Last season saw the Kings make the playoffs after missing them during the 2017 season. They didn’t win any playoff games in 2018 either though, so, well...
As has been painfully pointed out, the Kings have only won one playoff game since they won the Stanley Cup back in 2014. That game came back in 2016 against the Sharks. Tonight, as always, the Kings open their season against San Jose. This is the 35th consecutive season this has happened.
Los Angeles has been in a weird semi rebuild for the last few years following their Cup win, Slava Voynov committing domestic abuse, Mike Richards getting booted following being busted for having several suitcases full of Oxycontin, and Marian Gaborik being shipped out for an even more expensive long term player that is maybe a click better than Michael Del Zotto.
Alex Iafallo, Austin Wagner, Paul LaDue, and Michael Amadio are replacing these guys. Apologies if you have not really heard of them. Adrian Kempe, who last year took on a huge role replacing the injured Jeff Carter, looks to build on a season where he didn’t score a goal in the entire second half. Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Gabe Vilardi are going to make their debuts mostly out of necessity.
It’s exciting to see younger guys being thrown into NHL action, and the Kings championship years were clearly helped by that (Dwight King, Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson, Voynov). Part of that success was also several years of being cellar dwellers and having an ungodly amount of draft picks (Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty). 2015 through 2017 had picks dealt out as Dean Lombardi tried to salvage the seasons with mediocre deadline rentals in a feeble attempt to keep his job (he didn’t). The last few seasons looks to correct that, minus being a total tank team. Hence the college signings, a la Iafallo, and teenagers scattered into the roster.
And there’s Ilya Kovalchuk! Spurned by Ilya several years ago for New Jersey (what?), Kovalchuk finally decided Russia and New Jersey sounded less appealing than the sunny shores of Los Angeles. Instead of dealing pieces and picks for Vincent Lecavalier and Jarome Iginla, the Kings signed Kovalchuk for free. Well, three years at over six million dollars per season, but who cares? Nothing can go wrong there!
It’s a risky move, obviously. But the Kings have needed a winger who could reliably shoot. They have that now. Maybe. More concerning is the lumbering potato defenseman, Dion Phanuef.
Phaneuf can shoot the puck. He also is slow and getting slower, and for a team trying every move possible to get faster, he’s a concerning regular to have in the lineup. He’s not the world’s worst defender the Kings have had, (I’m looking at you Kevin Gravel) but the Kings are going to want to make sure they have a defensively responsible quick skater paired up with him. Sorry, Jake Muzzin.
All in all, it’s the same concerns the Kings have had the past several years. Do they have reliable depth down the middle? Will they finally have enough scoring wingers? Is there a pairing on defense that is a black hole? Is the team fast enough since the league moved away from the plodding checking game that the 2012 Kings used?
It doesn’t help that Dustin Brown is hurt, but the Kings have some reasonable depth. I’m not crazy about Adrian Kempe at center (still) because he can’t win a faceoff to save his life and is a mediocre playmaker, but he’s got the speed and shot to be a great winger. Dion Phaneuf and Paul LaDue is...concerning.
But it doesn’t matter because I am watching the Dodgers tonight.