Continuing our look at the 2010-11 L.A. Kings, we need to take a step back and see where they are starting. The Kings' biggest improvement was in the goal scoring department. In 2008-09, they were ranked 27th scoring 2.46 goals per game. Last season, they elevated their stature into the top 10 with 2.82 per game.
The Kings were led offensively by Anze Kopitar, who notched career highs in goals (34), assists (47) and obviously points (81). And he did all that with having consistent linemates.
Granted, injuries happen throughout the season, so you have to factor that in ahead of time. But Justin Williams lost a considerable amount of time (33 games), and as soon as he got back, Ryan Smyth went down for 15 games.
Despite missing a chunk of the season without those top linemates, Kopitar still has been impressive. He's truly become a dangerous player on the ice, and he's positioned for a breakout season with the addition of Dustin Brown in place of Justin Williams.
Dean Lombardi identified Kopitar as the player as one who can evolve into a 50-goal scorer. While I think that might be a little premature, I do think Kopitar can easily pass the 100-point mark this season, becoming the first Kings to do that since Wayne Gretzky in 1993-94. And he'll achieve that like Gretzky did: by setting up his linemates.
Which bodes well for Kings captain Dustin Brown, who is also flirting with a more offensive output this season. Only topping 30 goals once in his pro career, Brown's goal total is most certainly sure to rise this season. His durability on that top line should allow more stability, which should bring more success.
The wily veteran Smyth still has top-line skill, but he has logged enough injury time over the past few years to raise an eyebrow. Having Brown as a linemate allows Smyth to settle comfortably into his role and not have to carry more of a load than he should.
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