The defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings are an NHL powerhouse that doesn’t always assert itself in the regular season. Where do you think they’ll finish in 2014-15? We have them slotted in at No. 2 in the Pacific Division. Find out why.
2013-14 record: 46-28-8
Acquisitions: David Van Der Gulik, Adam Cracknell
Departures: Colin Fraser, Willie Mitchell, LInden Vey
Top five fantasy players: Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, Drew Doughty
Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: If L.A.’s offensive orgasm in the playoffs carries over into 2014-15, the team has a real chance at winning the Western Conference. After averaging just 2.42 goals per game last season, the Kings went nuts during the post-season, humming along at a 3.38 clip. Backed by Jonathan Quick, they already own the league’s No. 1 defense, and their playoff explosion shows they have the weapons to run with the West’s big guns during the regular season, if they only use them. Should they do so, the Presidents’ Trophy is well within reach, especially if freshly minted Marian Gaborik scores like he did in the playoffs.
The Kings will ice the same Stanley Cup-winning team almost to a man, with Willie Mitchell being the lone notable omission. A full season from 22-year-olds Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson will inject some youth into a veteran core that could use a little energy and enthusiasm when the regular season blahs inevitably take over the dressing room.
Bust: With whispers of “dynasty” being heard in Hollywood, it’s Stanley Cup or nothing for Los Angeles. And the team plans its run well in advance. The Kings look at the regular season as one long warmup before the real work begins, and they couldn’t care less about playing for home ice advantage. Instead, they consistently choose to save their bullets for the playoffs. And that’s where the Kings could be vulnerable. From 2011-12 to 2013-14, L.A. finished eighth, fifth and sixth in the Western Conference. Last season, the two wild cards came from the Central Division and odds are the same will happen again in 2014-15. Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary all improved, and the desert dogs of Arizona always seem to hang around in the fight for the playoffs. None is likely to slip past Los Angeles, but it’s worth noting the Canucks were neck and neck with the Kings even halfway through last season.
Bottom Line: The Kings will slide into the playoffs on cruise control, but this time they’ll move up into second in the Pacific, ahead of San Jose, which is set to take a step back. With any luck and a loosening of the offensive reins by coach Darryl Sutter, Los Angeles will look a little more interested in the regular season and be more fun to watch over the 82-game prelude to the playoffs. It remains one of the Cup favorites, despite living in the powerhouse Western Conference.
Prospect To Watch: The Kings always seem to have someone (or two, or three) step up from Manchester to provide some timely contribution. Last season, Tanner Pearson, Linden Vey and Tyler Toffoli were the guys – how about Andy Andreoff in 2014-15? The third round pick from 2011 scored 35 points in 76 AHL games last season and comes with the sandpaper the Kings love, as his 133 penalty minutes will attest.
THN’s Prediction: Second in Pacific Division
Contributors: Ronnie Shuker, Rory Boylen