That’s a poker term for players who have no chance of winning. In every tournament, you have people who enter who think they have a shot, but in reality they don’t. They may win a pot here or there, but in the end, they are eliminated early and end up not finishing in the money.
The Los Angeles Kings are just that: dead money.
No matter how hard they try, they just won’t finish in the money. Sure, they’ll win a game here and there. But in the end, they’ll be the first team to not make it to the playoffs.
On the bright side, they’ll have the best chance of landing John Tavares, the OHL scoring sensation expected to be the number one pick in the NHL draft next year.
Forwards: First off, the bad news. Well, actually, it’s all bad news. But Patrick O’Sullivan, who would have been playing his third season this year, is sitting out with a contract dispute. He was the fourth leading point-getting on the team last season, and the Kings can’t afford to lose any scoring.
But even without O’Sullivan, the top two lines are solid enough. They have Anze Kopitar, who would be a superstar in any other NHL city. Alexander Frolov is also someone who dazzles on the ice. Signing Jarret Stoll will help with faceoffs, powerplay and points. Dustin Brown is also underrated.
After that, it just drops rights down. The third and fourth liners would have trouble making the rosters of most other teams. And except for O’Sullivan, they don’t have a decent left-winger. Maybe a rookie will surprise this year, but if not, the team is in trouble.
Defence: This is a defence that almost any team would love to have…. in about five years. They have youth, and a lot of inexperience. But the defence will get better over time. But without a real leader back there, expect for them to learn the lessons of the NHL the long way.
Jack Johnson will be entering his second full season. A third overall pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005, L.A. is expecting him to lead the defence this year.
Drew Doughty, the second overall pick from this year’s draft, will probably make the team.
The defence also boasts Matt Greene and Denis Gauthier, two players that weren’t even members of the Kings last year.
Look for Tom Preissing to get a lot of powerplay ice time.
Goaltending: Where to begin with this team and their goaltending? Last year, they had seven different goalies play some time for them. Hopefully, they can settle on a more regular starter this season.
Again, youth leads the way here. Jason LaBarbera was the goalie for the Kings the past two seasons. He had a respectable save percentage of .910 last year, but his goals against average was 3.00, which is about half a goal too much for the Kings to have a chance most days. Still, LaBarbera is 28, which is a goalie’s prime, so he would be putting up better numbers if he played on a better team.
Their goalie of the future though is Jonathan Bernier. He’s 20 years old, and was the first round pick of the Kings two years ago. There’s a danger of putting a young goalie on a bad team too early in his career, and the Kings are being smart by making sure they don’t ruin him too early. He’ll be a great goalie in a few years, but he’s not ready to lead this team yet.
Pool picks: Well, someone’s got to get the points, right? Besides the obvious pick (Anze Kopitar), Tom Preissing may be worth a gamble. He’ll play on the powerplay a lot, and will be expected to lead this team from the point. In the forward position, Jarret Stoll will be playing a lot, and will the centre on one of the top two lines. He had 68 points a couple of years ago with the Oilers, and may be ready to reach that mark again. Stay away from: Pretty much everyone.
Miscellaneous: This is a team that seems to want to alienate its fan base. As of the time I’m writing this, they aren’t even at the minimum of the salary cap, and are only near there because they recently signed Jarret Stoll to a big contract ($14.4 million over four years).
They don’t have any big name players, which probably wouldn’t hurt in a rabid hockey town like Montreal, Toronto or Detroit. But in a city like L.A., where they’re competing against the Los Angeles Lakers with Kobe Bryant, and Hollywood celebrities, they need someone who is going to draw people to games.
For now, they’ll be playing in front of half-empty arenas, unless they can get off to a great start and be competitive enough to steal headlines. But I don’t see that happening.
Expected finish: Fifth in the Pacific division, 15th in the Western Conference
Overall: This is a team that is building from the goal crease out. For now, they’ll have trouble scoring, and their youth will cost them some games.
They also play in a tough conference, as they’ll see a lot of San Jose, Anaheim, Dallas and the much-improved Phoenix Coyotes.
But in a few years, as their goalie and defencemen get into the prime of their careers, they’ll be the team to beat in the Western conference. That is, as long as they don’t stay on the cheap and keep letting their players walk away.