How do you do better than a championship? How do you even start to compare a championship season to other regular seasons past, present and future?
With the LA Kings it's an interesting thing—being a long-standing team finally winning their first championship and shrugging off the "not a hockey town" talk.
But as people around Los Angeles will probably tell you, the expectations have seemingly been raised for the team both nationally and locally. Amongst the fanbase, every loss seems like an absolute travesty, and every win is to be expected. It's one of the results of increased expectations for a young, championship-caliber team.
How have the Kings fared with the increased national media attention and local support? Well, it's been a mixed bag.
The team still remains pretty obscure amongst the main outlets like NBC Sports and NHL Network. The east coast bias obviously has a pretty significant effect; however, it's been more of a feeling that the Kings are not meeting expectations of some sort.
Much attention has been given to the slow start the team has had: the plethora of injuries, the enigmatic performances of Jonathan Quick and the goal-less performance thus far of high-priced defenseman Drew Doughty.
While all those things are indeed true—the team did have a slow start, they do have a lot of injuries, Jonathan Quick isn't the same and Doughty still doesn't have a goal—they are in fact doing much better at this point in 2013 than in 2011-12.
Despite a magical 2012 postseason run, the 2011-12 Kings were a pretty big mess before the halfway point of the season. The offense was near the bottom of the league (alongside the power play), they had fired coach Terry Murray and had struggling key players like Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll and Dustin Penner. They also had rumors swirling around about longtime captain Dustin Brown, and many people questioning the moves and job security of franchise mastermind Dean Lombardi.
But of course the remedy for all of that was a championship. An unprecedented Stanley Cup run that started from the bottom of the Western Conference.
So 2013 rolls around and people expect a repeat, and being that L.A. isn't a huge hockey market, a massive bandwagon fan abandonment.
The 2013 season, despite injuries and inconsistency to start, has seen the emergence of several young faces, a reinvigorated offense, some astounding performances and a sellout streak that currently stands at 39. Local support seems to be even higher than previous years with more and more fans getting interested in the sport and showing up to games.
On the ice the Kings have played well enough to find themselves in the midst of a heated Western Conference battle. Two points separates fourth from seventh, and only four points separates third from ninth. However, unlike several years prior, the Kings are right in the thick of things and playing well, currently holding the No. 6 seed.
Are they getting the recognition for being one of the hotter teams in the league right now? Maybe, maybe not, depending on who you listen to. Some like to focus on the negative aspects while others will tell you that the Kings are among one of the favorites for another deep run.
It's hard to necessarily match success or gage success based on a Stanley Cup-winning season, but in 2013 so far, I think it's fair to say that the Kings are playing well enough to potentially match that success or come close to it.
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