The Top Los Angeles Kings Storylines to Follow After the Trade Deadline
The trade deadline has passed, and the Los Angeles Kings appear to have increased their chances of making another deep playoff run.
Their major acquisition was Marian Gaborik. The Kings picked up the veteran forward from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Matt Frattin and draft picks. Dean Lombardi also dealt prospects Hudson Fasching and Nicolas Deslauriers to the Buffalo Sabres for Brayden McNabb, Jonathan Parker and draft picks.
The Gaborik trade should bring up memories of the 2012 trade deadline, when Lombardi dealt Jack Johnson and a draft pick to the Blue Jackets for Jeff Carter. It was just what the struggling L.A. offense needed, and the team went on to win the Stanley Cup.
With that said, here are the top storylines to follow now that the deadline has passed.
Stats courtesy of NHL.com.
Marian Gaborik's Offensive Impact
The 32-year-old forward has been limited to just 22 games this season because of injuries. In his first game back after missing 17 contests due to a sprained knee, Gaborik broke his collarbone.
However, he's healthy now and has two points in his last four games. The question going forward is whether Gaborik can lift the Kings from the 27th spot in the NHL in offense.
Gaborik is a creative, highly skilled winger who is still capable of putting up 35 to 40 goals a season if healthy. He should provide some stability to the Kings' top six, which Darryl Sutter has been experimenting with throughout the season.
As Bleacher Report's Vinh Cao explains, Gaborik could slot in on the left side of the top line with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams. That would allow Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to team up on the second line with Dwight King or maybe Dustin Brown.
Gaborik should have a significant impact playing with a dynamic center like Kopitar.
Brayden McNabb's Role
The good news for McNabb is that he went from the NHL's worst team to a Stanley Cup contender. The bad news is he probably won't get an opportunity to play anytime soon.
The Kings' core group of six defensemen—Drew Doughty, Slava Voynov, Jake Muzzin, Willie Mitchell, Robyn Regehr and Alec Martinez—is locked in for the stretch run.
McNabb does add some depth on the back end and should compete for a spot in the lineup in the long run, should injuries occur. Like prospect Derek Forbort, McNabb is a solid shutdown defenseman who uses his 6'4", 208-pound frame to dish out heavy hits.
Don't expect McNabb to play a role in this year's playoff run, but he should get opportunities to play next season.
Will Dustin Brown's Play Improve?
It's probably the most talked-about topic among L.A. fans. Perhaps it's talked about too much. Regardless, Brown's performance going forward will continue to be a storyline to follow.
Coming off a disappointing Olympic Games, Brown returned to help the Kings build a five-game win streak. The captain has one goal and three assists for four points in four games since the break.
He hasn't silenced the critics yet, but if the Kings keep winning, it won't be a big issue. Brown has been a consistent factor this season physically and defensively. It's just the offensive side of his game that's been nonexistent.
The addition of Gaborik should take some of the pressure off of Brown to produce. A timely goal off a rebound or a deflection on the power play may be all the Kings need to maintain their current surge.
Right now, there is reason to be optimistic that Brown and the Kings are trending in the right direction.
The Power Play
Operating at 14.2 percent, the Kings' power play ranks 27th in the NHL. The team has managed to move up from the 29th spot it occupied before the Olympic break, but it still has a long way to go.
The Kings' system of tight-checking, defensive hockey is sometimes used as an excuse for their lack of offensive production five-on-five. When it comes to the man advantage, there is no excuse.
Kopitar, Doughty, Richards, Carter and now Gaborik—these are all players who are capable of creating chances in an instant. The power play should be converting at least 18 percent of its opportunities, which would rank in the middle of the pack in the NHL.
When the Kings find themselves in low-scoring, physical battles in the postseason, the power play will be crucial.
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