Drew Doughty

Kings face key stages of rebuild with trade deadline, 2020 NHL Draft

NBC’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Saturday’s Stadium Series matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings from Falcon Stadium at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

While the Avalanche hope to become true Stanley Cup contenders, the Kings wonder how to reclaim that form.

The next few months are crucial for both teams, only in dramatically different ways. After looking at Colorado’s climb to contention, let’s ponder how the Kings are handling their rebuild.

Kings get off to strong start with rebuild

Experts already rave about the building blocks the Kings have amassed.

The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler (sub required) and The Hockey Writers’ Josh Bell both ranked the Kings’ farm system number one in recent articles. In fact, Wheeler ranked the Kings first with “no hesitation.”

They seem to be combining quantity with quality. Wheeler’s Athletic colleague Corey Pronman placed six Kings prospects in his top 100 rankings (sub required), with Arthur Kaliyev finishing highest at seventh. Five of those six landed in the top 50 of that list, with Samuel Fagemo barely missing at 53.

You can nitpick elements of that pool, as with just about any. But overall, it seems like the Kings are pressing many of the right buttons. So far.

Trade deadline provides opportunities as Kings rebuild

Rob Blake could accelerate this rebuild with deft trades.

To his credit, he was already aggressive in landing a nice haul for Jake Muzzin last season, and once again extracted a solid package from Toronto in the Jack Campbell trade.

Neither Tyler Toffoli nor Alec Martinez boast the same trade value as Muzzin, but maybe the Kings can seize some opportunities anyway? This year’s deadline market seems pretty shallow, so perhaps Blake may take advantage.

Who should stick around?

Looking further down the line, it’s tough to imagine the Kings shaking loose from Jeff Carter or Dustin Brown. Moving Jonathan Quick also sounds unlikely.

(That said, the Kings should pull the trigger if there are suitors, and if Carter and others would comply.)

Ultimately, your optimism may vary regarding the futures for veteran stars Kopitar (32, $10M AAV through 2023-24) and Doughty (30, $11M AAV through 2026-27). Actually, go ahead and take a moment to wince at those contracts. That’s a natural reaction.

There’s only so much the Kings can do about the aging curve, at least since they already signed the extensions. The Kings could at least take steps to be proactive, though, with hopes that Doughty and/or Kopitar can still help out once the prospects (hopefully) bloom.

Right now, Doughty is averaging almost 26 minutes of ice time per game (25:56) while Kopitar is logging almost 21 (20:46). With the Kings far out of contention, I must ask … why would you run them into the ground? Wouldn’t it be wiser to take measures to keep them fresher for 2020-21 and beyond?

That’s where Todd McLellan creates an interesting dialogue. On one hand, there’s evidence that he’s a good or even very good coach, including in Hockey Viz’s breakdowns. That data argues that McLellan positively impacts his teams on both ends, especially lately:

McLellan HockeyViz

The Kings can’t judge their coach based on structure alone, though. McLellan received some criticism for how he handled young players like Jesse Puljujarvi in Edmonton, so Los Angeles must be wary about McLellan’s development impact.

If McLellan can’t be convinced to scale down minutes for the likes of Doughty and Kopitar (at least after the deadline, in particular), then that’s a contextual problem, too.

Kings need some lottery ball luck for next phase of rebuild

Right now, the Kings rank as the worst team in the West, and second worst in the NHL. The Senators could sink below the Kings and grab the second-best lottery odds:

via NHL.com

Shrewd moves propel rebuilds forward, but luck is crucial, too. As excited as people are about their prospects, the Kings’ rebuild could swing based on getting the chance to draft Alexis Lafreniere, landing another blue-chipper like Quinton Byfield, or slipping just out of the truly elite range.

[Mock Draft for 2020; prospect rankings heading into the season]

Up to this point, the Kings are doing a good job “making their own luck.” Even so, the trade deadline and 2020 NHL Draft represent the biggest make-or-break moments of all.

Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk, and Brian Boucher will call the matchup. On-site studio coverage at Air Force Academy will feature Kathryn Tappen hosting alongside analyst Patrick Sharp and reporter Rutledge Wood.

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.

Flames cough up costly loss to Kings

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Todd McLellan’s crew can argue that they are better than their record indicates. Even so, the Flames may rue a loss like this to the Kings, with Los Angeles winning 5-3 on Wednesday.

