The 5 Most Promising Signs for Los Angeles Kings' Future
In the late 2000s, fans and the media looked at the Los Angeles Kings as a team with tremendous potential.
They underachieved in the next few years and barely made the playoffs in 2011-12. What happened next was one of the most dominant playoff runs in recent NHL history, as the Kings went on to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
A loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the conference final ended their bid for a repeat in 2012-13, but the Kings appear poised to make another run this year. And, they have the pieces in place to remain a contender for the next five-plus years.
With that said, here are the five most promising signs for the Kings' future.
5. Drew Doughty
Drafted second overall in 2008, Drew Doughty has easily lived up to the lofty expectations surrounding him when he entered the NHL.
Doughty is 24 years old and is one of the most dynamic defensemen in the NHL. He is capable of playing both a shutdown role against the league's elite forwards and also having a major impact on offense.
He can easily transition from playing with a veteran defenseman to a young, fast, offensive-minded blueliner.
Doughty is signed through 2018-19, meaning the Kings have a potential Norris Trophy winner who can eat up over 25 minutes of ice time in any given game. This allows management the freedom to spend more money on depth forwards rather than defensemen.
The Los Angeles Kings' prospect pool is surprisingly deep considering their lack of high draft picks in recent years.
Defenseman Derek Forbort is in his first season with the Manchester Monarchs and could see time in the NHL as soon as next season, depending on injuries. The 22-year-old stands 6'4" and weighs 212 pounds. He is a strong shutdown defenseman who can deliver punishing hits.
At forward, the trio of 21-year-olds Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson and 22-year-old Linden Vey are beginning to make the transition to the NHL. Toffoli is already making consistent contributions with 30 points in 59 career games. Vey and Pearson also have the potential to be top-six forwards in the next few years.
They offer great depth as third- or fourth-liners given their two-way abilities and could also be used as key pieces in a trade.
The role of Jonathan Quick now and in the future has never been questioned, even with brilliant performances from Jonathan Bernier, Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones in the past two years. Dean Lombardi traded Bernier and Scrivens, showing he was clearly confident with Quick and Jones.
Quick, 28, has won the Conn Smythe Trophy, the ESPY Award for Best NHL Player, has been nominated for a Vezina Trophy and has been named an NHL All-Star.
Jones, a 24-year-old rookie, burst onto the NHL scene this year, allowing three or more goals in just three of his 16 games so far.
This is the perfect duo for the Kings, as Quick is the undisputed No. 1 and Jones, who has enormous talent but little experience, is happy to be the backup.
2. The Core Is Locked Long-Term
Aside from Anze Kopitar, who is signed through 2015-16, the Kings' best players are all locked up for the next five-plus years.
|Player||Signed Through||Cap Hit|
This core group is all in their mid- to late 20s, meaning they are entering the prime of their careers and have another four or five great years ahead of them. They are also complete players who excel at both ends of the rink and are strong leaders in the dressing room.
With this core intact, younger players coming into the organization have a group of role models to look up to and learn from. This should help the team to maintain its strong system based on tight checking, sound defense and puck possession going forward.
1. Dean Lombardi
The most promising sign for the Kings' future is the fact that general manager Dean Lombardi is under contract through the 2016-17 season.
Players come and go, but a GM can stay with a team for decades building and maintaining a Cup contender. Look no further than Lou Lamoriello and the New Jersey Devils or Ken Holland and the Detroit Red Wings.
Lombardi has done a remarkable job building the team since he was hired in 2006. He's drafted and developed players like Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov and acquired veterans at the perfect time, such as Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik. Not to mention, he hired Darryl Sutter to coach the team after firing Terry Murray midway through the 2011-12 season.
The longer Lombardi remains in L.A., the better. He understands the community, has a good relationship with his staff and players and has a clear vision for the team. Perhaps a second, or even third Stanley Cup title awaits.