NHL: Trades and Playoffs and the LA Kings, Oh My!
The Los Angeles Kings came into the 2010-2011 season with higher expectations then they’ve had in a long time. They made the playoffs and took Vancouver to a six-game series that could have gone either way. When the season began they were flying, scoring goals and keeping goals from being scored. They were near the top of a number of sporting outlets Power Rankings.
After the fast start the Kings hit a skid that included some injuries to key players (Ponikarovsky and Mitchell) as well as some inconsistent play from other players. They went from contenders to possible pretenders in many professional’s eyes.
Along the way they have had winning streaks of up to six games coupled with losing streaks of up five games. Fans on message boards have both criticized and praised the coaches, players and coaching staff. There have been calls for system changes, trades, benches, firings etc.
The Kings seemed to have weathered the storm and are back on track. In the last six games they have won five and tied the other. Goals aren’t coming in bunches, but goals are not being scored on them in bunches either.
The pair of goaltenders the Kings has placed their faith in (Quick and Bernier) have shaken off any bad mojo they’ve had and really stepped up. Neither is letting in a lot of goals and both have been up to the task when asked to stop the puck in shootouts (The Kings have only lost one game so far that went to shootout, vs. the Wild).
The young superstars on the back line (Doughty and Johnson) are really starting to shine. Last year the world saw Drew Doughty up close and personal because of the way he played for Canada in the Olympics. He was also nominated for the Norris Trophy. Jack Johnson was overshadowed by Doughty a bit last year, but it seemed to provide motivation for this year. He’s having his best year as a pro and really showing the skill many believed he had when he was taken third overall behind Sidney Crosby and Bobby Ryan.
The veteran leadership the Kings have acquired over the years is available and has helped pull this team out of the funk they were in and get them back on track. Ryan Smyth has been doing what he does, including agitating in front of the goalies, and scoring goals. Matt Green has been laying the wood to anyone in his vicinity. Rob Scuderi has been denying goals and even putting a few in himself. Justin Williams is healthy and having his best year as a King. Jarrett Stoll is winning faceoffs and scoring goals. The man known as Zeus is winning faceoffs, leading the penalty kill and teaching the young padwans how to use their hockey force.
The youth is developing into a force to be reckoned with. Anze Kopitar just got back from his second all-star game where he was in the running for All Star MVP. Dustin Brown is on pace to have one of his best scoring years while maintaining his high number of checks. Trevor Lewis is bringing speed and skill and is poised to break out soon. Wayne Simmonds is scoring as much as he did last year but he is rock solid in agitating and shutting other teams down. Kyle Clifford will go toe to toe with anyone in the league and is chipping in some goals here and there and starting to show signs of being a prototypical power forward for years to come.
All in all the Kings don’t have the points many expected them to have at this point in the season. They are still going through some growing pains. They are still one of the youngest teams in the league. Dean Lombardi has stocked his talent cupboard as if he was shopping at Costco. He has a bunch of talent. The Kings are turning into a team that is not easy to play against. They are physical, fast and have a lot of skill. They clearly have a direction to head in.
Who knows what Dean Lombardi has up his sleeve for the trade deadline but I think the team is in good hands. Please give the Sturm’s a bust talk a rest. This is a guy the Kings got after pretty major knee surgery that scored some goals and had some assists when he was playing. By the way, he was also acquired for cheap considering his skill level and potential. Remember, he is fast and skilled much like the other products that come from his homeland (Germany: BMW, Mercedes).
Terry Murray seems to get questioned a lot when the team is not winning. When the team is winning no one seems to have problem. This is the same guy that has coached this team’s turn around very effectively. Personally I question the constant changing and shuffling of lines. I would have to say however that it seems like he has had a method to his madness, things are settling in.
All I can say is the Kings are back on the winning track and the big guns (Kopitar, Brown, Williams, Simmonds) have not been scoring much lately. When the time comes and they do start scoring, look out.
This team is rock solid and plays together in a tight defensive system. This is just the kind of system that is very effective come playoff time. Their chances of going deep in the playoffs look good.
As a Kings fan, I can recognize one of the most talented, deepest teams ever assembled in LA. I can also recognize when they go into a couple of slumps throughout the season not to panic.
I actually like that the Kings have fallen off the top tier in a lot of experts eyes. They are almost under the radar. Under the radar is a much better place for most teams to be. They are not constantly being talked about by the national media and being picked apart (see Toronto Maple Leafs on TSN). This is good for their confidence.
I'm not promising Lord Stanley on Rodeo Drive this year, but I would say they have a legitimate shot. There is no reason to unload the cupboard to get someone who will mess up the team chemistry. If the Kings can get someone on the cheap, do it. Otherwise stay away (see Kovalchuck in New Jersey).
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