Jonathan Quick won’t be back with the Los Angeles Kings until at least early March, according to the team’s general manager Dean Lombardi. Quick has been out since injuring his groin on opening night and at this point, with the Kings struggling mightily, they may want to consider shutting down their franchise goaltender completely.
Los Angeles has dropped four straight contests and currently has a 22-21-4 record. The Kings’ 48 points put them 15 behind first-place Anaheim in the Pacific Division, and they’re also three points behind Calgary for the final Wild Card spot, though they do have three games in hand on the Flames. Still, the team is in an awful spot as the calendar inches towards February.
The Kings have been one of the NHL’s best franchises over the past six years, winning two Stanley Cups and reaching the Western Conference Finals three times. But injuries have derailed the last two seasons and appear to have sent the 2016-17 campaign into the toilet as well. Quick, arguably the team’s most important player, has missed virtually the entire season, while Marian Gaborik, Anze Kopitar and Tyler Toffoli have missed long stretches with various injuries.
If the Kings can’t mount a serious run over the next few weeks, it might be best to shut Quick down and look ahead to next year. Peter Budaj has been a serviceable replacement, but try as he might, he’ll never be Quick.
If they do decide to aim for next season, the Kings should also consider selling some pieces at the trade deadline. The team must get younger and faster to keep up with the changing nature of hockey. Los Angeles’ heavy, grinding style can still produce wins in the NHL, but the franchise must look to add some skill and speed to compete with the rest of the league.
The Kings have been snake-bitten for a few years now. If they can’t start winning games and turn things around, Lombardi should look to get his team healthy and focus on adding youth and skill in the offseason. For just the second time in the last five years, Los Angeles will actually have a first-round pick in the 2017 draft. The franchise has sorely missed those picks and needs an infusion of talent in the prospect ranks.
The Kings have all the underlying qualities of a franchise that could make a big comeback. But if Quick isn’t going to be back soon and they can’t find a way to turn things around, it’s probably time to look towards next season.