It’s time for another Screen Shots column, in which we take a look at a few topics, in smaller bites, for readers. Let’s get right to this week’s edition:
– The Los Angeles Kings have won seven of their past 10 games, and elevated their position in the Pacific Division standings to second place. Yes, they’ve taken advantage of a softer stretch of their schedule, beating Arizona twice, as well as Detroit, Anaheim and the New York Islanders in that 10-game stretch. But good teams lose to bad teams all the time (hello, Toronto vs. Buffalo this week), so you have to give L.A.credit for keeping their focus.
That soft stretch of the schedule extends through the next week, with the Kings taking on Columbus, Buffalo, and San Jose twice by March 12. They get real tests immediately after that, hosting Florida on March 13, and Colorado on March 15. Subsequently, they face Vegas and Nashville, but then have easier games against Chicago and back-to-back showdowns against Seattle. In sum, they have most of this month to establish a meaningful cushion separating them from everyone other than Calgary in the Pacific and finish the regular season with home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
That would exceed the expectations even of analysts who believed they’d be a post-season team this year. But it is possible, and Kings GM Rob Blake now should be a buyer by the March 21 trade deadline. CapFriendly.com projects L.A. to have nearly $7.9 million in salary-cap space by then, so Blake should be able to add a high-impact player, or at the very least, some depth on the wings and on defense. An affordable, team-controlled-beyond-this-season forward like Pittsburgh’s Kasperi Kapanen would be a good fit for them, but that’s all up to Blake to decide if he wants to pay a high price. It says here he’ll be seeking a roster boost in the short-and-long term, so don’t be surprised to see the Kings make a splash on the trade front.
– Since the beginning of February, former NHL Players’ Association consultant Richard Rodier has been posting his views on the state of players’ business under the current collective bargaining agreement with the league. Rodier doesn’t mince words as he argues for a more militant players’ union, in order to counteract what he believes will be an aggressive group of NHL team owners when the CBA expires at the end of the 2025-26 season. If you put aside easy-but-naive views that “the players are overpaid”, you can see where Rodier is right to be wary of the league’s intentions down the line.
It’s true many fans have little interest in discussing NHL owner-player relations, but the prospect of another labor war is a notable one. And Rodier may well be a prophet of uglier days to come. It’s worth checking out his ideas on how players can answer back on the CBA, and perhaps regain some of the ground they’ve undoubtedly lost in the past few labor negotiations.
– What do you know – it looks like the Dallas Stars have overcome their early-season malaise and they're finally about to challenge Nashville and Minnesota for one of the second or third spots in the Central. If Dallas wasn't such a terrible road team (10-13-2, as opposed to their 20-7-1 home record), they'd be fighting it out with the Blues for second place in the Central, and home ice advantage in the post-season.
But for now, though, at least the Stars look like they'll be buyers at the deadline, other than a John Klingberg trade that looks like it has to be made, regardless of how Dallas plays between now and March 21. Slowly but surely, they’ve worked their way back into the playoff conversation, and now it’s up to their veterans to capitalize on their momentum and continue pushing their way up the Central standings. GM Jim Nill is working for an owner who desperately wants to earn playoff monies, so there’s every likelihood the Stars will be in the hunt for help.