Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season TSN.ca Power Rankings, and the Los Angeles Kings are up next. Get the lowdown on their off-season and the issues they face this season. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Kings!
Los Angeles Kings
2009-10: 46-27-9 (6th in West, Eliminated in Conference QF by Canucks)
General Manager: Dean Lombardi (5th Season)
Head Coach: Terry Murray (3rd Season)
What they did in the off-season:
After reaching the post-season for the first time since the lockout, big things were expected this off-season in LaLa land. Unfortunately for Kings fans, the big splash never really came. Kings brass spent the majority of the summer sniffing around free agent forward Ilya Kovalchuk, but after twice stopping and then restarting negotiations, they eventually lost out on the Russian sniper to the New Jersey Devils.
It was not a completely dry summer on the left coast, however. After acquiring his rights way back in February of 2007, the Kings finally lured defenceman Johan Fransson over from Sweden after a strong season with Lulea. Los Angeles also locked up several of their own free agents, signing Scott Parse, Brad Richardson and Rich Clune, although veterans Sean O'Donnell, Fredrik Modin, Jeff Halpern, Randy Jones and Raitis Ivanans were all allowed to walk. After a disappointing season, Alex Frolov headed to Manhattan; he was replaced through free agency with Alex Ponikarovsky. Los Angeles then bolstered an already strong blueline with the addition of Willie Mitchell. With loads of cap space remaining, and seemingly nowhere to spend it at the moment, the Kings may well pull off a deal prior to the start of the season as they continue to search for a game-breaker after losing out on Kovalchuk.
Biggest issue facing the team:
While the 2009-10 season may not have been perfect for the Kings, a lot of things worked out in their favour. They received stellar goaltending from the previously unproven Jonathan Quick while Drew Doughty developed into one of the league's elite defencemen more quickly than expected. In addition, the Kings were absolute road warriors as no team won more than the 24 games that they did away from home. The question now is whether they can repeat last season's success. The Kings have as much young talent at their disposal as any team in the league. Their forward group is deep with a nice mix of young bloods and grey beards and their defence corps is as strong as any group in the league. Their biggest problem may well be in net, however it is not due to lack of talent. Uber-prospect Jonathan Bernier has been cooling his heels in the AHL for the past two seasons and appears ready to make the jump to the big leagues. The only problem is that Jonathan Quick gave the team outstanding goaltending last season and has earned the right to be called the number one man. Head coach Terry Murray must find a way to get enough starts for each ‘keeper to keep them both happy, a very difficult task. Considering the difficulties that so many other teams are facing, though, having too much talent is a very nice problem to have.
Player to watch:
Although just 20 years old, Drew Doughty has established himself as one of the best defencemen in the world and already has an Olympic gold medal and a Norris Trophy nomination on his resume. After such an incredibly successful season you have to wonder what the London, Ontario, native can do for an encore. His improvement at both ends of the ice from year one to year two was remarkable, it would seem preposterous to believe that he could make a similar jump in year three…wouldn't it? Considering that he is up for restricted free agency at the end of the season, it would behoove Kings management to get his name on a contract before the price of re-signing him becomes all that much higher. Regardless of the final figures on the contract, he will be worth every penny of it to the Kings. He shouldn't feel too bad about missing out on the Norris last season as there will likely be plenty of hardware coming his way in the not-too distant future.