Let’s look at the positives: the Los Angeles Kings had one of the best defenses in the NHL last season and made the playoffs. The poor? The team is filled with dead-weight contracts which have obliterated their thickness and they got easily bumped in the first round of the playoffs.
Despite the negatives, you’ll be hard-pressed to locate a better core nucleus on a group with Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick. Kopitar is the reigning Selke Trophy winner and Doughty is coming off a great 2015-16 season that saw him win the Norris Trophy.
The question remains: can the Kings’ low-scoring, defensive-minded play conceal their issues with depth and lead them to the next deep playoff run?
Stanley Cup +1800
It seems like a distant memory, but LA hoisted the cup at the 2013-14 season. The team then followed up that performance by not making the playoffs the following season and a miserable first-round ousting the season after.
The crux of the Kings is battle-tested and more than able to hold its own in a Stanley Cup series, however, how the rest of the group fares is hard to predict. And heaven forbid the very best players on the team hit a scoring slump in the playoffs since relying on the bottom-six forwards for offense is sure to doom LA.. That’s not to say that they can’t create a run based on phenomenal defense along with also a red-hot goalie in Quick.
Western Conference +750
The Western Conference is loaded with teams. The perennially contending Chicago Blackhawks still look like the course of the summit but there are still emerging powerhouses in St. Louis and Anaheim. In order for the Kings to win the Western Conference for the third time in six seasons, they need to be able to beat these 3 groups.
The Kings combined to get a middling 5-4-2 record against the Blackhawks, Blues and Kings last season. In fact, one of those three teams, LA’s only winning record was contrary to the Blackhawks.
Pacific Division +225
Though the Kings have won two Stanley Cups in the past five seasons, they’ve not won a Pacific Division title. In fact, the only time that the Kings finished the regular season atop their division was in 1990-91 when they awakened the Smythe Division. It’s quite realistic that the Kings can end that drought this year — as they are co-faves together with the Ducks — however they will need to prevent another crippling slump.
The Kings squandered a 10-point division lead last year to the Ducks following the team imploded to shut the year out. LA was 30-16-3 entering the all-star break last season and then faltered to a pedestrian 18-18-3 to the rest of the season.
The largest cause of this collapse was that their struggles within the branch, as the Kings went just 10-7-0 against the Pacific following the all-star break compared with 8-4 before. When you factor in that six of these wins following the break came from Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton, you can be justifiably concerned entering this season.
Point Total OVER/UNDER 97.5
In Darryl Sutter’s three full seasons as head coach of the Kings — we aren’t including the shortened 2012-13 season — that the team has averaged 99 points each season. It is really difficult to see that this team regressing too much after posting 102 points last year, but a small drop could be expected considering their ice-cold close to last year.
In order to surpass the 97.5-point mark, some older gamers will probably should provide added scoring. Goal scoring will especially be required in the wings, as the sole winger to finish with over 40 points last season was Milan Lucic, who signed with Edmonton this offseason.
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