Los Angeles Kings: Are They Really Stanley Cup Contenders?

Gary LlewellinCorrespondent IDecember 5, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 12:  Anze Kopitar #11 of the Los Angeles Kings skates against the Minnesota Wild at Staples Center on November 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Can the Los Angeles Kings win the Stanley Cup this season?

The more you watch them play, the more you think the answer is no.

The truth is the Kings haven’t been awful. They are in the playoff picture, but they are not playing like a team that looks to contend.

After losing a six-game playoff series to the San Jose Sharks in last year’s playoffs, a series they may have been able to win, the Kings added some significant pieces to the roster.

Patience was thrown to the wind when GM Dean Lombardi traded the club’s best prospect, Brayden Schenn, to the Philadelphia Flyers for Mike Richards.

With that trade, the Kings were seen as legitimate contenders in the Western Conference, but were we all too hasty in giving them that title?

The Kings have struggled often this season. For starters, they can’t seem to score many goals. They are 27th in the league with only 59 goals through 26 games.

Too often have they relied on goaltender Jonathan Quick to bail them out and steal wins. Luckily for the Kings, it’s been working so far.

Quick has been one of the bright spots this year. We’re just over a quarter of the way into the season, and Quick already boasts four shutouts.

Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards are some of the other bright spots. Kopitar is looking at a point-per-game season and Richards has been a revelation. He’s done everything right for the Kings. Richards is out with a head injury now, but he has posted 11 goals for the Kings.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 16:  Mike Richards #10 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates with Dustin Brown #23 and Jack Johnson #3 after scoring a powerplay goal against the Anaheim Ducks on a two man advantage at Staples Center on November 16, 2011 in Los A
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Unfortunately, many of the Kings are having down seasons. Dustin Penner has continued where he left off last season with his lackluster play, while Dustin Brown has seemingly lost his hockey sense.

Throw in a head coach that’s made more than a few questionable moves with the team, and you have the recipe for a down season.

The pieces for a cup run are definitely in place, but it looks like the Kings are not ready to contend yet.

While they may not look like a top-flight team this year, the Kings are on the right track, and should continue to improve.

Youngsters Andrei Loktionov and Slava Voynov have shown promise and the young core will continue to grow. The time for the Kings to contend may not be now, but it is not far away.