(The 2015-16 NHL season is nearly upon us! Why bother watching this team? What will make or break the season? Find out as we preview all 30 teams as camps begin!)
Last Season: 40-27-15, 95 points, two points out of the final playoff spot in the Pacific Division. The Kings became the first defending Stanley Cup champion to miss the playoffs since the Carolina Hurricanes in 2007.
2014-15 Season, In One Tweet
Did They Get Better, Worse Or Are They About The Same?
They'll probably make the playoffs this year, so better.
The Kings needed to navigate a minefield of offseason, off-ice problems and did their best to look improved on paper going into next season.
Gone is center Jarret Stoll, who probably wasn’t going to come back after his cocaine arrest in Last Vegas following the season. Los Angeles is still in the process of trying to terminate the deal of center Mike Richards, but until a grievance with the NHLPA is heard, we won’t know how much salary cap relief L.A. will receive.
The Kings can’t really proceed normally until they know what’s happening with Richards.
Suspended defenseman Slava Voynov announced he will voluntarily depart the country, but the Kings haven’t said if they will try to void Voynov’s contract, which has four years remaining. Voynov was arrested last October for domestic violence against his wife and has been suspended ever since. His salary did not count against the cap.
Regardless of this uncertainty Los Angeles is still loaded with talent at forward and defense. Center Anze Kopitar had his worst season since his rookie year with 64 points. But he’s 28 and pending unrestricted free agency will undoubtedly give him some more hunger to find the back of the net.
Center Jeff Carter is a lock for near 30 goals. Drew Doughty notched 46 points on D last year and is arguably the best all-around defenseman in the NHL. Jonathan Quick is still the top big-game goaltender in the NHL.
The Kings also got a nice little kick in the pants at forward with the trade for Milan Lucic from Boston who should rediscover his 60ish point levels after a drop off to 44 last season with the Boston Bruins.
Losing Justin Williams via unrestricted free agency last summer hurt to a degree, but the Kings have enough firepower to make up for the departure of 'Mr. Game 7.'
According to Puckalytics, last season the Kings led the NHL in CF% at 55.4 percent, which indicated high puck possession numbers. There's little chance Los Angeles will lose its puck possessing ways next year.
Five Most Fascinating Players
1. Milan Lucic, F
The hulking winger has the type of game and personality that Kings fans will adore. He hits, he fights, he’s outspoken in the locker room. If he has a big year, he’s going to endear himself to Los Angeles in a major way. And when/if that happens, the Kings are going to have to pay Lucic handsomely for his services as a pending unrestricted free agent.
2. Drew Doughty, D
Doughty is a phenomenal talent and arguably one of the top five players in the NHL. Last season he had maybe his best year with 46 points while averaging 29 minutes per-night. He led the NHL in shot attempts differential at plus-410, meaning his team fired more shots at the net than the opposition while he was on the ice. Los Angeles has many talented players, but Doughty is probably the team’s best. He should have another excellent all-around season.
3. Anze Kopitar, F
Is Kopitar really in decline? It’s tough to think a guy with 64 points last season could be dropping off. But that’s his worst full-season point total since his rookie season. His 16 scores were his lowest of his career for a full year. Kopitar is also entering an unrestricted free agency contract year, which should add to the drama of his upcoming season.
4. Dustin Brown, F
The Kings’ battering ram of a captain is no longer the player he once was. Last season he suffered the worst year of his career with 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points. He was also a minus-17. Brown worked with a nutritionist this summer to try to get back to the level he was at when he was slamming opponents left and right in leading LA to the Stanley Cup in 2012.
5. Tyler Toffoli, F
Toffoli is quickly becoming one of the Kings most important players on ice and in the community. He had 23 goals last season in 76 games and should only improve this year. Toffoli hardly turns down a community appearance and as guys like Brown and Kopitar age, Toffoli should become a more important person for this team in the next several years.
Potentially The Best Thing About This Team
They’re so big and strong up and down their lineup. Kopitar is 6-foot-3. Carter is 6-foot-4. Doughty is a well-built 6-foot-1, 213 pounds. Matt Greene, the team’s heart and soul on D, is 6-foot-3, 234 pounds. Puck possession master (plus-401 SAT) Jake Muzzin is 6-foot-3, 214 pounds. Lucic is 6-foot-3.
All these guys are mobile and hold on the puck for extended periods in their opponents’ zone.
Potentially The Worst Thing About This Team
The uncertainty off the ice will dog this group unless it gets figured out before the start of the season.
The Richards situation could remain distractions for the entire year. Also, there’s a salary cap component for Richards, which could hamper the ability for GM Dean Lombardi to make moves.
As for Voynov, even though he’s headed back to Russia the Kings will, at least in training camp, be peppered with questions on whether they correctly handled his situation, especially with domestic violence being such a hot button issue in sports.
As for the team on-ice, there are some questions about the Kings’ overall speed. They have size, but are they fast enough to compete with teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning or Chicago Blackhawks?
Dream 3-on-3 OT Group
Kopitar, Marian Gaborik and Drew Doughty. These guys will hang onto the puck for the full five minutes.
Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being scorching hot)
Two. Darryl Sutter has won two Stanley Cups. He and Lombardi go all the way back to their days as a duo with the San Jose Sharks.
Only an epic collapse could cause Sutter to lose his job.
There were some questions about the team locking him out of its locker room last season. But the Kings squashed that as an issue rather quickly.
Awkward Old School video break
Dave Taylor correctly predicts the future ...
Their Best Case Scenario Is …
Everyone returns to 2013-14 form and prove last year’s non-playoff season was indeed a fluke.
Los Angeles gets some level of closure on Richards early in the season and re-signs Kopitar and Lucic in the first half of the year. Doughty has another brilliant campaign and Quick plays up to his usual standards.
Their Nightmare Scenario Is …
Kopitar dips below 60 points for the year and creates a conundrum as to whether the Kings should re-sign a declining superstar.
Brown barely cracks 20 points and Doughty fights fatigue after last season’s exhausting campaign.
Sutter loses the locker room and his players completely tune him out.
The Kings will either win the Pacific Division or finish in second place. Kopitar returns to form and gets re-signed in October. Brown has 20 goals and in between 40 and 50 points.
Los Angeles will face the Anaheim Ducks in the second-round of the playoffs and will go to a Game 7. The winner of that series will eventually win the Western Conference.
PUCK DADDY SEASON PREVIEW 2015-16: Winnipeg Jets/Washington Capitals/Vancouver Canucks/Tampa Bay Lightning/San Jose Sharks/Pittsburgh Penguins/Philadelphia Flyers/Ottawa Senators/New York Rangers/New York Islanders/New Jersey Devils/Nashville Predators/Montreal Canadiens/Minnesota Wild
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