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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Pacific Preview: Los Angeles Kings

This is one part of a multi-part series profiling the 2018-19 Pacific Division. 

The Los Angeles Kings enjoyed a return to the playoffs in 2018 thanks to incredibly strong seasons from Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick. They’ve bounced in and out of the playoffs the past few years. Will they suffer another dip on their rollercoaster ride or are they here to stay?

Last season

45-29-8 – 98 points (4th in Pacific) 

239 goals for (17th in the NHL)

203 goals against (1st in NHL)

The Kings have been up and down since winning their second Stanley Cup in 2014. They missed the playoffs in 2014-15, returned in 2015-16, missed again in 2016-17, and ended up cleaning house after that second miss. They fired head coach Darryl Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi and replaced them with John Stevens and Rob Blake. The team enjoyed a return to the playoffs in 2017-18 with the new leadership group in place.

Kopitar had an MVP-calibre season, putting up 92 points and winning the Selke Trophy. It was a massive bounce back from the previous year in which he scored just 52 points. Dustin Brown had a shocking renaissance season, scoring a career-high 61 points. He also cracked the 20-goal plateau for the first time since 2011-12 which was massive considering Jeff Carter missed a good chunk of the season with an injury.

The key for L.A., though, was an ability to keep the puck out of the net. They allowed the fewest goals against in the league which helped compensate for the fact they only had about three offensive weapons. Doughty had another Norris-calibre season alongside the perennially-underrated Jake Muzzin, midseason acquisition Dion Phaneuf gave the team added depth, and sophomore Derek Forbort proved he could thrive in a defensive role. Quick also had a rebound year, posting a .921 save percentage in 64 games after missing the majority of the 2016-17 season.

The Kings would get swept in the first round by the Vegas Golden Knights, but a return to the playoffs that manifested due to comeback seasons from old and expensive players was a good sign.

This season

Notable additions: Ilya Kovalchuk, Peter Budaj.

Notable subtractions: Tobias Rieder, Andy Andreoff, Kevin Gravel, Scott Wedgewood.

The Kings’ biggest offseason move was signing Ilya Kovalchuk, who will finally make his return to the NHL after spending five seasons in Russia. Kovalchuk is 35 years old now, but he was excellent in the KHL for SKA St. Petersburg and for Russia in the Olympics.

Kovalchuk said he wanted to return to the NHL on a Stanley Cup contender, so it’s a little odd he ultimately opted to sign with the Kings. L.A. is a team good enough to make the playoffs, but they seem to be pretty far from being a legitimate championship contender. The Kings are exceptional at keeping the puck out of the net and they boast a core of very good players with Kopitar and Doughty, but this is an old team who doesn’t have a lot of contingency plans if things go wrong.

The addition of Kovalchuk and a full season of Carter will give the Kings a major boost offensively, but a lot of things went right for them last year and they just scraped into the playoffs. The team doesn’t have much offensive depth, they rely heavily on a small group of players, and it’s hard to imagine Brown, now 34 years old, having another season in which he finds the fountain of youth.

The Kings are still good enough to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they aren’t a shoe-in, let alone a Cup contender.

Los Angeles’ cap situation 

Los Angeles’ projected lineup 

  • freethe flames

    It seems as if the Pacific will be a real dogfight. I have heard a number of reporters suggest that 6 of the 8 teams could be in the mid 90 points for the season. The Flames despite significant changes will have their work cut out for them. I can’t wait for the season to get started.

  • freethe flames

    So later today the Flames will announce their PTO’s and who will be at the NA training camp. I hope they list when practices will be as I have free Friday and might wander down to see the action.

  • withachance

    My predictions for the Pacific

    SJ: One of the best teams in the division, lots of depth, just a lot of good players
    VGK: Fast, relentless team that got significantly better this off season with Patches and Statsny. Interesting to see how their defence holds up
    Calgary: lets go boys! Really exciting off season, challenge is to translate that on the ice

    Out:
    ANA: Really good d corps, but just dont see where all the offence is going to come from. Gibson have to play like superman to get this team in.
    LA: really front loaded roster with Kopitar and that 70’s line. Brown and Kovy are question marks until theyre not. I hate Doughty…
    EDM: Only as far as McJesus and Talbot will take them. Probably worst depth in the division in terms of forwards and defencemen.
    VAN/ARI: Rebuilding teams that have a lot of potential. These teams are going to be dangerous in the next 3-4 years

    • Bawcos

      Completely disagree with your (and many people’s) take on the Ducks. To me, this is the team to beat. While everything went right in LA, everything went wrong in ANA via injuries. Good D but no Offence? I agree with the D part – but they have Getzlaf, Henrique and Kesler down the middle. Perry looks like he lost a step – sure, but still a good 2nd RW. Meanwhile Rackell steps into that spot. Kase suddenly looks amazing + Silfverberg + Eaves+ Cogliano + Ritchie…This is the team that has no holes. Only injuries should question yet another division tittle.

  • Baalzamon

    Everyone keeps saying that both wildcard spots will go to the central. They say that every year and they haven’t been correct since 2016. Meanwhile the Pacific has only gotten better, and the central has only gotten worse.

    There will be at least four playoff teams from the Pacific this season. Book it.

  • Off the wall

    At least we know what Peters is working on when they get to practice on Friday.

    “It’s our first day on the ice, and the focus is going to be on O-zone forecheck and O-zone entries. Then we’re going to flood, and we’re going to come back out and spend 30 minutes on specialty teams.”

    “What we’re doing is we’re going to run the same practices. The first four practices are identical. They’re going to be showing the exact same video on the first four days of practice (in Calgary) that we’re going to show in China. So just because we’re not back there . . . We’re going to know what has been said and what drills have been run and what concepts have been taught.

    “And when we get back home, it should be as seamless as possible with the amalgamation into one group.”

    Rebar is organized..

    • freethe flames

      This sounds encouraging. So if I attend NA day one I should get an idea of what they hope to do. Should we not have already had an idea after the prospects games.

  • MWflames

    LA will regress a bit this year. The core is 1 year older and many players had career years last year that is just highly unlikely to be repeated.

    They’ll still be a tough out be uase they play hard, but scoring goals will probably be a struggle for them. They’ll probably be a 90 point team, on the outside looking in.

    But with that said, lots of parity in the Pacific this year. Can’t really rule out any of SJ, Ana, LV, Cal, LA all with chances of winning the division, just depends on which teams can put it together.

    Edm had a pathetic off season, I don’t expect a much better season at all. Ari will start to show promise, but their young team will be inconsistent. Van… Goes without saying…

  • Off the wall

    Gotta hand it to GM Doug Wilson.
    Now we’re really going to need a great season.
    Damn Sharks.
    The only saving grace, is whether the Sharks can extend him. If he turned down 10M x 8 years, what is the magic number for him?
    Or perhaps he was playing the role of recalcitrant so he could get the hell out of Ottawa…

  • Redleader

    San Jose apparently landed ,Karlsson ! That’s pretty tough D core now 😒.but now we can watch TKACHUK drive arguably the top two D in the league Doughty and now Karlsson lol .

  • Baalzamon

    Looking at the camp roster the Flames posted. Lots of invites, particularly on defense. Most interesting are Ryan Sproul (quality right-shot AHL defender, would be a good pickup for the Heat) and Duncan Siemens (former 11th overall pick, solely because he never amounted to anything even at the AHL level).

    Apparently some of the invites are in on AHL contracts too, including Michael Paliotta and Andrew O’Brien.