EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Although coach Darryl Sutter has won a Stanley Cup title and made two conference finals with the Los Angeles Kings, he had never taken his club through a proper training camp until this month.
“This is my third season with this group, and I haven’t been on the ice with them (at camp),” Sutter said Thursday.
The Kings are confident they’ll benefit from all that preparation as they get back to work following two long seasons and one short summer.
With their first workouts of camp at their training complex, the Kings began the process of adding several new pieces to the core of a team that won a club-record six playoff series and its first championship over the last two years.
“You’d rather have a short summer than a long summer,” centre Colin Fraser said. “We’ve been looking forward to getting back together and making another run. We can never be satisfied.”
Los Angeles had plenty of time to recover from its 2012 championship run thanks to the lockout, but this off-season was compressed into three months after the Kings’ loss to eventual champion Chicago. Yet the Kings went back to work largely healthy, with even defenceman Willie Mitchell looking good after a 15-month absence for two knee surgeries.
The Kings returned from their Stanley Cup run with their championship-winning roster completely intact. Los Angeles didn’t keep last season’s entire group, but the Kings are hoping they’ve found replacements for departing veterans while getting a boost from within.
“If we would have had training camp last year, (the roster) was pretty well set,” Sutter said. “Our team was set. This is a big difference. There’s not minor changes. There’s guys that are clearly fighting for spots, and you can’t keep everybody.”
After valuable defenceman Rob Scuderi left as a free agent for Pittsburgh, the Kings signed veteran defenceman Jeff Schultz while hoping to get improved performances from several regulars. They’re hoping Mitchell returns at something close to full strength, while Matt Greene and Robyn Regehr will play larger roles around young stars Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov.
The Kings don’t have many openings in the forward ranks, but centre Brad Richardson created a small opening when he left for Vancouver. Los Angeles acquired agitating forward Daniel Carcillo, but several youngsters will attempt to grab a roster spot with a strong camp.
Los Angeles also traded backup goalie Jonathan Bernier to Toronto, getting forward Matt Frattin and goalie Ben Scrivens in return.
Bernier was a big factor in keeping the Kings in playoff contention last season while Jonathan Quick played his way back into top form. He left behind a healthy competition for the backup job: Scrivens is up against AHL goalie Martin Jones and NHL veteran Mathieu Garon, the Kings netminder from 2005-07 who returned on a tryout contract.
Sutter said Thursday that the Kings’ contingent of left wings last season “didn’t produce enough for us.” Los Angeles will attempt to fill that void with several players sporting a wide variety of skills.
Frattin will get “every opportunity” to play on the Kings’ top lines behind captain Dustin Brown, while Kyle Clifford will get a long look—and there’s a chance the Kings could move youngster Tyler Toffoli to the left side after he impressed during last season’s stretch run.
Frattin has only been in Los Angeles for about a month, but he’s already optimistic about the possibilities around his new team.
“I didn’t think I was going to get traded, but anyone wants to be part of a winning team,” Frattin said. “They’re a big, strong, fast team that doesn’t give up too many goals. That’s pretty exciting to a player.”