The Biggest Questions for the Remainder of Los Angeles Kings' 2014 Offseason
The Los Angeles Kings' players and staff are in the midst of celebrating their Stanley Cup title, with the Cup making its way around the world to spend a day with each champion.
Otherwise, the offseason has included just a few departures and signings. The Kings appear to be in great shape to defend their Stanley Cup, although many teams have looked up to the task in recent years only to fall short.
The Kings will look to become the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998 to win back-to-back titles. First, however, there are still a few questions surrounding the rest of the offseason.
Is Mike Richards Making Offseason Adjustments?
Mike Richards had perhaps the worst season of his career in 2013-14. He registered just 41 points in the regular season and was demoted to the fourth line for much of the playoffs.
The 29-year-old center should be in the prime of his career. Instead, there was speculation he could be a buyout candidate this summer. General manager Dean Lombardi decided against it and explained why when speaking with Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times:
The biggest thing in the meeting with Michael - the important thing - is that he realized he’s going to have to make some adjustments in his offseason training.
He’s 29. In his prime. So it’s not as though the dropoff should be related to age. But players need to realize when you start getting 27, 28 -- you can’t train, can’t prepare like you use to when you were 22 or 23.
Richards was slower this season and didn't have the same burst of speed out of the defensive zone that we're used to seeing—especially short-handed. He also didn't have the same physical impact he's had in previous years.
Richards' performance shouldn't be dropping off at this age, so one has to assume a change in training this offseason will make a big difference.
What's Next for Dwight King?
Nearly all of the NHL players who filed for arbitration have settled as of July 29. Dwight King however, isn't one of them.
According to NHLPA.com, King has a hearing scheduled for August 1 in Toronto. The restricted free agent made $750,000 last season as part of a two-year, $1.5 million contract he signed with the Kings.
The Kings have just over $1.5 million to work with under the salary cap. They have virtually no other needs to address, with 12 experienced forwards under contract. The one notable free agent is Colin Fraser.
King had the best season of his career in 2013-14, notching 15 goals and 15 assists for 30 points. He stepped up in the postseason as well, with three goals and eight assists for 11 points in 26 games. At 6'4", 230 pounds, King offers size, physicality and, of course, scoring depth.
A deal which pays him an average annual salary of $1 million is likely.
Will All Hands Be on Deck for Training Camp?
With no news of offseason injuries or health issues, this may not seem like a pressing question. With that said, it is important to remember both Jonathan Quick and Kyle Clifford underwent wrist surgery at the end of June.
Quick underwent surgery on June 24 and was expected to need 10 to 12 weeks to recover, which put him on track to return just in time for training camp.
There have been no reports regarding any setback in the recovery process. However, the possibility of the Kings giving him more time to rest can't be ruled out.
Clifford also had his surgery on June 24 and was expected to miss six to eight weeks. He should be ready in time for camp, if all goes well. Again, the Kings will likely exercise caution given the nature of the surgery.
Will They Avoid the Stanley Cup Hangover?
The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2011-12 for the first time in franchise history. The lockout delayed the start of the 2012-13 season, but the Kings still got off to a slow start.
They dropped seven of their first 10 contests before finally turning things around. Seeing as it was a shortened season, the damage was done.
The preparation and training the players do now should have an impact on how well they play at the start of the 2014-15 season.
Just like in 2012-13, the Kings have the core group intact and healthy. They will need to overcome the effects of an Olympic year and long postseason—including three Game 7s—to get off to a decent start come October.