Obviously, any team’s goal is to win the Stanley Cup and get their day to do whatever they please with possibly the greatest trophy of them all. Once a team does win, pandemonium ensues and fans cannot wait until the next year. However, the last time that a team repeated as NHL champs was the Red Wings, who won back-to-back in ’97 and ’98. But much to the chagrin of the rest of the NHL, the Los Angeles Kings have no reason not to be favored, at least in the West, as NHL champs. Remarkably, their average team age is only 26. It is widely considered in the NHL that the hockey “prime” for most players begins in their mid-to-late 20s. The LA Kings should be a team to be reckoned with for many years to come.
The young core of this team is one of the strongest in the NHL. Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, Drew Doughty, and Jonathan Quick average 25.6 years in age, revealing that their best hockey may be still ahead of them. The four position players were four of the five top scorers for the Kings last year. Jonathan Quick received the Conn Smythe Trophy for the playoff MVP, achieving a record of 16-4 while keeping a .946 save percentage and a 1.41 GAA. Those numbers are staggering for one playoff series, let alone an entire playoffs. Obviously, Quick was the key to the Kings run in the playoffs and he was also a calming presence during the season when LA did not start off well. As far as the position players go, those names are some of the most respected around the NHL. Kopitar snipes from the wings and has offensive prowess rivaled by few. Dustin Brown is part of the new generation of centers, enforcing himself on both of ends of the ice, making him ever more valuable to his team. Mike Richards started to blossom in Philadelphia before being traded to the Kings, in a move that signaled the Kings true attempt to acquire a primetime player to play alongside their two stars. Drew Doughty will continue to be a perennial Norris contender while still learning the ins and outs of blue line play at such a young age. While the Kings have all these stars, their role players are just as important.
The role players are the glue for any team and the difference come the playoffs. Dustin Penner was considered to be on the downslide of his career but he had an extremely unexpected playoff surge, recording a vital 11 points in the 20 playoff games. This total was only two less than what he achieved in 65 games in the regular season. Jeff Carter was a rather low-key acquisition that the Kings made but paid major dividends in both leadership and points. He scored 13 points in the playoffs. If the King’s role players can perform consistently like they did in the playoffs, the Kings should be in prime shape for another Cup run.
When someone thinks of the Staples Center, the Lakers and (maybe now?) the Clippers come to mind. The Kings have been an afterthought ever since they lost the “Great One.” However, the Kings are definitely making their push to ensure their rightful place in Los Angeles. NHL teams beware, the Kings have been crowned and look to maintain their position in hockey royalty.