Ranking the 5 Most Surprising Seasons in Los Angeles Kings History
The Los Angeles Kings are coming off another average regular season, followed by a historic playoff run that ended with their second Stanley Cup championship.
They are one of a few teams in the NHL whose championship window should be open for the next three to five years. This is the first time in the team’s history that they look like they could be contenders for nearly a decade.
There were good teams during the Triple Crown line era and in the early 1990s when Wayne Gretzky arrived, although none as deep as the current squad.
This made for a number of shockingly disappointing campaigns and some surprising seasons where the Kings exceeded expectations.
With that in mind, here is a look at the Kings’ most surprising seasons in franchise history.
The Los Angeles Kings came off a season in which they finished fifth in the Western Conference, making the playoffs after a four-year absence.
Expectations were the Kings would be at least as good, if not better in 1998-99. But, that wasn’t the case.
In their final season at the Forum, the Kings finished with a mere 69 points to finish 11th in the conference, nine points out of the playoffs.
Under head coach Larry Robinson, the team suffered a number of injuries, with just four players suiting up in more than 70 games. On top of that a number of players had disappointing seasons.
The Kings would realise their potential in the follow seasons as they made the playoffs for three straight years. And that made the 1998-99 season all the more surprising.
The 1974-75 realignment saw the Los Angeles Kings in the same division with the seemingly unstoppable Montreal Canadiens. Coming off a season in which they had just 78 points and a third-place finish, expectations were low for the team.
However, backed by some impressive goaltending from Rogie Vachon, the Kings did what seemed impossible and started out the season on a tear. They lost just two of their first 26 games on their way to a 42-17-21 record, including a 1-2-2 record against the Canadiens.
Only the Philadelphia Flyers allowed fewer goals on the season, as the Kings finished second in the Norris Division behind Montreal. Unfortunately, the Toronto Maple Leafs would eliminate L.A. in the first round of the playoffs.
But, the 105-point season still stands as the highest total in franchise history.
In 1967-68 the NHL expanded, with six new teams joining the league. The Los Angeles Kings were one of them, with Canadian Jack Kent Cooke bringing a team to California.
Many predicted the Kings would be one of the worst of the newly added teams and therefore a bottom-feeder in the NHL.
With the help of some AHL players—Cooke owned the Springfield Indians—the Kings finished second in the West division, just one point out of first. They finished with 72 points, a total they wouldn’t surpass until 1972-73, when they recorded a 73-point season.
What makes the result even more surprising is that they never had distinct home-ice advantage as they played at three different arenas during the course of the season. The Kings also went 10-12-2 against the Original Six teams, the best record of any expansion team against their experienced counterparts.
Expectations were high heading into the 2011-12 season. The Kings acquired Mike Richards in an offseason trade with Philadelphia, and Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty were quickly becoming elite players.
And yet, the Kings were struggling midway through the season, and Dean Lombardi made a move to fire Terry Murray and bring in Darryl Sutter. The Kings finished a surprising eighth place in the Western Conference, losing back-to-back games to the San Jose Sharks at the end of the season.
That alone was a bit of a shock for a team expected to contend for a division title. Going on the road and defeating the top three seeds in the conference to reach the Stanley Cup Final was alarming in a different way.
The Kings had the talent to go all the way, but they simply underperformed in the regular season. But to dominate and win the first three games of each series en route to their first championship is something that probably won’t be repeated for a long time.
The 1981-82 season was surprising for a couple of reasons.
First, the Kings' point total dropped significantly from the season before. They finished with 99 points in 1980-81, good for second in the Norris. Division realignment saw the Kings compete in the Smythe division the following season, and they finished a disappointing fourth with 63 points.
Of course, the more shocking moment came in the playoffs. Still considered one of the great upsets in NHL history: The Kings defeated Gretzky’s Oilers 3-2 in the best-of-five series with the help of the infamous Miracle on Manchester.
The fact that the Kings struggled in the regular season but managed to pull off this incredible upset makes it the most surprising season in franchise history.