3 Biggest Weaknesses the LA Kings Still Need to Address This Offseason
It is hard to believe that the Los Angeles Kings had their worst regular season since they missed the playoffs in 2009 after the performance they put on in the 2011-12 postseason—on their way to becoming the first eight seed to be named Stanley Cup champions.
The Kings disposed of the top three seeds in the Western Conference before closing out their Cinderella run for the Cup with the defeat of a veteran laden New Jersey Devils squad.
Kings general manager Dean Lombardi has done a great job of preserving the Stanley Cup winning roster that looked nearly flawless last postseason, but there are some things that the team will need to address this offseason if they hope to repeat as champions.
Power Play Effectiveness
The Los Angeles Kings' lowly power play was not something that they relied on during their run for the cup. But then again, they were the eighth seed going into the postseason and only finished third in the Pacific Division, and teams were not necessarily gunning for them.
Raising the cup puts an immediate target on your back, and the Kings should expect the best effort from every team that they play, night in and night out. They will need to solidify their power play if they want a chance to repeat.
During the regular season, the Kings ranked 17th with the man-advantage, only converting on 17 percent of their chances.
Surprisingly, the team's production did not pick up in the playoffs. The eventual Stanley Cup champions only converted on 12.8 percent of their chances on the power play. It was the one glaring weak point of the Kings' game.
Only Jeff Carter (four) and Mike Richards (two) found the net multiple times on the power play, and the team only had 12 total power play goals in the playoffs.
One solution to this problem could be the acquisition of the 39-year-old left winger, Tomas Holmstrom. Holmstrom is an immovable object in front of the opposition's net and a notorious pest. He has 122 career goals on the power play.
The veteran winger has seen his production drop in recent years and could be picked up at a low price tag. Holmstrom averaged only 11:52 of ice time per game last year on a talented Detroit squad and could play a somewhat limited role on special teams if the Kings decided to pursue him.
Finding the Back of the Net
The Kings ranked second to last in goals-per-game during the 2011-12 season, and if it were not for a career year in net by Vezina Trophy candidate and Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick, the Kings may have not have even gotten into the playoffs.
Anze Kopitar was the team's leading scorer with only 25 goals, and Justin Williams and Dustin Brown followed closely behind him with 22 goals each.
The Kings only averaged 2.29 goals per game during the 2011-12 regular season. Only the Minnesota Wild were behind them, with 2.02 goals per game.
The team obviously picked up its production in the playoffs, with Brown, Kopitar and Jeff Carter scoring eight goals each during the team's playoff runs. The team finished the playoffs with a 2.85 goals per game on average.
It is clear that the team already has enough talent on the roster to put up more goals per game—that became evident in the playoffs—and there is also not much left on the free-agent market to improve the team's offensive production, with the exception of former Phoenix Coyote captain Shane Doan.
Doan is a 16-year veteran who has scored 50 plus points in all but one season since the 1999-00 season (he scored 49 during the 2001-02 season). He has also been praised for his leadership ability and is often mentioned in the conversation as one of the best captains in the NHL.
The question with Doan is where he would fit in with the Kings.
Brown made it clear that he is the unquestioned captain in Los Angeles after the team's historic playoff run, despite his name being mentioned around the trade deadline earlier in the year.
Doan has been a constant professional through his career and would have no problem falling in behind Brown in a leadership role. However, the team already has two solid right wingers in Williams and Carter to fill out the first two lines.
If Doan would be willing to take the playing time of a third liner, the Kings would have three lines that would all be major threats to score.
The Kings' third line would then consist of Dustin Penner, who under produced tremendously last year and was held back by a pancake-eating incident, Jarrett Stoll, who led the team in faceoff percentage during the regular season and also showed flashes of his potential in the playoffs, and of course, Doan.
That would be a third line that has more potential and talent than most other teams' first lines. If the team found proper chemistry, the Kings could easily lead the league in goals per game.
Even if the Kings do not end up picking up Doan, they still have enough talent on their roster to be among the league leaders in goals per game. They just need to play with the determination and grit that they played with throughout the playoffs.
Solidfying the Backup Goaltender Spot
Jonathan Quick put himself among the NHL's elite goaltenders after a year in which he put up career highs in shutouts (10), save percentage (.929) and goals against average (1.95).
Quick also stepped up his game during the team's postseason run when he posted a 16-4 record that included three shutouts, a .946 save percentage and a 1.41 goals against average.
Quick's stellar play between the pipes even landed him the coveted Conn Smythe Trophy for being the MVP of the playoffs.
While Quick has been great for the Kings in net, the Kings cannot be tempted to rely too heavily on his play in net.
As many other teams in NHL history have realized, if you rely strictly on your goaltender to keep you in games, you are one injury away from your season going down the drain. This is why it is crucial to have a viable second option in net.
Jonathan Bernier has been that second option for the Kings.
However, Bernier has made it clear this offseason that he does not want to be a backup for too much longer.
Bernier told the Toronto Sun on July 12, "I asked the Kings to trade me before the trade deadline, but they refused. Now that Jonathan Quick signed a long-term deal (10 years), I expect to be traded before training camp starts."
Bernier has been a solid backup for the Kings, but he is unproven as a starter. If a team came with the right deal, the Kings would be happy to oblige to a trade.
If Bernier does depart via trade, the Kings would have limited options.
The Kings have some young talent on their affiliate teams, but the most likely way to bolster another Stanley Cup run would be to pick up a proven veteran via free agency.
Veterans Ty Conklin and Dwayne Roloson are still available in free agency and could be picked up for very cheap.
While both of these veterans may be short-term solutions to solidify the backup spot, they could be just what the team needs when Quick needs rest or goes down due to injuries.
What do you think that the Los Angeles Kings need to improve upon if they want to make another run at the Stanley Cup?
Follow me on Twitter, @john_degroote