With all of the talk about the Chicago Blackhawks attempting to become the first NHL dynasty in over 25 years, many people have overlooked a team that just inched another step closer to solidifying their own run. The Los Angeles Kings won at home Monday night against the Blackhawks by a score of 5-2, and are now one win away from making their second Finals appearance in three years. Over the past five seasons, the Kings have been building a strong resume to make their case in becoming the next great NHL dynasty, but it is their future that remains most promising.
In the last five years, the Los Angeles Kings have amassed 453 total regular season points. Only five teams have posted more points than that during that span: Pittsburgh Penguins (496), Chicago Blackhawks (494), San Jose Sharks (482), Boston Bruins (475) and Detroit Red Wings (457). That is some pretty good company to keep considering that the last six Stanley Cup Championships reside in the hands of these teams. Regular season points are an important factor to look at when judging a team’s merits, but it is playoff wins and Stanley Cup Championships that can truly solidify a team as a dynasty.
The Kings have now made it to the Western Conference Finals in three straight seasons, the most consecutive appearances for a team since the Detroit Red Wings did it from 2007-2009 (one Stanley Cup win). Los Angeles also holds the most playoff wins of any NHL team over the past three seasons (including this year) with 36, followed by the Chicago Blackhawks (27), New York Rangers (26) and Boston Bruins (24). Go back four playoff years and the Kings are only two wins shy of surpassing the Boston Bruins with 40 wins over that span of time, a task that should be accomplished soon. Nevertheless, going back to the future, if the Kings should win the Cup this year, it would appear that the consecutive Conference Finals appearance streak- along with another shot at repeating as Stanley Cup Champions- is in their near future.
Coming into next season, Los Angeles will have to deal with only having three unrestricted free-agents: RW Marian Gaborik, D Willie Mitchell and D Matt Greene. Given his talent and fit with the team, Marian Gaborik should be a priority signing for the Kings this offseason and with $13.1 million in cap space remaining, it should not be hard to meet the free-agent’s demands. Mitchell and Greene could also resign with the Kings, as they should not be worth even close to the remaining $6 million in cap room. With Gaborik being the most likely to stay in LA and with the possibility of Greene and Mitchell returning, this means the team should have every single one of their main pieces back for a repeat-Stanley Cup run next season.
Heading into the 2015-16 season, the Kings still have a bright future with only four unrestricted free-agents surfacing: Justin Williams, Jarrett Stoll, Robyn Regehr and Alec Martinez. Keeping the then 28-year-old Martinez would appear to be the only priority at that time considering Regehr, Stoll and Williams would be ages 35, 33 and 34 respectively. That is where the Kings loaded prospect pool comes in.
Transitioning from old to young can be hard for any team to accomplish, but under Head Coach Darryl Sutter’s watch and system, the success and transition from minor league to NHL has come quite easily for the Kings prospects. If the Kings were to lose Defenseman Regehr, they would have 22-year-old defenseman, Derek Forbort, at 6’4” and 212 pounds to fill that spot. And if they lost Forwards Stoll and Williams, it would not be too big of a loss as the Kings have youngsters in Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli as restricted free-agents already making a splash on the big stage.
With the combination of having signed long-term contracts with core players like Defensemen Slava Voynov and Drew Doughty, Forwards Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, Captain Dustin Brown and Goaltender Jonathan Quick to go along with a deep and talented group of forwards and a mixture of both gritty and skilled defensemen in their prospect system, the Kings are poised to become the next dynasty. The fact that they have already made it to three-straight Western Conference Finals and have the potential to win Stanley Cups in two of three years only begins their rise to true greatness. Nobody knows exactly what the future holds for the Kings, but it would be hard to find a hockey fan in Los Angeles that is not giddy about where it would appear to be going.