Flames could regret this loss to Kings

Calgary came into the night with a chance to distance themselves in the Pacific and West bubble races. Instead, the Flames dropped from the Pacific’s third spot, and squandered quite a bit of margin for error:

Pacific 3: Golden Knights (28-22-8, 64 points in 58 games played)

West Wild 1: Flames (29-23-6, 64 points, 58 GP)
West Wild 2: Coyotes (28-23-8, 64 points, 59 GP)

9th: Jets (29-24-5, 63, 58 GP)
10th: Wild (27-23-6, 60, 56 GP)
11th: Predators (26-22-7, 59, 55 GP)
12th: Blackhawks [in progress] (25-23-8, 58 in 56 GP)

Again, the Kings stand as a scrappier opponent than their worst-in-the-West record indicates. Really, they could carry real upset potential down the stretch.

Even so, the Kings beat the Flames in three of four games this season, with Calgary only managing three of a possible eight points. Los Angeles broke a five-game losing streak and earned just their second win in 12 games. Since Dec. 19, the Kings are now 5-15-2.

Flames missed opportunities in loss to Kings

A few factors stand out in Calgary’s defeat:

  • The Flames began the game a little flat, losing the shots on battle 13-8 during the first period. Eventually Calgary finished with an edge of 38-33.
  • Calvin Peterson was sharp for the Kings … aside from the Flames’ 1-0 goal. Yes, Calgary opened with a lead.
  • The teams combined for the first three goals in less than 90 seconds, including two Kings goals in 39 seconds. David Rittich looked incensed by the Flames’ defensive lapses during that span.
  • Calgary received a lengthy 5-on-3 power play opportunity during the third period, but couldn’t connect.

Quite a night for Kurtis MacDermid

Players stood out for both teams, even beyond Peterson. Elias Lindholm gave the Flames life with two late goals, cutting the Kings’ lead to 3-2 and 4-3. Jeff Carter nabbed an all-too-rare point, scoring the game-winning goal. MacDermid may not forget this one, though:

  • MacDermid fought with Milan Lucic early in the game. No word on if they fought because of a joke about Lucic’s frosted tips.
  • While it wasn’t the game-winner, MacDermid’s 3-1 goal was significant.
  • Overall, he finished with that goal, the fight, a +3 rating, three hits, and a blocked shot in 12:17 of time on ice.

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: Kings host Flames on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

This is the third of a four-game road trip for the Flames. They won both of the first two games by a 6-2 scoreline (at Vancouver on Saturday, at San Jose on Monday). After facing the Kings, they play at Anaheim on Thursday night in a back-to-back. In their last game at San Jose, Calgary jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the opening ten minutes of the first period.

Matthew Tkachuk and Drew Doughty have formed a heated rivalry, which all started when Tkachuk was suspended two games during his rookie season for an elbow on Doughty. Last season, Doughty said he was “pretty sure” that Tkachuk was the most hated player in the NHL. In their first meeting this season, both Tkachuk and Doughty had three points each. Doughty scored the OT winner for LA, putting in a big celebration in front of the Calgary fans after being booed nearly every time he touched the puck.

In their second meeting this season, the duo caused a line brawl after Tkachuk took exception to a hip check from Doughty. Prior to the game, Doughty had downplayed their feud, saying he was “sick” of all the media coverage on the duo.

Geoff Ward was named interim head coach on November 29 following the resignation of Bill Peters. Including their win against Buffalo on November 27, in which Ward was behind the bench before officially being named interim head coach, the Flames have gone 18-10-2 in their last 30 games with Ward behind the bench.

[COVERAGE BEGINS AT 10 P.M. ET ON NBCSN]

WHAT: Calgary Flames at Los Angeles Kings
WHERE: STAPLES Center
WHEN: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 10 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Flames-Kings stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

FLAMES
Johnny GaudreauSean MonahanElias Lindholm
Andrew MangiapaneMikael Backlund – Matthew Tkachuk
Milan LucicDerek RyanDillon Dube
Zac RinaldoMark JankowskiTobias Rieder

Noah HanifinRasmus Andersson
T.J. BrodieMark Stone
Oliver KylingtonAlexander Yelesin

Starting goalie: David Rittich

KINGS
Alex IafalloAnze KopitarTyler Toffoli
Adrian KempeJeff CarterDustin Brown
Trevor MooreBlake LizotteAustin Wagner
Carl Grundstrom – Mike Amadio – Nikolai Prokhorkin

Joakim Ryan – Drew Doughty
Alec MartinezSean Walker
Kurtis MacDermidMatt Roy

Starting goalie: Jonathan Quick

Alex Faust will call the action from STAPLES Center alongside analyst Brian Hayward. Liam McHugh hosts the night’s studio coverage alongside analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp, and NHL insider Bob McKenzie.

