The Athletic is pretty awesome, they have a deal right now where you can get the whole year for $24 so I jumped on that in December. They simply have coverage and analysis that the usual outlets do not, good reads. It is a subscription so you'll have to pay to read these articles (if you download the app, the first 3 articles are free). If you do not want to, I'll just C/P the Kings stuff. Kovalchuk frustrated, riding it out for now — The Fourth Period I think we all knew this, but you wouldn't know it from the smiles on his face and celebrations when the Kings score with him involved. He isn't the stereotypical "selfish Euro", he is a solid team player. I feel for him, signing here believing the Kings had a legitimate shot yet here we are at the halfway mark and the Kings are on track for a solid 5-6th pick if not better. This is all on Slick Willie, hands down. For whatever inexplicable reason he isn't a fan of Kovalchuk and mismanages one of the Kings' legitimate sniper options on a nightly basis. He should be kicked in the ass and out the door after Game 82 for that reason alone not to mention the other bizzaro decisions he has made, especially his love for B6 players and wrong deployment. 1. Kings Second Half Questions Kings second half questions: Is Kopitar in decline? Should... Who is the real Anze Kopitar? In July, one of the questions I had for then Kings coach John Stevens was about his message for Kopitar, who was coming off a career-season of 92 points, being voted a Hart Trophy finalist and Selke Trophy winner. Stevens: “My message to Kopi was that last year wasn’t the outlier season. The year before that was. The year he had two years ago was out of the ordinary for him.” Last season, Kopitar had 17 goals and 43 points at the midpoint. This season, in 40 games, he has nine goals and 27 points, putting him on an 18-goal, 54-point pace. Athletic colleague Jordan Samuels-Thomas took an excellent and extensive look at Kopitar’s struggles in a film room offering on Dec. 11, noting that Kopitar was “pressing/forcing when he shouldn’t and taking chances in the wrong areas of the ice.” Of note, Kopitar has no power play goals. Seven of his assists have come on the power play, however. Early in his career, Kopitar scored plenty of power-play goals – a career-high 14 in 2009-10 and 12 in 2007-08. Considering his skill set as a gifted playmaker, those numbers aren’t expected at this point but it is somewhat surprising he hasn’t scored on the power play. Then again, many things about the Kings have been surprising this season. It was always going to be a big ask for Kopitar to match or even approach the impressive output of last season but Stevens was right on one point. Two years ago was truly out of the ordinary for Kopitar, in which he finished with 12 goals and 40 assists for 52 points, struggling with the weight of a big contract and the captaincy responsibilities. I suspect the second half of the season will provide a more complete answer about Kopitar’s capabilities and ability to lead the Kings out of the abyss. Does it make sense to wait until the offseason to trade goaltender Jonathan Quick? Probably. Normally, it would be a definitive yes because franchise goalies typically do not get traded in-season. But if the Kings were to get a decent return from a team looking for one final piece for a big push, that would be an exception, naturally. With Quick’s long list of accomplishments, he has little to prove. What he does have to do is show he can play a sustained period of time without suffering another injury, as he had two issues in the first half, including knee surgery. But the longer the reigning Jennings Trophy winner plays without injury will strengthen the Kings’ bargaining hand. It also might be more beneficial for the likes of Jack Campbell and Cal Petersen to have Quick around for the rest of the season to take full advantage of his mentoring abilities. Are there any reasons for future optimism? Other than rookie forwards Matt Luff and Austin Wagner, defenseman Sean Walker and goalies Campbell and Petersen … yes. There have been plenty of Kings forwards who have regressed (Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Carter, Adrian Kempe and the since traded Tanner Pearson). But Alex Iafallo, signed by the Kings as an undrafted free agent in April, 2017, continues to trend upward. The offseason thought was that he would be moved off the Kopitar line because of the acquisition of Kovalchuk. But Iafallo has been a fixture with Kopitar and Dustin Brown and is one of the few Kings forwards who is ahead of last season’s pace. In 41 games, Iafallo has 21 points (nine goals, 12 assists). He already has matched his goal-scoring output from his rookie season in 2017-18 and is four points from tying his point total from last season. 2. The Case For/Against Trading Muzzin Rebuilding the Kings: The case for and against trading Jake... Los Angeles could get a decent-sized return for Muzzin – maybe even a coveted first-round pick or a high-end prospect. Though he’s been excellent for L.A. this season, he has maybe two to three legitimate prime years remaining. A good prospect would have a longer shelf life. Dealing him makes almost too much sense, unfortunately, because of how good a player he’s become. Furthermore, the Kings have him on a pretty good price point. If he gets a raise, it won’t be by a crazy high amount, which would keep him in their salary structure. This season, his leadership has also hit another level, per his teammates. This would be big in a rebuild or refresh as L.A. tries to revamp its culture. He’s young enough and has enough prime years left at a team-friendly deal to where you could make a decent case to keep him. It’s hard to develop a legit top-three defenseman in this league, and he certainly fits the bill. Dillman: What will likely happen with the Kings is a softer rebuild – not torching the whole village, even though social media is practically demanding it. They’ll need some core pieces to help guide them out of the wilderness and set an example for the less-experienced members of the D-corps. Muzzin has been their most consistent defenseman this season and is their second-best defenseman behind Doughty. That is more than enough reason to keep him. Going forward, Muzzin’s ability to play with almost anybody will serve the Kings well. His versatility on special teams is an asset, he has good vision on the power play, and he is effective down low on the penalty kill. The power of personality can’t be overlooked, either, as his chill approach is an effective counterpoint to, say, Doughty’s fiery emotion. It’s not a bad thing to have a wide variety of personalities in the dressing room. In a season in which most of the Kings are having subpar campaigns, Muzzin’s performance has been a rare positive note in the first half. As Josh pointed out, the price point on Muzzin is good, another good reason not to trade him this season. He is an asset worth keeping and could serve as a desirable rental when we are having this discussion a year from now. 3. Kings/Ducks WJC Report Samuels-Thomas' Kings and Ducks WJC report: Comtois NHL... Rasmus Kupari, Finland – Kings Grade: A Kupari will be wearing a Kings jersey very soon. The 18-year-old winger’s play got stronger as games increased in importance. There were times throughout the world juniors that Kupari looked like the best forward in the tournament. His combination of size and speed is what made him a force for Finland, and what makes him a perfect fit for the future Kings. Kupari plays a powerful puck possession game that – at times – made him look like a man among boys. He’s not overly big, weighing in at just 185 pounds, but he’s incredibly strong on his skates which allows him to protect the puck as well as he does. This valuable set of skills doesn’t limit Kupari to ‘board-play’ or limit his creativity and ability to maneuver into open ice. Kupari possesses a sweet pair of hands that’s showcased through his creativity in open-ice and in tight space situations. His assist on New jersey Devils prospect Aarne Talvitie’s goal is an excellent example of Kupari’s speed in the neutral zone and the use of his size, strength, and skill to protect the puck from the Swiss defender and make a power move across the crease. I see Kupari’s playing style as a blend of Sebastian Aho (Carolina) and Joel Armia (Montreal). Kupari’s skating is far superior to that of Armia but shares similarities in creativity and possession prowess. Kupari reminds me of Aho when he’s in the open ice, both very gifted and don’t break stride when making moves on the fly. This was Kupari’s second year playing world junior after competing in last year’s tournament as a draft-eligible player. If Kupari is not in the NHL next season, expect to see him return to the world junior stage as one of the tournament’s top players.