"Why did you pop champagne when they clinched a playoff spot? They won the Cup last year," I was asked in April 2013.
"Well, you never know," I replied.
And, now I know. Missing the playoffs at the end of a dominant stretch is one thing, where the decline of a team is more gradual over the stretch of a few seasons. But missing the playoffs as the defending champion? The Kings were only the fifth team post-expansion to do so. And they were certainly better than some teams that qualified (looking at you, five Canadian teams).
Last season was a disaster in every meaning of the word. From Voynov, to Andrej Sekera only playing 16 games before getting hurt (at the cost of Roland McKeown and next year's first round pick), Stoll in Vegas, and whatever legal bullshit Lombardi is trying to pull on Mike Richards and the CBA to make up for not using a compliance buy-out last summer.
And Lucic. Why the Kings needed Milan Lucic more than Colin Miller, the RFA rights to Martin Jones, and their highest draft pick since taking Brayden Schenn fifth overall in 2009, is confusing to say the least. At least Boston is eating half of his salary, which somehow still ranks as the Bruins' best move of the offseason.
The Kings have had a hell of a run the last five years, first being a prematurely celebrating Michal Handzus from possibly going up 3-0 on Vancouver in 2010, to the Sharks needing three overtime games including a historic comeback to beat the Kopitar-less Kings in 2011. Then the obvious in 2012, a historic playoff run with four 3-0 leads (and actually closing them out, San Jose) leading to the franchise's first Stanley Cup, losing in the Conference Final to the team that saved hockey (barf) in 2013, and the Cup again in 2014, after an even more improbable road.
I've decided to come into 2015-2016 with no expectations, but it will probably be a normal season. Start off hot with the long October homestand, forget how to score from November to January, trade for a Blue Jacket, look utterly dominant at times in March and April, and sneak into the playoffs. Just beat the Blackhawks when I sell my organs to afford tickets in November and March and I'll be happy.