With Alex Ovechkin just two goals shy of reaching 700 goals for his NHL career, NBC Sports has flexed into its second Capitals game this week, adding Washington’s game against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo, on Thursday night.

Thursday night’s coverage of Capitals-Avalanche will be the second half of an NHL doubleheader on NBCSN, immediately following originally-scheduled coverage of Flyers-Panthers, which begins at 7 p.m. ET. Pre-game coverage at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live.

Crosby, Kane, Ovechkin highlight NHL’s All-Decade Team

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As part of All-Star weekend festivities, the NHL has announced its All-Decade Team, featuring many names you’d expect to see on such a list. Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane lead the forward group on the First Team, with Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty on the blue line and Marc-Andre Fleury in goal.

The Second Team features Evgeni Malkin, Patrice Bergeron, and Steven Stamkos up front, Erik Karlsson and Zdeno Chara on defense, and Henrik Lundqvist in net.

Per the NHL, the two teams were selected by a panel of NHL general managers, NHL hockey operations staff, NHL.com writers and on-air talent from NBC, Sportsnet and TVAS.

FIRST TEAM

F Sidney Crosby, Penguins – 299 goals, 796 points, 635 games played, two Stanley Cups, two Conn Smythe Trophies, one Hart Trophy, five-time NHL All-Star, one Art Ross Trophy, two Rocket Richard Trophy, two Ted Lindsay Awards, three-time First Team NHL All-Star, two Olympic gold medals, one World Championship gold medal.

F Alex Ovechkin, Capitals – 447 goals, 791 points, 777 games played, one Stanley Cup, one Conn Smythe Trophy, three Hart Trophies, one Art Ross Trophy, three Pearson/Ted Lindsay Award, six Rocket Richard Trophies, eight-time NHL All-Star, four-time First Team NHL All-Star, two World Championship gold medals.

F Patrick Kane, Blackhawks – 318 goals, 814 points, 752 games played, three Stanley Cups, one Conn Smythe Trophy, three-time First Team NHL All-Star, eight-time NHL All-Star, one Art Ross Trophy, one Ted Lindsay Award, one Hart Trophy.

D Duncan Keith, Blackhawks – 62 goals, 434 points, 757 games played, three-time NHL All-Star, one First Team NHL All-Star, two Norris Trophies, one Conn Smythe Trophy, three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals.

D Drew Doughty, Kings – 101 goals, 440 points, 780 games played, two Stanley Cups, one Norris Trophy, two-time First Team NHL All-Star, five-time NHL All-Star.

G Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins/Golden Knights – 325 wins, .9167 save percentage, 2.45 goals against average, 43 shutouts, three Stanley Cups, five-time NHL All-Star, one Olympic gold medal.

SECOND TEAM

F Evgeni Malkin, Penguins – 278 goals, 710 points, 613 points, two Stanley Cups, one Art Ross Trophy, one Hart Trophy, one Ted Lindsay, one First Team NHL All-Star, five-time NHL All-Star.

F Steven Stamkos, Lightning – 367 goals, 731 points, 672 games played, two Rocket Richard Trophies, six-time All-Star.

F Patrice Bergeron, Bruins – 251 goals, 596 points, 728 games played, one Stanley Cup, four Selke Trophies, one King Clancy Trophy, two-time NHL All-Star, two Olympic gold medals, one World Cup of Hockey gold medal.

D Erik Karlsson, Senators/Sharks – 133 goals, 593 points, 705 games played, six-time NHL All-Star, two Norris Trophies, four-time First Team NHL All-Star.

D Zdeno Chara, Bruins – 98 goals, 312 points, 728 games played, two-time NHL All-Star, one Stanley Cup, one First Team NHL All-Star, three Norris Trophies.

G Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers – 299 wins, .919 save percentage, 2.49 goals against average, 42 shutouts, one Vezina Trophy, one First Team NHL All-Star, four-time NHL All-Star.

