The Los Angeles Kings’ season is off to a rough start, and it might not be looking up for some time. The team announced today that Jonathan Quick is out indefinitely following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. The team has recalled Peter Budaj, who will back up Jack Campbell in net for the Kings.
This is a crushing blow to a Kings team that is already at the bottom of the NHL standings thanks to an early season Quick injury and uninspired play by many of their key players. Los Angeles will now have to find a way to climb out of the basement with their best goaltender sidelined, and a duo in place that combined for a grand total of 13 NHL appearances last season. Campbell is completely unproven at the NHL level despite his early play, while Budaj is now 36 and has had a only a single successful season over the last several years.
The Kings do have talent on their roster, but not enough of it has shown through the early part of the year. Drew Doughty and newcomer Ilya Kovalchuk lead the team with eight points through the first 11 games, but younger players like Adrian Kempe and Michael Amadio have failed to take the necessary steps to elevate the team. Much of the rest of the core in Los Angeles is already on the wrong side of 30 and declining with age, leaving the coaching staff struggling to find any sense of consistency on a nightly basis.
While this season is certainly off to a rough start, and Quick’s injury only exacerbates that, there are at least rays of hope on the horizon. Gabe Vilardi has recently returned to the ice in a non-contact jersey, and prospects like Kale Clague and Rasmus Kupari are off to great starts in their respective professional leagues. Jaret Anderson-Dolan even has two goals in his first two games after being sent back to junior earlier this month, and should be part of the Canadian World Junior squad in a few months. The struggles of the NHL club can’t be fixed right away with any of those young players, but this season is also quite young. With talents like Doughty and Anze Kopitar still on the roster, the Kings could stage something of a comeback throughout the year—they’ll just have to do it without the services of Quick for the time being.