Season Preview: Los Angeles Kings
Los Angeles won their second Stanley Cup in three years last term, surviving three game 7s before dispatching the New York Rangers in the final.
Perhaps as close as we’ll come to a dynasty in the cap era, LA heads in to the new season with their championship team almost entirely intact and a swagger few teams can match.
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In the West, only Edmonton and Vancouver scored fewer goals than LA did last season. But no team even came close to them defensively – and that’s as much to do with their forwards as it is their blue line and goaltending.
At their best, the Kings play like a single unit.
Despite being LA’s first line centre; Anze Kopitar, who led the team with 29 goals and 70 points, doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his contribution at either end of the ice.
Jeff Carter and Mike Richards have put their somewhat chequered histories behind them to become core members of the team. Whilst neither is quite so prolific offensively, the former Flyers help form a top 9 that is perhaps unrivalled when it comes to getting the job done.
A better year from Captain Dustin Brown in terms of raw numbers would not go amiss, as the Ithaca native regressed to 15 goals and 27 points, but his contribution to the club as a whole earned him the Mark Messier Leader of the Year Award last season.
GM Dean Lombardi opted to sign Marian Gaborik to a 7-year contract, after the Slovak winger scored 14 goals and 22 points during the post season. The 32-year old missed 39 games with a knee injury and broken collar bone before Columbus traded him to LA, where he finally found form again.
Justin Williams legacy as one of the great play-off performers was boosted by a Conn Smythe win, while Tyler Toffoli has impressed during his fledgling career.
At The Back
Drew Doughty has become the pre-eminent big game blue liner. Whilst his regular season numbers are respectable, his role in winning two Stanley Cup and Olympic gold, twice, has become almost legendary – and he’s still only 24.
Slava Voynov was less impressive in Sochi, but entering the second season of a six year deal looks to have cemented his place among the Kings core, whilst Jake Muzzin announced his arrival on the scene last season.
Veteran Robyn Regehr enters the final year of his current deal, with Matt Greene, Alec Martinez and Jeff Schultz rounding out an impressive defensive corps.
Between The Pipes
Kings #1 Jonathan Quick came under a little scrutiny last season; but his aggressive, athletic style has made him one of the premier netminders in the NHL.
Signed through to 2023, Quick is 28 and just entering his prime. Though he seemed to take a little time to truly recover from back surgery that took place in the summer of 2012, experience has made him a more consistent goaltender over the course of a season.
24-year old Martin Jones burst on to the scene with a 12-6-0 record last season, giving up less than two goals per game on average. It was enough to convince the Kings to forget about former backup Jonathan Bernier, and move Ben Scrivens to Edmonton.
Behind The Bench
Entering his third full season as Kings Coach, Darryl Sutter has already achieved more in California than some coaches do in their entire career.
(In)famous for his press conference ‘candour’, Sutter has instilled a winning attitude and system in LA that puts them in a position to win every season.
Biggest Addition – Marian Gaborik
The Kings defensive record is impressive, but a goal scorer of Gaborik’s talent can help ease the pressure to be so perfect in their own end all the time.
It’s a gamble signing an injury prone 32-year old to a 7-year deal, but a 30 goals season would go a long way to easing those concerns.
Biggest Loss – Willie Mitchell
Los Angeles managed to hold on to pretty much everyone, but a lack of cap space and the emergence of young D men like Muzzin and Voynov made Mitchell expendable.
The veteran’s services as a mentor for Doughty and co should not be underestimated however, and there is a tinge of sadness to his departure after such success in California.
Key Man – Anze Kopitar
Leading scorer, defensive lynch pin, minute muncher – Kopitar is as important to LA as Crosby is to Pittsburgh or Toews is to Chicago.
Able to carry to the Kings on his back at times, the Slovenian may be one of the most underrated stars in the NHL.
This Seasons Chances…
How can LA not be seen as contenders again? A championship winning squad that has been kept intact. A team that has the confidence to know that all they need to do is qualify for the post season to stand a chance.
Two Cup wins and a Conference Finals appearance in the past three seasons, rebounding from 3-0 down to knock San Jose out last spring. There seems to be no bounds to what this Kings side can do when they turn it on.
Posted on September 15, 2014, in Hockey, Los Angeles Kings, NHL, Season Previews 2014 and tagged Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings, Marian Gaborik, NHL, Season Preview. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.