Stevens’ Swan Song Falls Flat, Kings Throttled 8-2

Jonathan Bernier knows things have to get better than this soon.

If Thursday’s win versus Columbus was cause for a quiet optimism, tonight’s contest could very well be considered nothing less than rock bottom.

Some might argue it had already been decided halfway through the first period. Less than two minutes had passed before the away team found themselves on their heels and down by two. Both Jonathan Quick (who started) and Jonathan Bernier (who struggled in relief) played less than spectacular and the Kings were downed by the Red Wings’ stifling, and at times, flawless offensive attack. Detroit scored 8 goals on 27 shots.

Their offense came thanks to the combined efforts of Pavel Datsyuk, Drew Miller, Brad Stuart, Henrik Zetterberg, Cory Emmerton, and Niklas Kronwall. Goaltender Jimmy Howard stopped 27 of the 29 shots he faced.

It may be worth mentioning that the Kings outshot Detroit, yet still lost by six goals. It was the highest number of goals allowed by the team yet this season, and the first time in over two years that an opponent has placed an 8-goal tally on the scoreboard.

Los Angeles goals were provided by Davis Drewiskie and Jarret Stoll. And yes, this was the eleventh game in a row that the Kings have failed to score more than 2 goals. Who knew that this would be the single-most elusive offensive output coming into this year? In a related note, if anyone knows the whereabouts of Simon Gagne or Anze Kopitar, please contact GM Dean Lombardi. I have it on good faith that he is very concerned.

All of this ends the John Stevens era on an awfully low note. In his three games as interim head coach, the team won once, and those two points were earned against the even lowlier Columbus Blue Jackets. Save for some moments in tonight’s game, his players looked disinterested and not completely sure of themselves while on the ice. Yes, there is certainly accountability that needs to be held for that, but with the front office in the mess that it was, I feel as though all the blame cannot be completely heaped upon the players’ shoulders.

Forging on and trying to win hockey games under an interim head coach (who nobody suspected once would be there for the long haul) is tough. I wrote in this space two weeks earlier that the Kings had nowhere to go but up. That turned out to be a little premature. But now with a new coach waiting in the wings and perhaps a little stability, hitting rock bottom may be the perfect thing this team needs right now.

Moving forward, the Kings will have a new head coach behind the bench. It was widely speculated that Lombardi-favorite Darryl Sutter was the one most sought after for the position, and earlier tonight the news became official. Sutter, who most recently served as the general manager of the Calgary Flames, will be brought to town for a public news conference on either Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. His succession to the L.A. bench king throne has been delayed due to immigration issues.

Sutter has spent eleven years total as an NHL coach with Chicago, San Jose, and Calgary. He is 409-320-101-30 in 860 games and led the Flames to the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, in which they lost to Tampa Bay in seven games.

He will take charge of the team starting on Tuesday, one day after the team’s final game of this East Coast trip.

According to LA Kings insider Rich Hammond, Stevens will return to his previous post as assistant coach under Sutter.