The funny thing about building toward the future is that, in the meantime, you actually have to play the games.
That reality is hitting the Kings hard during this six-game winless streak (0-4-2). A 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators all but conceded a season that was lost long ago.
But there are games to be played, players to be evaluated, and just-short losses like Thursday’s to throw things into perspective.
Here’s what we learned:
The future could be promising. The trade of Carl Hagelin to the Washington Capitals for draft picks further stockpiles what should be a fruitful June for the Kings.
They have 10 draft picks this year and seven picks through the first four rounds of 2019. That includes two first-round picks, which alone should yield upper-tier talent. The assets beyond that will take years to develop, although if the Kings get a top-three pick this year, that player could be ready sooner rather than later.
This is a new era of mediocrity. Thursday was the Kings’ 31st regulation loss, and there is a good possibility that this season will mark their most such losses since they had 43 in the 2007-08 season. Only Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick remain from that season, which makes this new territory for the other veterans.
“As a group we need to find a way to manage our frustration because a lot of the guys have never been on a team like this, quite honestly,” Brown said. “I think myself and maybe Kopi’s first year. A lot of these guys have always been on good teams. It’s a little different when you have to play games. Right now, we’re a losing team. It’s difficult and a new experience for a lot of guys.”
The defense has a long way to go. What used to be a trademark of the Kings, even in lean years under former coach Terry Murray, was defense and penalty killing. The latter faltered Thursday on a first-period goal by Kyle Turris, who cranked in a one-timer goal similar to the two that Washington’s Alex Ovechkin scored Monday.
The Kings are 30th in the NHL in penalty killing at 74.9%, and the unit has allowed three goals in the last two games. It probably doesn’t help that they no longer have Hagelin, Nate Thompson and Jake Muzzin.