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.
If one is looking at next season, the Kings could have an interesting training camp with Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Rasmus Kupari, Carl Grundstrom and their top first-round draft pick all vying for spots, in addition to the possibility of Gabriel Vilardi.
“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.
“We’re giving up power play goals,” Kopitar said. “That should be the staple of our games. We’ve always been good. For whatever reason, we’re not this year, and it’s costing us games.”