Although no team has played 41 games this season, many media outlets consider the Christmas break to be the "half-way point" of the NHL season.
By this point, each fan base has had the chance to see its team perform. Through watching closely, fans are able to gauge the team's overall ability and playoff chances.
For fans of teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins, there really is no doubt that your team will be making the playoffs. Unless Sidney Crosby gets injured or Jimmy Howard starts playing like a minor league player, those two teams are locks.
After looking at the playoff locks, we move into the bubble teams. The Los Angeles Kings are one of those bubble teams despite a large amount of preseason speculation calling for success.
As a critic, writer and die-hard fan of the Los Angeles Kings, I can honestly say that I have been very disappointed with the team to this point in the season. It's been tough to watch a roster that is set-up for success flounder.
The Los Angeles Kings are currently sporting a 20-12-1 record for 41 points. If they were to continue on that pace, the team would finish with roughly 102 points. If it weren't for a season that exceeded everyone's expectations last year, I would think that most fans would find that to be an incredibly acceptable season.
While all of these stats and points that the Kings are piling up sound really nice when you read about them, there is reason for concern with this team.
It is my feeling that the Kings are a team that is still searching for an identity.
Is the team going to be an offensive powerhouse led by Anze Kopitar playing in front of a superstar goalie in Jonathan Quick?
Is the team going to play incredible defensive hockey to stop opponents from getting goals?
What kind of team does this group want to be? It's anyone's guess right now.
In watching the Los Angeles Kings this season, I have seen every possible gameplan executed. At times, the Kings look as though they are going to score at will and that defense really doesn't matter. At other times, the Kings look like they are going to win by scoring one or two goals per game.
While I do think that this is reason for concern, I'm not going to say that it is a terrible team. As long as this team continues to win at an acceptable rate, fans can't really complain about how Terry Murray is coaching.
It's interesting to look over the Kings' schedule. The team has games in hand on most teams in the Western Conference. That gives the team a great opportunity to move up in the standings. I honestly don't think that fourth place is out of the realm of possibility.
If there is one thing that really stands out, it's the one win in eight games to end the month of November. As a fan, I was screaming at the television and just getting really upset with my team as they continued to slip in the standings. As a featured columnist for the Bleacher Report, I have to be a little bit more civil.
In my opinion, the Kings' one big losing streak this season can be attributed to the team trying to force an identity. It's important to note that you don't create an identity, it just forms. For most young teams, it does take awhile to mesh and get to know each other. This learning curve can be reason for some early losses in the standings.
Perhaps the aforementioned losing streak is really helping the Kings play better hockey now. While I don't believe that the team is all the way "there," I do believe that they have been playing better hockey.
So I ask you, Kings fans, is this team still searching for an identity?
If you ask me, I think they are, but not near as much as they were before. The team is well on its way to playing some great hockey and knowing how the players have to play individually.
I'm looking forward to a great year of hockey in 2011 and many more wins to come. Here's to continued success for the Los Angeles Kings and a long playoff run this spring.
Thanks for reading.
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