At the Kings' news conference last summer, where the reshuffled management team was introduced, the message sounded impressive:
We're going to get younger, bigger and stronger.
Say you had been out of the country since the season opener and had just returned to Los Angeles after the trading deadline. You started looking at the moves the Kings have made, acquiring:
--Left wing Lonnie Loach, 24, who played in all of three games for the expansion Ottawa Senators, on waivers in October.
--Defenseman Jeff Chychrun, 26, who watched the Penguins win the Stanley Cup from the press box, from Pittsburgh for defenseman Peter Ahola in November.
--Forwards Marc Fortier, 27, and Jim Thomson, 27, now in the minors, from that vast reservoir of hockey talent, Ottawa, for forward Bob Kudelski in December.
--Center Jimmy Carson, 24, and forwards Gary Shuchuk, 26, and Marc Potvin, 26, from the Detroit Red Wings for future Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey in January.
--Goaltender Rick Knickle, 33, from the San Diego Gulls of the International Hockey League for future considerations in February.
--Defenseman Mark Hardy, 34, from the Rangers for center John McIntyre on Monday.
You probably would wonder what had happened to the plan, to younger, bigger and stronger.
Is it true, as people are joking, that the Kings are three players closer to the American Hockey League championship? Is Barry Melrose trying to bring Adirondack to Los Angeles? Does that explain why three of his former players, Loach, Shuchuk and Potvin, are now Kings?
Of all the deals, the one for Knickle has been the most successful, which is faint praise. In that deal, the Kings didn't lose anything substantial and Knickle has given them five victories and helped introduce a competitive spirit among the three goaltenders.
Naturally, there can't be an evaluation on the Hardy trade, but it seems to be an insurance deal, another recycled former King. The future isn't being built on a 34-year-old, who brings the number of King players 32 and over to nine.
Loach has 10 goals in 47 games, but was sent to the Kings' minor league team in Phoenix earlier this month to get his act together. Already in Phoenix were several other players from this season's deals--Chychrun, a decided disappointment, and Fortier and Thomson, who haven't done anything to justify the Kudelski trade.
The Coffey deal was unpopular in the Kings' dressing room. And the players might have been on to something. In 18 games, Shuchuk has two goals and five points and has dropped to the fourth line. And with Tomas Sandstrom back from injury, and Corey Millen expected back this week, Shuchuk's role probably will continue to shrink. Potvin was scratched against St. Louis on Saturday and has one assist in 18 games, with 47 penalty minutes.
Carson has nine goals with the Kings in 22 games but has a tendency to fade against stronger teams and all but disappeared on the Kings' last trip in the games against the Rangers and the Penguins.
It wasn't the worst thing in the world to trade Coffey, but the Kings presumably could have gotten much more if they had held on to him longer. At the trading deadline, a couple of teams were scrambling to acquire an offensive-minded defenseman, especially the Rangers.
Maybe it's easier for the Kings to think only about the present. The future is filled with a bunch of thirtysomething players and a cadre of castoffs in Phoenix. The Roadrunners (24-42-4) have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and are in the midst of a 10-game winless streak (0-8-2), having last won on March 3.
Guy Leveque shows promise, but the Phoenix's showing is partly a reflection of suspect King drafts the last several years.
Granted, the Kings haven't had a first-round pick since they drafted defenseman Darryl Sydor seventh overall in 1990. But there have been too many Brandy Semchuks and not enough Alexei Zhitniks.
A quick look at the winners and losers in the wake of Monday's trading deadline:
1. New York Rangers: They needed to get involved because of defenseman Brian Leetch's broken ankle. They tried to acquire San Jose defenseman Neil Wilkinson but fell short at the deadline. And their two little deals with the Kings and the Tampa Bay Lightning won't suffice.
2. Los Angeles Kings: See above.
1. Vancouver: General Manager-Coach Pat Quinn almost always manages to do something significant on deadline day and did it again, picking up 25-goal scorer Murray Craven from the Hartford Whalers for left wing Robert Kron, a third-round draft pick and future considerations. Craven can also play the point on the power play. Vancouver has been lost all season without an able point man and its power play has been horrid, especially in the last month.
2. Pittsburgh: General Manager Craig Patrick filled a couple of small holes, picking up defenseman Mike Ramsey from the Buffalo Sabres for left wing Bob Errey and acquiring defenseman Peter Taglianetti for a third-round draft pick.
3. Mighty Ducks: So what if they haven't started playing? The Ducks' first two hires--General Manager Jack Ferreira and assistant GM Pierre Gauthier--were inspired ones. Ferreira, a former general manager in San Jose and Minnesota, has been scouting the NHL all season for Montreal and has charts of every player in the league. And there's probably no one who knows more about the entry draft than Gauthier. He has been working on this year's draft for more than a year, since it's being held in Quebec City, and he has been the Nordiques' chief scout.