Los Angeles Kings: New Kid On the Block in the Western Conference?
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Watching the LA Kings come into the United Center two years ago my initial thought was, man these guys are talented with the puck. Looking at their roster this year more in depth you find not only are some of their players developing into superstars, but WOW they are young!
Average age of this team is 25.5 years old. Youth is the new movement in the NHL. They have some of the best young talent in all of hockey and seem to be hitting their stride coming out of the gate and are having a fantastic start to the season.
With a young nucleus of Anze Kopitar (23), captain Dustin Brown (26), Wayne Simmonds (22), Drew Doughty (21), Jack Johnson (24), and Jonathan Quick (25) between the pipes, this team should be able to thrive for the next few years adding pieces to make a Cup run. They also have a great veteran presence in 16-year man Ryan Smyth, Michal Handzus, and Justin Williams, who is leading the team in goals and points.
They remind me of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008, and we all know where they are now.
In 2008 the Blackhawks average age was a tad under 25.5 years old, with young superstars in Patrick Kane (20), Jonathan Toews (20), Duncan Keith (25), and plenty of others that have blossomed quite well: Hjalmarsson (21), Versteeg (22), Bolland (22), Ladd (23), Byfuglien (23), and Seabrook (23). They also had that veteran presence with Havlat (27), Sharp (27), Campbell (29), Sopel (32), and Stanley Cup winning goalie Khabibulin (36). They were knocked out of the Playoffs that year by the Detroit Red Wings in the Conference Finals, but the experience they were able to obtain propelled them to 2009-2010 Stanley Cup Champions.
As we’ve seen, the Blackhawks have had to make some tough decisions this offseason with player contracts and who they want to keep as a nucleus. They’ve given big contracts to Keith, Hossa, and five-year deals to Kane and Toews. They are off to a slow start this year, but they still possess the core of young players and veterans that should pay off later in the year when the team gels and makes a run at defending the Cup.
From what I can see, the LA Kings are positioning themselves as the Blackhawks of the west coast.
They have a great foundation and are poised to make a run this year and in coming years. The only question is, can they keep the correct nucleus together to get that coveted “top” goal of winning the Stanley Cup? It will be interesting to see what decisions their GM Dean Lombardi makes in regards to contract extensions, players they will have to trade away, and veterans brought in to fill out this team.
They have Kopitar and D. Brown locked up until 2016 and 2014 respectively, but the rest of their young guns will be due a hefty raise in the next few years. The tough decisions will determine if they can sustain their exciting play of the last few years and turn it into a Cup celebration in the streets of Los Angeles.
They will be a force to reckon with for years to come with the young talent in their organization. Only time will tell for sure, but I think they will be scheduling a parade for another team other than the Lakers in the next few years.
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