Los Angeles Kings Can Right the Ship with an Emphasis on Chemistry Up Front

The difference between the regular-season and playoff Los Angeles Kings has been stark ever since head coach Darryl Sutter took the reins in 2011-12.

His team routinely shifts from uninspired to unstoppable, yet its performances in the contests separating those two poles are downright infuriating for fans—and likely management as well.

The bench boss isn’t beyond reproach, either.

In addition to the players’ lack of intensity, the 20-15-12 Kings are also struggling mightily with chemistry. Forward units have been shuffled every other day—frequently during games—preventing the troops from developing a comfort level and generating positive momentum.

Sutter needs to draw up smarter lines and stick with them for at least a couple of full games to allow the club to cohere. Otherwise, its current four-game slide may extend into February.


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Some NHL teams achieve an intriguing dynamic by partnering multiple centers on the same line. To reiterate, L.A. is not among them.

Jeff Carter, who has alternated between center and wing for much of the campaign, isn’t suited to dig in the trenches and recover pucks. He’s there to fire them on goal, and he accomplishes that most effectively in the middle of the ice.

The numbers don’t lie: 

Controlling gaps is much easier for opposing defensemen along the wall, so putting Carter in those areas—by default as a winger—is a poor tactical move.

He requires room to breathe and back off the other team with his speed and reach.

Put him at center and keep him there. For good. Ideally, Sutter would pair him with more talented wingers than Dwight King and Trevor Lewis, but injuries to Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson have hamstrung the coach’s leeway.

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