In last seasons Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Los Angeles Kings dominated their way through the competition. In the Finals, more of the same. While New Jersey did manage to win two games straight against the Kings at one point, it was hardly enough to stop one of the most dominating playoff runs in NHL history. But the Kings team we saw in playoff competition was not the same one we saw during the season. In fact, the Kings came into the postseason as an 8th seed and a long shot at winning the Stanley Cup. So as we look forward to a season in 2012-13, we wonder, can the Kings come out on top again?
One of the key phrases we hear in the NHL every season is about depth. If it’s depth that you need to succeed, the Kings will once again be primed for success.
The Kings top point producers from last season, including Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, are back to lead the team once again. While Brown wasn’t necessarily putting up the kind of numbers Kopitar has been, he showed up in the playoffs and was incredible. Brown’s gritty and hard nosed style of play helped him to 8 goals and 12 assists in the post-season. Oddly enough, Kopitar finished the playoffs with the exact same numbers, proving how great of an impact these two had on the teams success.
But Brown and Kopitar aren’t the only ones doing great things in L.A. After being reunited late last season, we can expect Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to really get back into the swing of things this season. They can play together, or on separate lines, but either way opponents are looking at two former 80 point producers, both of which will probably settle comfortably once again into the 60 point range for L.A. this season.
The offensive depth continues with Justin Williams, Simon Gagne and Dustin Penner. At different times in their careers, these guys have all exploded for points. It will not be required of them anymore in L.A., but its scary to think that when the top guys aren’t getting points, you have players like these to fall back on.
Defensively, we have a unit that held their playoff opponents to less than three goals in all but three playoff games last season. Drew Doughty leads on the blue line, and is only getting better. Keep in mind, last season was only Doughty’s fourth in the NHL, and as a youngster who will only turn 23 this season, he still has plenty of time to keep getting better.
Doughty will be joined on the blue line by the likes of Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi, and the up and coming Slava Voynov. We could certainly see Voynov work his way into an increased role this season for the Kings after a great performance in the playoffs last season.
Back between the pipes for the Kings will be Jonathan Quick, one of the leagues premier goaltenders. Last season, Quick lead the way with a .929 save percentage and 1.95 goals against average. He also managed to post 10 shutouts in his 35 win campaign. Quick is another youngster, who at only age 26 has already backstopped his team to a Stanley Cup. We can only assume at his age that he is still going to get better for the Kings, and continue to shine for a team that is already ridiculously strong.
Of course the health of a team is always a major concern, especially when it comes to winning a Stanley Cup. But injuries will remain unpredictable, and right now, the L.A. Kings are healthy. The addition of a lockout into the equation, and potential for a shortened season, only make this team stronger after playing into June last season. The key guys will have more time to prepare for the upcoming season, as well as more time to heal old wounds.
Without a doubt, this team remains one of the strongest contenders in the NHL. Their eighth seeded finish last season will bring up some questions, but on paper everything is in place. All things considered, you’re essentially bringing back the same squad that won a Stanley Cup last season. Other teams are strong, but the Kings seem stronger. Without a doubt, the L.A. Kings have the strongest chance to be the first back-to-back Stanley Cup winners in more than a decade.