In the coming weeks, rookie and training camps are set to get underway across the league. Which means the 2015-16 season is right around the corner. With the regular season less than a month away, now is as good a time as any to look forward and try to figure out what we can watch for during the Los Angeles Kings’ next season.
Will The Kings Find Their Offense?
Last season, the Kings struggled with offensive production. Although the Kings’ 2.66 goals per game was higher than their 2.41 goals per game during the 2013-14 season, the Kings still finished the season at number 18 when it came to their total.
A lack of offense is acceptable when you have a defense and goalie that can handle close games. For example, in 2012, the year the Kings won their first Cup, the Kings posted a horrible 2.29 goals per game, the second worst in the league. But at the same time, they only allowed an average of 2.07 goals against per game, the second best in the league. Mediocre on one end, while exceptional on the other.
Those numbers were posted during probably the peak of the Kings’ shutdown style of play, anchored by players like Rob Scuderi and Willie Mitchell and aided by Jonathan Quick’s stellar play.
Like Scuderi and Mitchell, those days are gone. The offense has to get better in order to help a defense that is in the midst of transitioning new players into key roles.
A Scoring Leader Shake Up
Listed in the table below are the Kings’ top five point getters from the 2014-15 season. At the conclusion of next season although there will like be some of the usual culprits, there may be a shake up in the order and a new name atop the list.
Kopitar has led the Kings in points since the 2007-08 season, and debuted at the number three spot at the end of his first season in Los Angeles the year before that. However, at the end of next season don’t be surprised if Kopitar is dethroned as the Kings’ top scorer.
Coming off of a fresh new contract, Toffoli is set to have a break out year for the Kings. Last season, Toffoli set career highs in goals, assists and points and did so while playing the majority of the season with Dwight King on the opposite wing. A full season reunited with Tanner Pearson, who better fits the speedy play of Toffoli and Carter, should boost Toffoli’s numbers passed last season’s career highs.
At the same time, the offseason addition of Milan Lucic is sure to inflate the numbers of Gaborik and Kopitar, Lucic’s projected line mates. Bringing in Lucic should bring a new sense of grit to the play making skill associated with Kopitar and Gaborik.
This season should be a two-line race for the scoring title, a reunited “That 70’s Line” could propel Carter or Toffoli into the number one spot, while a fresh face could add a newcomer to the top five and cement Kopitar and Gaborik’s stake among the top.
The Play Of Dustin Brown
This could be a pivotal season in Brown’s career. Brown is coming off of a season where he posted a career low 11 goals, and tied his career low 27 points. The season before last, Brown posted a just as bad, 15 goals and 27 points. If there was ever a time for a rebound next season is it.
Brown’s point totals over the last couple of seasons, on top of his $5.875 million cap hit have been plenty to get the boo birds singing. But according to some social media posts (like the video below) where Brown looks to be in great shape, it looks as if he has been putting in the work to turn his career around.
In an interview with LA Kings Insider, Jon Rosen, Brown said, “A lot of it’s the time, if everyone’s going to bulk up or whatever, it’s because they actually have the time, as opposed to the last three seasons I’ve had the time to just get my body where I can skate for 82 games.”
Well, it looks like Brown is using that time wisely. Now we’ll have to see if it translates onto the ice.
Lingering Off-Ice Issues
There is plenty to keep Kings’ management busy on the ice. Piecing together a competitive roster is a never-ending struggle. But there is even more to keep the Kings’ front office busy off the ice.
Legal issues surrounding Mike Richards and Slava Voynov don’t seem to be settled anytime soon, contract talks with Kopitar have been reportedly moving at a snail’s pace and the Kings cap issues seem to be just as messy.
There is a lot Kings general manager Dean Lombardi has to get done, and with the regular season right around the corner it doesn’t seem all of theses issues will get answered before the puck drops.
Will The Playoffs Return To Los Angeles?
This seems kind of obvious but it has to be talked about. Countless insiders and analysts across the league have labeled the Kings as contenders. In numerous articles across both major mediums and small blogs, it has been said despite the Kings’ short comings last season, they should still be seen as a top team in the league.
Now, it’s time for the Kings to show the league that what is being said about them is true. The Kings need to rebound and make the postseason at the end of next season. If the Kings don’t that’s when the idea of, “Well maybe it wasn’t a fluke the Kings missed out,” and “Maybe it was more than the Kings just being worn out from three long seasons in a row,” start to get cycled around.
On top of the rumor mill gaining steam, if the Kings miss the playoffs you can almost guarantee some roster moves. Lombardi isn’t one to hesitate to make a move to shake things up, see Jack Johnson. If things aren’t working Lombardi will try to find an answer.
The Kings need to make the playoffs, bottom line.
Eric received his BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Eric has contributed to RinkRoyalty.com, Buffalowdown.com and California Rubber Magazine.