The first Stanley Cup title won by the Los Angeles Kings may not bring the team the long-term respect that previous winners like the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins received from the experts after winning the league championship.
The reason: None of those teams came from the No. 8 seed to win the title. All had enjoyed much better regular seasons than the Kings, who could easily have missed the playoffs had they not performed well in the final few weeks of the regular season.
But a closer examination reveals that the Kings were anything but lucky or fluky winners because the roster was flush with talent.
There was one significant need throughout the majority of the season—goal scoring—but the trade deadline addition of Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets (an offseason acqusition from the Philadelphia Flyers) broke the logjam in that area and allowed the Kings to move up to contender status.
Carter was not the team's Most Valuable Player or anything close to it. However, he played a valuable role. His ability to create scoring chances and finish them gave the Kings an element that was missing prior to his arrival. Carter scored eight goals and had five assists during the playoffs, while three of his goals were game-winners.
Carter did not come at an inexpensive price. The Kings traded highly regarded defenseman traded Jack Johnson to Columbus for Carter, which allowed Slava Voynov to return to the team from its AHL affiliate in Manchester and play a key role on Los Angeles' blue line.
The tangible impact of Carter joining the team was dramatic. The Kings went 29-9-3 after his arrival and were clearly the dominant team in the playoffs.
They will learn that it is very tough to repeat in the NHL. Recent champions have all learned that the short summer break has an impact on a team's ability to prepare for the upcoming season and can also leave them drained when it comes to the following season's Stanley Cup run.
However, it's hard to find specific areas of concern for the future.
They are most secure in goal, where Jonathan Quick was as good or perhaps even better than Tim Thomas was for the Boston Bruins the year before. He had a 1.41 goals-against average and stopped 94.6 percent of the shots he faced.
While he will be a free agent after the 2012-13 season, the Kings can put together a deal during this offseason that will keep him a part of the franchise for many years to come.
The Kings have a first line comprised of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams. Brown and Williams punish opponents with strength and power, while Kopitar's quick and accurate shot makes him one of the most underrated scorers in the league.
Given time and space, Kopitar will pick the corner at crucial moments. Kopitar and Brown tied for a team-high 20 points during this playoff season.
The play of the defense often gets overlooked since so much credit goes to Quick, but Drew Doughty is already a star in the league and will only get better. Willie Mitchell's responsible play—particularly when the Kings were killing penalties—was remarkable, while Voynov's puck-carrying ability and the all-around play of Alec Martinez, Matt Greene and Rob Scuderi were vital for Darryl Sutter's team.
Few teams will be able to match the Kings' depth when the 2012-13 starts. They will want to bring center Jarret Stoll back and will need to sign him after free agency begins July 1.
But if the Kings can keep the celebrations within reason and don't suffer too many debilitating injuries next season, they could have a reasonable chance of becoming the first team since the 1997-98 Red Wings to defend their title.
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