s still 33 year sold and signed for four more years at more than $5.5 million per season. This season will be the first time since 2011-12 he will record more than 36 points in a season. And that required a rather unsustainable hot streak of production at the start of the year to get him there that isn’t likely to be duplicated in future seasons.

Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli represented a next wave of young talent, and they are pretty good players, but now that they are both in the middle of their age 25 seasons this is probably the level of production (maybe 20 goals, maybe 45 points) that should be expected from them on a regular basis. Maybe they are capable of a bigger season on occasion, but probably nothing more than that consistently.

The NHL is getting younger, faster and more skilled every day and the Kings are lagging behind in all of those areas. They are one of the oldest teams in the league, they still try to live through “heavy hockey,” and they just don’t have enough high-end skill outside of their top two or three players. Even worse, there doesn’t seem to be much hope on the horizon that it will be any different unless they make some significant changes to the roster and the way they play.

It doesn’t necessarily need to be a scorched earth, Buffalo Sabres-style tank-fest for the next five years, but the current formula and structure in Los Angeles is no longer working with the current cast. They seem to be more than just one or two tweaks away from fixing it.

The longer they wait on hitting the reset button, the worse it is probably going to get.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Brown gets one-game suspension for kneeing Sergachev

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Earlier today, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced that they wanted to talk to Kings forward Dustin Brown for an incident that took place in last night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Brown received a major penalty and a game misconduct for kneeing Bolts defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (top). Tonight, the league announced that they’ve decided to suspend Brown for one game.

But is sitting him down for one game enough of a punishment?

Let’s keep in mind that he didn’t miss all of Saturday’s game, but he was tossed at the 14:30 mark of the second period. So he missed less than half the game.

Although he’s not a repeat offender in the league’s eyes, this isn’t the first time that Brown has crossed the line on the ice. Heck, this isn’t even the first time he’s used his knee to inflict pain on an opponent. In the 2012 playoffs, he injured Coyotes defenseman Michal Rozsival on a similar play.

Obviously, this incident happened almost six years ago, so it doesn’t factor into this suspension, but how many more dangerous plays is the Kings forward going to make before the league decides to send him a clear message.

As the league mentioned in their explanation of the suspension, Brown had “sufficient time to attempt a legal, full body hit, or allow Sergachev to pass by him untouched. Instead, he extends his knee to ensure contact will be made”. At this point, the league has hit the nail right on the head with their wording. This is clearly something the veteran could have avoided.

But here’s where the league’s wording gets kind of questionable: “And while we do not believe that this is a malicious or planned attempt to injure an opponent, the onus remains on the hitter to deliver a legal check.”

It may not have been pre-meditated because it happened in a split-second, but what exactly was Brown trying to do? That’s an incredibly dangerous play. Sergachev, who managed to return to the game, could’ve been seriously hurt.

George Parros did well to suspend Alex Burrows 10 games for kneeing Taylor Hall in the head repeatedly last week. That type of punishment definitely sent a message to Burrows and the rest of the league. Unfortunately, you can’t help but feel like this incident involving Brown is a “swing and a miss” for the Department of Player Safety.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Dustin Brown may not dodge suspension this time

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Dustin Brown has had a strange knack for avoiding suspensions in the NHL, to the point that some fans can’t help but joke about blackmail against executives, but his latest infraction may finally force him to sit out some games.

As you can see in the video above, the Los Angeles Kings forward received a game misconduct and major penalty for kneeing Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev during last night’s 4-3 win for Tampa Bay.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced a hearing for Brown regarding the incident, which often comes with supplemental discipline:

As a reminder, Brown’s most recent controversial brush with hockey law came when he was only fined for an ugly cross-check on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz:

It will probably help Brown’s cause that Sergachev was able to return to the game, although he did miss some time.

There have been some baffling decisions made between suspensions, fines, and goalie interference reviews lately, so the league could probably use a “W” here. The question is: what kind of punishment is fair for this hit?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Los Angeles Kings at Nashville Predators

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

PROJECTED LINES

Los Angeles Kings

Alex IafalloAnze KopitarTyler Toffoli

Tanner PearsonAdrian KempeDustin Brown

Kyle CliffordTorrey MitchellTrevor Lewis

Marian GaborikNick ShoreAndy Andreoff

Kevin GravelDrew Doughty

Jake MuzzinAlec Martinez

Derek ForbortChristian Folin

Starting, returning goalie: Jonathan Quick

[Preview for Kings – Predators]

Nashville Predators

Filip Forsberg (he’s back!) — Ryan JohansenViktor Arvidsson

Scott HartnellKyle TurrisCraig Smith

Kevin FialaNick BoninoCalle Jarnkrok

Miikka SalomakiColton SissonsAustin Watson

Roman JosiRyan Ellis

Alexei EmelinP.K. Subban

Mattias EkholmYannick Weber

Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne

Brad Marchand gets stiff five-game suspension

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The Boston Bruins will be without Charlie McAvoy for a couple of weeks, and now must try to keep their hot streak going without Brad Marchand.

In the case of Marchand, it was by most accounts, an unforced error. The NHL didn’t buy the defense that Marchand was defending himself from New Jersey Devils forward Marcus Johansson, instead handing the repeat offender a significant five-game suspension.

The NHL’s official explanation video notes that it “was not a defensive maneuver” and acknowledges that Marchand’s past as a repeat offender (five suspensions before this one, also three fines) played a role in the decision. The clip doesn’t mention Johansson’s possible concussion, however.

The narrative had been that Marchand was cleaning up his ways during his ascent among the NHL’s elite. He told The Toronto Star’s Bruce Arthur in November that he’s trying to avoid suspensions.

“I’m trying to get away from the s— a little bit, and I have, just because they crack down on it so easily now and I can’t afford to get suspended. … There are very few guys on any team that even get into anything. These kids that come up now, they’re all skill players, they don’t get into it. There’s no fighters anymore.”

Somewhat awkwardly, this five-game suspension might not stop Marchand from attending the 2018 All-Star Game this weekend.

It’s been a controversial stretch for the Department of Player Safety. On one hand, many argue that they went too harsh with Andrew Cogliano, ending his ironman streak with a two-game suspension. Bitterness boiled over on that even more when Dustin Brown avoided a suspension for a nasty cross-check on Justin Schultz.

If those decisions were too hot and too cold, was this five-game suspension just right? If not, was it too little or even too much, considering his history?

Either way, NBCSN’s Liam McHugh is correct in saying that it was more than a slap on the wrist. Bob McKenzie provides more insight on the decision:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.