Los Angeles Kings: 5 Things They Need to Do to Repeat as Stanley Cup Champions
With labor talks set to resume on Friday between the NHL and the NHLPA, there is still a glimmer of hope that the season won't be shortened too much. (Let's face it, it's going to be shortened at least a bit.)
Kings fans, and the Kings alike, might want to start thinking about what the team could do to repeat the magical run they had back in May and June.
It won't be easy by any means. The Kings will now have a target on their backs, and they will have an even heavier weight of expectation to carry along the way.
However, it's arguable that the Kings are still one of the most talented teams in the league top to bottom, and a chance of repeat success isn't a long shot. Here are some things that the Kings need to try and execute to remain among the leagues best and clinch another crown.
If there is one thing that usually trips up a great team, it's injuries.
The Kings have a lineup with many key pieces, but not surprisingly, when one of those key pieces goes down injured, it can quickly get difficult.
Los Angeles also has a team of players with a history of nagging injuries. Simon Gagne missed the majority of the season with a concussion, and Mike Richards and Drew Doughty also missed time with concussions. Previously oft-injured Justin Williams has had two of his most healthy seasons over the last year, and Willie Mitchell also surprisingly avoided the injury bug which has commonly peppered his career.
Call it luck, call it a good training staff, but the Kings should pray their good fortune continues.
Injuries are definitely the nature of the game, and the Kings are a deep team. However, all it would take is a few weeks missing Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, or Jonathan Quick, and the Kings could be looking at a tough stretch.
Avoid the December-February Slump
It's honestly as predictable as winter snow in Minnesota, or a tornado in the Midwest.
The Kings are awful during the middle of the season. It happened in 2009-10, and it happened last season as well. It seems that mentally, around the winter classic and the all-star break, the Kings check out.
Both years it almost cost them a playoff berth, and last season it almost certainly cost them a division title.
Wouldn't it be nice if the Kings were to get an upper seed for once? Or an easier playoff draw? Let's be real, last season was amazing, but making your team the road team every series and having to play upper-seeded teams is no recipe for repeated success.
The Kings lose a lot of ground in the months of December through February, remedy that and we could be looking at a lot more banners in the rafters of Staples.
So many Kings had strong post-seasons and solid rookie or sophomore seasons.
Trevor Lewis and Dwight King were key to a successful third line, and the emergence of Slava Voynov and the improvement of Alec Martinez made the team better as a whole.
Now build on it. The Kings success came from depth, and the depth players need to keep growing. Regression would be a horrible thing.
It happens though.
Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds are recent Kings' examples of regression in young players.
The Kings are in the best position ever to have continued success. That continued success however is banking on guys like Lewis, Andrei Loktionov, Voynov, Martinez, Jordan Nolan, and King, to not just have one good season and be done.
No Line Juggling
I'm going to tell you a story. The story is about Brad Richardson.
Back when the Kings had Terry Murray as a coach, in a span of four games Brad Richardson played on every line possible. To make matters worse, he played in all three possible forward positions.
I'll tell you another story. One time the Kings had Peter Harrold, a defenseman, playing center.
Oh isn't it fun to look back on the times of Terry Murray and wonder why Kopitar was playing with Wayne Simmonds and Brad Richardson on the first line? Then the next game he'd be playing with Justin Williams and Ryan Smyth? Then Justin Williams would play the next game on the 4th line with Kevin Westgarth and Peter Harrold?
Thankfully, the odds of the great line juggling act that was the Los Angeles Kings, are slim to none. Thank Darryl Sutter for that.
He has kept players together, given them a set role to grow into, and never touched them.
There is a comfort in lining up with the same guy every night and getting a feel for who they are as a player and how they play. It can only lead to success.
Avoid the Lockout
Now really, there isn't a whole lot the Kings as a team can do here. This isn't up to them. But they really need to not have this lockout happen if they want to repeat.
And no, I don't mean this in the most obvious of senses. Clearly if there is a lockout the Kings can't technically repeat. I mean it in respect to the team moving forward.
Worse case scenario we miss a whole season. The Kings will all be a year older, and many players will be a year removed from the game. To guys like Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi, Matt Greene, Colin Fraser, and Simon Gagne, that could be devastating. For some it might prompt retirement, or a supreme lack of sharpness upon returning.
There is also the chance that the guys who go to Europe could get injured or never return.
It's bad for the entire league and every team, but I don't think it's unfair to say that it probably has the most devastating effect on a franchise coming off their first cup ever, and who are trying to build a dynasty.