Quick to shoulder the load as Kings look for Cup return
Daniel Carcillo, Matt Frattin, Jeff Schultz, Ben Scrivens.
Jonathan Bernier, Dustin Penner, Brad Richardson, Rob Scuderi.
Last year: The Los Angeles Kings’ defence of their first ever Stanley Cup Championship began and ended in the exact same manner, a loss to the team that would unseat them at the summit of the league, The Chicago Blackhawks.
Sandwiched between an opening night’s 5-2 home loss and a Game 5, double-overtime, 4-3 elimination defeat was a credible and, at times, very strong season.
Goaltender Jonathan Quick, who was easily the Kings’ best player during their title run, had surgery on his back and struggled during the 2012-13 regular season to regain the form that saw him pull an eighth-seeded team all the way to the Stanley Cup.
As the season progressed, Quick eventually returned to top form and, as a result, the Kings once again caught fire and rolled into the Conference Final before being bounced by the Blackhawks.
Forward Anze Kopitar was a dynamic offensive threat during the season for the Kings, as he led the team in points, posting 42 in 47 games. Where he struggled was in the playoffs as he found it tough to replicate that success, contributing only nine points.
Back together for a full season, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards took advantage of the chemistry the two built playing for the Philadelphia Flyers and were strong, not just during the season but right through the playoffs.
After a slow start, defenceman Drew Doughty was at his puck-moving best in 2012-13 and - although it took him more than half the season to find a goal - he had a respectable six goals and 16 assists by the end of the campaign.
This Year: The Kings have strived for stability since capturing the Stanley Cup and have, for the most part, achieved that goal. Heading into last season, they basically returned the same team and will do close to the same again this year.
Retaining the services of forwards Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis and Jordan Nolan will allow the team stability in their forward ranks.
Finally cashing in on goaltending prospect Jonathan Bernier in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs allowed the Kings to add forward Matt Frattin and they also picked up punisher Dan Carcillo in a deal with the Blackhawks.
While most of those players are considered depth pieces or bottom-six forwards, keep in mind this team still has the services of Richards, Kopitar, Carter, Justin Williams and captain Dustin Brown up front, with Doughty and Slava Voynov on the blueline.
Where Tyler Toffoli fits into this squad is another question that could go a long way to answering just how good this team can be going forward.
The Kings have a very deep core of players and have added both speed and toughness to their roster. If they can count on health, they will once again be very tough to beat in 2013-14.
The Long and the Short – How will a full 82-game slate affect the Kings' performance after a shortened season?
The Kings are such a big and physical team with lots of guys up and down the lineup ready to deliver a punishing hit or drop the gloves and exact a physical toll.
The full season should really give this team the chance to grind and wear down their opponents, especially as the stretch drive leads into the playoffs.
This roster was built for a marathon and not a sprint so expect when the dust settles that they will be there and ready to compete once again for the Stanley Cup.
On the Books – What off-season moves did the Kings make to get themselves back in cap shape?
They haven’t, at least not yet. At the writing of this preview, the Kings are actually sitting over the cap, so not only would they have to unload a salary before they could make any more additions to the roster, they are actually going to need to make a move before the season begins to be compliant in the first place.
Lombardi does have until the season begins to get his roster in order for the 2013-14 campaign and he was able to get Toronto to eat some salary in their acquisition of Bernier.
Long Division – A look at the intriguing possibilities ahead for the Kings after realignment.
On their way to a franchise-first Stanley Cup Championship in 2011-12, the first victim of the eighth-seeded Kings was the Vancouver Canucks. In a brief-but-physical five game series, a budding rivalry was touched off.
With these two teams now in the same division, there will be many chances to see how the Canucks speed and puck movement fairs against the Kings physical puck possession style of play.
As great as that match-up looks, the history between the Kings and the Edmonton Oilers is storied and includes the most famous trade in NHL history.
With both of these teams now playing in the Pacific Division, there will be many great nights of looking back while building new moments in the future.
Fantasy - Scott Cullen's Player to Watch
Tyler Toffoli, LW - Still an NHL rookie, Toffoli put up 208 points in 133 games over his final two junior seasons in the Ontario Hockey League and made a smooth transition to the pros, scoring 28 goals and 51 points in 58 AHL games as a rookie pro last season. He added 11 points in 22 (regular season plus playoff) games, not looking the least bit out of place, with the Kings.
Coming into this season, then, Toffoli looks like a good bet to start on the second line with Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, the kind of opportunity that should allow him to showcase his scoring ability and perhaps play more than the 11 minutes per game he did in his first look with the Kings.
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Pressing Question: Is Jonathan Quick the best goaltender in the NHL?
Coming off his Conn Smythe-winning playoff run, Jonathan Quick rebounded from surgery to post an 18-13-4 record with a 2.45 goals-against average in 37 regular season games.
He then followed that up with a 1.86 playoff GAA, leading the defending champions back to the Western Conference Final where they were banished in five games by the Chicago Blackhawks.
The 27-year-old netminder will be in the first year of a 10-year deal that has a cap hit of $5.8 million per season.
His career numbers are also top notch. In 286 career games he has 149 wins, a 2.32 GAA and 25 career shutouts.
There are many great goaltenders around the league but the question is, is Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick the best of them?
- Los Angeles Kings Preview by Ken Rodney, TSN.ca