With less than a month before the start of hockey’s regular season, the Guardian Liberty Voice will be taking an in-depth look at the 30 organizations, one for each day. Today, 30 in 30 will look at the 2014 Stanley Cup champions – the Los Angeles Kings.
Everyone has heard the old adage: “Defense wins championships.” If the last three years serve as any evidence, that adage has been holding insurmountably true in the NHL. The Kings, who became the first team to win two championships in three seasons since the salary cap was introduced, will continue to be a force to be reckoned with this season. Their particular brand of hockey, which relies heavily on great goaltending, solid defense and puck possession, is a brand that should be easily implemented again this year, as they have had no key departures, returning almost every single piece from their championship squad. So, if the saying “defense wins championships” is true, is it safe to assume that defense will also bring a dynasty?
Last Season – It was not as pretty as the 2011-12 postseason, but the 2013-14 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs ended the exact same for the Los Angeles Kings: With Jonathan Quick hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup above his head. The domination that ensued throughout the Kings 2012 Stanley Cup Playoff run, which resulted in their first championship in franchise history, was truly a sight to behold. However, 2014’s playoff run did not come nearly as easy. History may have been made – multiple times, in fact – but it was not the kind of history a Kings fan with a heart condition would have wanted to see en route to a championship. Regardless, with depth, grit, and the will to win, Los Angeles was able to put it all together and win the Stanley Cup, tied for the most playoff games ever played in a single postseason.
The Offseason – Unexciting, bland or boring…Whichever word chosen does not really matter because any one of them can truly describe this year’s offseason for Los Angeles. Truth be told, a Kings fan would not have wanted it any other way. That will happen when the 2014 Stanley Cup champion is able to return their top priority free agent (Marian Gaborik) early in the offseason for a discounted rate and return just about every member all from their championship roster.
The only exception was the loss of veteran defenseman, Willie Mitchell. Mitchell was Los Angeles’ leading penalty killer, and his steadying presence in the backend will be missed. However, luckily for the Kings, they should have the depth to overcome his absence.
What to Watch for This Season- As if it had been right on cue, the depth and talent level in the Western Conference has gotten even better than it was last year. This type of every day competition will surely test what has been the overarching strength of the Los Angeles Kings over the past three seasons: their health, depth and defense.
Over the past three seasons, Los Angeles has been able to stay relatively healthy, ranking well above the league average and in the tops of the league in the amount of players playing in 87% of games or more. In the rare times that they have not stayed healthy – Quick played in just 49 games last season – the Kings have been able to use their terrific depth to their advantage in order to plug up any holes. Bernier, Scrivens, and Jones: these have been Quick’s backups over the past three seasons and all three of them have combined to post a 2.00 GAA in 68 games played. Pearson, Toffoli and Vey are youngsters that have helped create the ridiculous amount of depth at the forward position for Los Angeles. Moving into next year, however, should Quick, Jones or any of the young players fail to produce or happen to get injured with their more than likely extended playing time, the depth that was always their strength the past three seasons could quickly turn into a weakness.
As for defense, in the two seasons the Kings have won the Stanley Cup, their defense was ranked first (2013-14) and second (2011-12) in the league in team goals against average. In the 2012-13 season, whether it was due to a championship hangover or not, Los Angeles ranked eighth in the NHL in team defense and failed to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Although that ranking was still a decent one in comparison to most NHL teams, it failed to shut down the offensive juggernaut in the Chicago Blackhawks that year. Should their team defense slump in the rankings after winning the championship again, in a much improved Western Conference, do not expect the Kings to pull off a repeat or miracle run like last season’s.
Regardless, the Los Angeles Kings will still be returning just about every piece of their championship squad this season, which happens to be more returning players than any other team in the entire league can boast. Although all of this could just be a ridiculous attempt to grasp at straws in order to say the Kings don’t stand a chance of repeating, the Cup still resides in Los Angeles and truth be told… it seems to be looking really comfortable there.
Join the Guardian Liberty Voice tomorrow, where 30 in 30 will take a look at the underrated Minnesota Wild. Also check out yesterday’s team, the Florida Panthers.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles