One season after winning their second Stanley Cup in three years, the Los Angeles Kings missed the playoffs, stunning a hockey world that fully expected them to mount a late charge and then be a royal pain in the playoffs. The Kings became the fifth Cup winner in the expansion era (post 1966) to miss the postseason the following year, joining the 1967 Toronto Maple Leafs, 1969 Montreal Canadiens, 1995 New Jersey Devils and 2006 Carolina Hurricanes. L.A. finished two points behind the eighth place Calgary Flames, placing fourth in the Pacific Division with 95 points.
|F Milan Lucic||F Justin Williams|
|D Christian Erhoff||F Mike Richards|
|G Jhonas Enroth||G Martin Jones|
|F Jarret Stoll|
|D Andrej Sekera|
|D Robyn Regehr|
What Would Make 2015-16 A Success?
Getting their mojo back. The Kings were once the team nobody wanted to play in the playoffs because of their physical, heavy style and their uncanny ability to pull out wins when needed. Eleven playoff series and 64 playoff games in three seasons may have taken its toll, however, while playing that style.
The Kings were a brutal 2-8 in shootouts last season. Had they gone 5-5, they would have made the playoffs. There is reason to believe that will change this season because this may be the best offensive group the Kings have featured in their recent history.
L.A. made a big splash in the offseason by acquiring rugged forward Milan Lucic from the Bruins for goalie Martin Jones and L.A.’s first-round draft pick (13th overall). Lucic is coming off a disappointing season, but he has 139 goals and 203 assists in 566 regular-season games, and he plays with that sandpaper style that fits so well with L.A.’s character.
What gets lost in L.A.’s demise last season was that they lost defenseman Slava Voynov for the year (or maybe forever) due to his legal issues, and then lost talented forward Tanner Pearson and trade-deadline acquisition Andrej Sekera to season-ending injuries.
Much has been made of the Voynov void, but adding Christian Ehrhoff was a solid move and, as L.A. Kings Insider Jon Rosen notes, L.A. plays with excellent structure and is the league’s top team at operating in the offensive zone so defensive concerns may be overblown. The Kings still finished seventh in the NHL in goals against last season, a mere four goals out of the top five.
Captain Dustin Brown’s lagging offensive production the past two seasons is a concern, but with young players like Nick Shore and Jordan Weal joining the lineup and Tyler Toffoli taking the next step, it may not be as big of a concern.
L.A. is still built for the playoffs and the elite talents of defenseman Drew Doughty, center Anze Kopitar and scoring forward Marian Gaborik make them a perpetual threat for a deep playoff run.
What Could Derail the Kings?
Center depth, for starters. Is Shore ready to assume the No. 3 role? Losing Jarret Stoll (now with the Rangers) after a bit of legal trouble is a decent blow to the middle. All L.A. has to do is look at its southern California rival, Anaheim, to know how important that position is to success.
L.A.’s style is also a concern. It wears a team out over the course of a season as the Kings’ key players have logged a lot of games. The grind certainly played a role last year. If they can stay healthy, however, the Kings may benefit from an early summer and be right back in the hunt this spring.
Is This a Playoff Team?
Yes. The Kings are still well constructed for a Cup run. Once in the dance, the Kings have all the ingredients — balanced scoring, suffocating defense, elite goaltending, hard and heavy style — to win it all. L.A. will be one of the favorites this season, gunning for its third Cup in five seasons as it looks to pull even with the Blackhawks in the argument over which team is the NHL’s marquee franchise.
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