THN’s PRE-SEASON PREDICTION: First in Pacific Division.
KEY DEPARTURES: Dustin Penner, Rob Scuderi, Brad Richardson, Jonathan Bernier.
KEY ADDITIONS: Dan Carcillo, Jeff Schultz, Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens.
PROS: It’s a pretty big laundry list of positives in L.A. right now, starting with the fact this team won the Stanley Cup two years ago with the exact same core of Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Dustin Brown. Darryl Sutter is still the mastermind behind the bench and the system has been adept at adding youngsters into the fold when needed, Tyler Toffoli being the latest to earn spot duty. Even though veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi is gone, the Kings still have deadline pickup Robyn Regehr to fill that shutdown role and Slava Voynov has emerged as a huge threat in the offensive end, giving the Kings dueling weapons from the blueline alongside Doughty. Up front, Matt Frattin brings a younger, more consistent effort than the departed Dustin ‘post-season’ Penner, while Daniel Carcillo gives the team the option of getting rough and dirty with any opponent if challenged, taking pressure off Kyle Clifford. The team has talent at every position, so much so that we’ve gotten all the way to the end of the Pros section before mentioning potential Canadian Olympian Jeff Carter, whose 26 goals ranked fourth in the NHL last season. Assuming the Kings stay clear of any major injuries, they will once again be contenders for the Cup and one of the favorites in the West.
CONS: Finding a flaw in the Kings is like telling Miss America she could lose a couple pounds. Other than a lot of players headed to the Olympics, there’s no structural needs for a team that lost to the Stanley Cup champs in the conference final. Ben Scrivens may be a slight downgrade from Jonathan Bernier as the team’s No. 2 goaltender, but Quick is a workhorse, so the effect is minimal unless he gets hurt.
X-FACTOR: It may be boring, but the biggest key for a team as loaded with talent and depth as the Kings is to maintain health. The star-studded lineup won’t do much if it’s ravaged by injuries. With the Olympics coming up, and since the Kings have played so much hockey over the past two years, the injury list is worth monitoring this season.
PERIPHERAL PREDICTION: Is it possible the Kings could pick up a Vezina (Quick), Norris (Doughty), Calder (Toffoli) and Hart (Kopitar, Brown or Carter) in the same season? Even getting two or three would be an achievement.
PACIFIC NO. 1: LOS ANGELES KINGS