The Los Angels Kings came up short this season. When the regular season came to an end the Kings were left on the outside looking in and became the first Stanley Cup champions to miss the playoffs the following season since the Carolina Hurricanes won the Cup in 2006.
Obviously something went wrong for the Kings. Outside factors like injuries, like the one to Tanner Pearson, and fatigue from three very extended seasons in a row likely played a major role in the Kings’ shortcomings this season. But the biggest factor in the Kings’ let down was the product on the ice, the play from the players lacing up the skates every night.
Here are three Kings that need to rebound next season in order for the Kings to get back into the post season and have a chance at the Cup.
1. Anze Kopitar
Kopitar didn’t seem like Kopitar for stretches this season. Sure the defensive aspect of his game was still there, and he was nominated for another Selke Trophy because of his play away from his offense. But Kopitar is relied on for offense as well. Luckily for Kopitar scoring was down across the roster for the majority of the Kings which resulted in his leading the Kings in points for the eighth straight season.
Kopitar put up 16 goals in 79 games this season, the only season he scored less was during the lockout shortened season two seasons ago. Kopitar’s low goal total contributed to his second lowest point total in a full season. Kopitar’s only season where he recorded fewer than his 64 points this season was his rookie season where he grabbed 61.
Kopitar is valuable because of his defensive responsibility and is constantly in the running for the Selke because of it. His puck possession numbers are through the roof but that is not a complete player. Being nominated for the Selke means the offensive presence is there along with the defense, which is probably why John Tavares will win it this year, and with the way Kopitar has been trending in recent seasons the offense might not be there for the nomination in the future.
2. Dustin Brown
The Kings’ captain has needed a rebound season for some time now. Brown recorded 27 points his last two seasons, and was a minus-17 at the conclusion of this season. Brown’s 5.8 shooting percentage this season was a career low outside of his rookie season where he scored one goal and shot 2.1 percent in 31 games. But possibly the most important statistic as reported by LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen, is the Kings’ success with Brown on the ice.
Perhaps of greater concern: the Kings scored only 1.7 goals per 60 minutes while he was on the ice, the lowest rate since his 19-year-old rookie season.
Brown is the Kings’ captain. There is no doubt about that. The players in the room look to Brown for leadership through his actions and physical play, there is no hiding that. But year after year the debate about what to do with Brown because of his lack of production is pushed into the limelight. The only way for Brown to avoid this, quiet his critics and help the Kings grab a few more wins is to get his name on the score sheet more than 27 times next season.
3. Andrej Sekera
Sekera’s situation is not like the rest of the Kings mentioned. Sekera had a small sample size while with the Kings after he was brought over at this year’s trade deadline. After just 16 games with the Kings, Sekera suffered an MCL injury in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks on March 30th.
Sekera seemed to fit with the Kings and was looking like he would be another key piece brought in by Dean Lombardi at the tread deadline to fuel a run at the Cup. Instead, Sekera went down with six games remaining in the regular season and the Kings came up short.
If Sekera is brought back by the Kings, and talks have already started between the two parties, he will have to rebound from his injury and be a vital piece for the Kings for an entire season.
Honorable Mention: Mike Richards
This is a forgone conclusion at this point. Let’s not dive into another how bad Richards was for the Kings and eventually the Monarchs and then finally the Kings again, we all know how that went. What happens to Richards is yet to be determined but a team taking on the remainder of his contract with his recent production doesn’t seem very likely. If Richards gets another chance, he would need a rebound and slam dunk in order to get his critics off of his back.