The Los Angeles Kings are coming off another disappointing season in which they finished in 14th place out of 15 teams in the Western Conference, missing the playoffs for the sixth straight season (there were no playoffs in 2005 because of the lockout).
As someone who has seen many more downs than ups while following the Kings throughout my life, I have gotten used to their lack of success this decade. The one thing that I at least took some kind of solace in was the fact that both fans and experts alike could agree that Kings GM Dean Lombardi had at least assembled a strong nucleus of players with which he could turn things around. Unlike the teams around the league that stunk and were going nowhere, people at least would say, "Yeah the Kings stink, but at least they have some hope and are going somewhere."
There are some things to be excited about for the die hard LA hockey fan. Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Alexander Frolov are all younger than 30 and are some solid offensive players.
Of those three, Frolov is the oldest at 27, while Brown and Kopitar are 24 and 21, respectively. On the defensive end, Drew Doughty is as bright an up and comer as Kings fans have seen since Rob Blake first broke into the league.
Matt Greene and Kyle Quincey are also good young defenseman that the front office can build around. Of course, if the Kings can sign restricted free agent Jack Johnson then I will include him in this group of solid young defenseman.
Between the pipes, Erik Ersberg and Jonathan Quick have both showed signs of being promising young goaltenders. Outside of Sean O'Donnell every player on the roster is 30 or younger. While youth is important, it's not going to get the job done by itself.
This offseason I felt the Kings were at the point where they could turn the corner if somehow they could land a top flight free agent that could really tie things together. Free agents including Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat and Marian Gaborik were amongst the type of players that really could have solidifed the Kings march back into the playoffs. One by one they all came off the board and signed with other teams.
Signing free agent defenseman Rob Scuderi to a four year, $13.6 million deal was a good pick up and will be able to provide a veteran presence on the blue line. In addition, it gives the Kings some insurance in case Johnson departs. Scuderi played a pivotal role in helping Pittsburgh hoist the Stanley Cup and should be a good character guy in the locker room. Despite the benefits of him becoming a King, he wasn't exactly the free agent splash that many fans were looking for.
So far the Kings' offseason has been uneventful and disappointing when you consider where they're at with the development of their young core and the amount of money that they are under the salary cap.
I agree with Lombardi's assessment that their young group of players needs to get better and that they must take advantage of their extra time in the offseason to train together and build team chemistry, but at the same time the front office could really boost the morale of the team and the fans by making some kind of a move that will raise the team to the next level.
The Kings last appeared in the playoffs back in 2002 and to have missed every year since is unacceptable. Bringing in a veteran who could lead them on the ice and in the locker room could have gone a long way in getting the team back into postseason play. The team really needed help on the offensive end having scored the third fewest goals in the league last season and management provided them with none.
The same way that you will not score a goal unless you shoot the puck on net, the Kings will not get better unless management takes some risks and stops playing everything so conservatively. They have the young talent; now is the time to provide them with help.