The NHL already announced winners of eight others All-Decade categories in the build up to the reveal of the All-Decade team.

Save of the Decade: Braden Holtby on Alex Tuch during the 2018 Stanley Cup Final
Coach of the Decade: Joel Quenneville, Blackhawks
Franchise of the Decade: Blackhawks
Playoff Series of the Decade: Kings-Blackhawks, 2014 Western Conference Final
Game of the Decade: Bruins-Maple Leafs, 2013 Round 1, Game 7
Event of the Decade: 2014 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium
Moment of the Decade: 100 Greatest Players Gala, 2017
Goal of the Decade: Patrick Kane’s Stanley Cup winner in Game 6 of the 2010 Final

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Matthew Tkachuk, Zack Kassian talk big-time trash after brawl

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(The Department of Player Safety announced that Zack Kassian will face a Monday hearing.)

Following their violent exchange and the Flames taking advantage for a 4-3 win vs. the Oilers, you’d wonder if Zack Kassian and Matthew Tkachuk settled down. Instead, the two added more fireworks by trading barbs after Tkachuk delivered hits and Kassian cascaded punches on the “young punk.”

A quick recap of the events

  • During the first period, Tkachuk leveled Kassian with a hard hit. It looked like Tkachuk made contact with Kassian’s head, but no penalty was called.
  • Late in the second, the big moment happened. Watch in the video above and you’ll see that Tkachuk landed another borderline check on Kassian. Kassian reacted with vengeance and furious anger, ragdolling Tkachuk around and delivering a vicious attack.
  • Tkachuk once again avoided penalties for his hits. Kassian received a misconduct, and most importantly, a double-minor for roughing.
  • The Flames ended up scoring the game-winning goal during their ensuing power play opportunities.

Kassian, Tkachuk trade trash talk after the game

If you want to cut to the chase and just see some of the main comments, the tweet below captures the gold. Just be warned: the language is a little, maybe, blue from Kassian in particular? You may smell wafts of toxic masculinity, or at least “locker room talk.” Earmuff your kids, in other words.

Glorious, glorious, mutual disdain.

If you’d rather not click on video:

  • Kassian called Tkachuk a “young punk” and then a-not-family-friendly p-word. Kassian then accused Tkachuk of dodging fights with him, claiming that the old excuse of Kassian being “a fourth-liner” no longer applies.
  • More fun talk from Kassian revolves around how much he wishes this was a playoff series where the two teams would just keep bashing heads in a compressed period of time. Allow me to request more Battles of Alberta, please.
  • Tkachuk gets the check and mate, though. First, Tkachuk said that if Kassian doesn’t want to get hit, “stay off the tracks.” Tkachuk wondered why Kassian didn’t “learn” after the first time.
  • Tkachuk turned the knife big time at the end of his statement, saying that if Kassian reacts and takes a penalty, “we’ll take the power play, we’ll take the game-winner, and we’ll move on to first place.”
  • Ouch. Tkachuk’s barb was so good it needed a reactionary bullet point.

It wasn’t just those two flapping gums, either. Sportsnet’s Pat Steinberg reports that Flames defenseman Rasmus Andersson razzed Kassian after the game.

“They’ve got a lot of pretenders out there. It’s really nice to beat those guys,” Andersson said during Steinberg’s postgame show.

“That’s one of the biggest coward moves I’ve ever seen from Kassian. We make guys like that pay. That was a coward move…that’s the kind of player he is.”

Comments spicy enough to burn your tongue.

Kassian can get a swing at Tkachuk soon enough

Feel free to disagree, but I chalk this up as either Tkachuk 2 or Tkachuk 1, Kassian 0.

Tkachuk correctly stated that the Flames are now in first place in the Pacific, and they’ve won five in a row. The Oilers, meanwhile, sit as the West’s first wild card.

Kassian gets something reasonably close to his wish. While the two teams don’t face off again in the next week, they do lock horns again soon. The teams end January and begin February with a home-and-home set. Then they finish the 2019-20 regular season with a game in Calgary on April 4.

The Flames won the first two games in the season series in 2019-20, so they’re thriving by the metric of “Living well is the best revenge.” Will Kassian get the best of Tkachuk yet? I have no clue, but I’m ordering up as much popcorn as I can find for their future meetings, either way.

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.