Over the course of an NHL season it becomes incredibly apparent that every team has weaknesses. Even the strong Vancouver Canucks had their issues that they came face-to-face with as the postseason started.
For the second straight years, the Los Angeles Kings' season ended having played 88 games. While that is a significantly lower number than the 107 played by the Canucks and Bruins, it is still respectable. In short, for the second straight year, the Kings were dispatched in six games from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Ask a team like the Vancouver Canucks what it takes to get to the finals. They'll tell you that it's not an easy road. Kings fans shouldn't be so quick to jump off the bandwagon. With a few changes and minor tweaks the team could be incredibly competitive in a division that is going to weaken over the coming years.
Take a look at the Pacific Division. Without Brad Richards, what are the Stars going to be able to do? They'll certainly fall in the standings. With Bryzgalov in Philadelphia, where will the Coyotes finish? My guess is in the bottom third of the league. The Anaheim Ducks could be scary, but again, how long can that thin blueline perform at the level it did this season? Lastly, the San Jose Sharks clearly have their own issues. Age is becoming a factor for that team as well.
The door is wide open for the Los Angeles Kings to waltz in and finish with a Pacific Division championship. To do so, Dean Lombardi will have to make some changes.
It's no secret that the Kings are in dire need of some offensive help. Only three teams in the West made the playoffs with only one player scoring 60 points during the regular season. Those teams were the Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes.
What did the Predators and Coyotes have in common? They had two of the best goalies in the game in Rinne and Bryzgalov. Quick is no slouch, but he's not on par with those guys when it comes to making saves when his team needs them most.
The Kings could also use a big-ticket acquisition this summer. Names have already started to float into the rumor mill. We've heard from the likes of Parise, Carter and even Ottawa's Jason Spezza. If I were Dean Lombardi, I would make a serious play for New Jersey's Zach Parise. He is a true game breaker that would look great beside Anze Kopitar. The Kings lost a superstar to the Devils last summer; perhaps they could get one back this year.
Depth at the forward position has also haunted the Kings over the last few seasons. It's not really a surprise when players like Justin Williams go down with injuries.
The problem lately has been that nobody has stepped up to fill the injured man's role. We saw glimpses from Andrei Loktionov but simply not enough. The Kings need a veteran player who can get the job done. I look at Vancouver's Christopher Higgins as a good fit. A player like him brings versatility and the ability to score.
The defense core isn't really an issue as the Kings boast two of the game's young superstars in Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty. Only time will tell whether they turn into a great pair like Nashville's Weber and Suter or Chicago's Seabrook and Keith. With depth guys like Rob Scuderi and Matt Greene, the Kings are well positioned on the back end.
Goaltending could also be a concern heading into next season. I'm not sure that Dean Lombardi needs to make any trades, but he needs to ensure that Jonathan Quick gets more rest than he did this year. Jon Bernier was brought in to ensure that Quick got the rest he needed to be ready for the playoffs and it simply didn't happen. Lombardi should be sure the Terry Murray knows that his starting goaltender needs to be ready for the "real" season.
It's going to be a long offseason full of "what could have beens" and broken dreams. Who knows, with a fully healthy team next year this team could go a long way. I know the fans of Los Angeles are ready for it. I'm ready for it. Let's get ready for the draft and free agency and before long the preseason will be under way.
Thanks for reading.
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