NHL Season Review: Los Angeles Kings
Welcome to NHL season review: a series that will breakdown every NHL team this offseason. You can expect to see new posts all summer, starting from the 30th place team, and finishing with the Stanley Cup champions. With so many changes coming in the offseason, some teams will be improving dramatically, while others will be forced to make some tough decisions for the future. It’s going to be a fun summer of hockey talk, so sit down, hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
Year in Review
- Record: 40-27-15 (95 points)
- Goals per game: 2.66 (18th)
- Goals against per game: 2.40 (4th)
- Power play: 19% (11th)
- Penalty kill: 80.9% (16th)
- Shots per game: 30.9(10th)
- Shots against per game: 27(1st)
The last time the L.A Kings missed the playoffs was 2009, the United States was recovering from the second largest financial crisis in history, the World Health Organization declared H1N1 “swine flu” a global pandemic, and Barak Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president. The Kings have made the playoffs every year since then, but that all came to an end last season. For the first time in six years, the Kings would not be part of the quest for the Cup.
The Kings have won two Stanley Cups in the last five years, making it to the Conference Finals in three straight years. Statistically, L.A was a playoff team, but yet they found themselves on the outside looking in at the end of the season.
So what went wrong?
Well for starters, the Kings just weren’t as “clutch” last season compared to previous seasons. The Kings lost 15 games in OT/SO last season, going 2-8 in overtime and 1-7 in the shootout. To make matters worse, the Kings failed to win an OT/SO game on the road, finishing 0-8. That’s 15 points that the Kings left on the table for other teams to grab. Their inability to close out games is the primary reason for their lack of success last season.
The Kings are known for being able to win those close one-goal games, but last season they just couldn’t get it done. Los Angeles finished 13-9-15 in one-goal games, but when you take away all the overtime and shootout results, the Kings actually went 10-9 in one goal games. Good teams find ways to win, and the Kings just couldn’t win the close games.
Offseason Game Plan
The Kings decided this offseason to add some size to their already physical lineup. Los Angeles acquired Milan Lucic from the Boston Bruins in exchang for goaltender Martin Jones, defenseman Colin Miller and the 13th overall pick in the draft. For the first time since 2009-10, Lucic failed to score more than 20-goals (excluding the 2012-13 lockout shortened season) and finished with 44 points in 81 games. The 27-year-old is the perfect fit for Los Angeles: he’s got size, skill, grit and is just a little mean. He’s expected to play on the top line with Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik to start the season. If Lucic can stick on that top line for most of the season, he could easily rack up 60-plus points and 25 goals by the end of the year, making him a steal at the draft table for fantasy owners.
It’s crazy to believe that one of the best teams defensively didn’t make the playoffs. Despite losing Slava Voynov for the entire season to a domestic violence charge, the Kings gave up the fewest shots per game (27/GP) and the fourth lowest goals per game average (2.40 GA/GP). When you break it all down, their defensive core is really on another level.
Jake Muzzin, Brayden McNabb and Drew Doughty finished top three in Corsi-For percentage (CF%), according to stats.hockeyanalysis.com (minimum 750 mins.). Throw in departed Andrej Sekera, and the Kings had four-defensemen finish in the top-20 in CF% for the season. Not only were all three great in their zone, but they combined to score 19 goals and 11 points. Can you say, elite?
In goal, Jonathan Quick was a workhorse. The 29-year-old played 72 games and finished 36-22-13. His 36 wins were the sixth best total in the league, but his 13 OT/SO losses were a league high. Quick doesn’t need to be the best player every night for his team to win, but he’s an important component to his team’s success. The 2011-12 Vezina Trophy finalist will probably play over 70 games again this upcoming season and should be able to repeat, if not better, his totals from last season.
Fans should chalk up last season as a bad year for the Kings. This team is too good on paper to not be a playoff team every year. Their defensive core is still intact and a healthy Alec Martinez and Tanner Pearson will only make this team better. Los Angeles is notorious for starting slow and bringing the fire down the stretch, but if last season was any indication, that strategy is not a good one. The Kings should be hungry to show everyone that they’re one of the NHL’s best teams, one that can compete for the Stanley Cup every April.