The impending NHL lockout could be a blessing in disguise for several NHL teams. However, the Los Angeles Kings are not one of them. Although they played hockey well into the month of June, the Kings would likely lose out from any missed hockey in 2012-13. Why? Read on to find out.
Over the past week or so, I have profiled five teams who have something to gain from a potential work stoppage:
- Lockout Beneficiaries, Part I: Long Island
- Lockout Beneficiaries, Part II: Philadelphia
- Lockout Beneficiaries, Part III: Vancouver
- Lockout Beneficiaries, Part IV: Dallas
- Lockout Beneficiaries, Part V: Edmonton
Although all five teams are very different in terms of roster structure and outlook for 2012-13, all of them could potentially use the lockout in a beneficial way – to get an extended look at young players, to heal some important injuries, and to allow for more time to make a trade, among other reasons.
On the other side of the fence, there are several teams that will undoubtedly suffer from missing hockey, be it a full season or only a month or two. Where else to start than with the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings?
In most years, the team that wins the Stanley Cup would benefit from a late start to the next regular season. Los Angeles and New Jersey were playing extremely grueling hockey games well into the month of June, and their respective summers were much shorter than most other NHL teams (by the time the Final wrapped up, many NHL players were six-to-eight weeks into their off-season training regimes). Vancouver and Boston both struggled last season, as the two clubs were admittedly tired (both physically and mentally) from their own lengthy postseason runs.
However, the Kings needed only 20 games to hoist Lord Stanley, while the Bruins and Canucks both played in 25 games. The Kings were also extremely healthy throughout their postseason run (especially on the back end). Health and goaltending are usually the two biggest factors when it comes to postseason success, and that was no different this past spring.
So the Kings aren’t as beaten up or worn down as past Stanley Cup winners (although the summer of partying was likely as taxing as ever on the players). What are some other reasons why they would lose out from missing hockey?
My lockout series has primarily focused on the on ice product and not the business aspect of the sport. However, the Kings have always been third or fourth (or fifth) fiddle in the eyes of Los Angeles sports fans. The Stanley Cup run changed all that, and the Kings should be capitalizing on a reinvigorated fan base.
Instead, they are faced with losing the positive momentum they created only a few months ago. Couple that with the Dwight Howard and Steve Nash acquisitions by the Lakers, and the Boston Red Sox acquisition by the Dodgers (well, only Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez, but you get the point), and the Kings will once again be taking a back seat in the Los Angeles sports market.
Great Contracts Wasted
One significant reason why the Kings were able to construct a team capable of winning it all – their roster boasts several cap friendly contracts. The two most important players to the dominant postseason performance were team captain Dustin Brown and goaltender Jonathan Quick. Brown (two years left at $3.175 million per season) and Quick (one season left at $1.8 million before a massive 10-year, $58 million extension kicks in) are also two of the best value players in the entire league.
Defensemen Alec Martinez (one year left at $740,000) and Slava Voynov (one year left at $800,000) are also both likely to be asking for significant raises next summer.
The odds of a full-season lockout are quite low, so this issue is unlikely to affect the Kings in the event of a delayed start to the season.
Time to Win is Now
Although the Kings are quite young (core players like Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, and Quick are all in their early-to-mid 20’s, the Kings need to strike while the iron is hot. Veteran defensemen Willie Mitchell and Rob Scuderi have been significant additions, both on and off of the ice.
The Kings will have to reward their young players with big contracts in the coming years, and this means that they will have less cap space to make bold acquisitions like they have done in the past year with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
The Kings will contend for a long time with Doughty, Quick, Kopitar, Carter, and Richards all signed for the long term.
However, they wouldn’t be able to use the lockout to the same benefit of many other NHL teams. They don’t really have any young players on the verge of breaking out – Voynov could be considered one, but many would say he had his breakout performance this past season.
Who would the Kings send down to the AHL? Voynov would likely play in Russia, leaving the likes of Jordan Nolan and Dwight King eligible to play in Manchester. One positive is that Jonathan Bernier could be showcased for a trade (he has requested one to a team where his chances of starting at the NHL would be higher).The Kings, simply put, were dominant last season after the Jeff Carter acquisition. They won 13 of the final 18 regular season games, scoring over three goals for per game. They won 16 of 20 postseason games, scoring an average of 2.8 goals for per game. The coaching change (Darryl Suter in, Terry Murray out) and the Carter acquisition seemed to provide the proper system and balance that enabled the Kings to overcome their early-season scoring deficiencies. Three words Kings fans should be repeating right now – let them play.