The holiday season is in full swing and along with it comes time with family members, big dinners and cold weather. But this time of year also promotes time to think, reflect and overall be grateful for the things you have in life. This is no different for NHL fans and for this instance fans of the Los Angeles Kings.
Overall the Kings and their fans have plenty to be thankful for. Two Stanley Cups in the last four seasons, some of the best players in the world in Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty, a financially stable ownership and a front office that knows what it takes to win. Things seem to be good in Los Angeles.
But lets shrink down the sample size and look at this season only. Just months removed from a disappointing end to the 2014-15 season, where the Kings failed to qualify for the playoffs, the Kings seem to be back on track and look like a Stanley Cup contender again.
1. A Struggling Pacific Division
The Pacific Division is currently in an interesting place. A division that used to be home to three Western Conference power houses and competitive teams in Western Canada, is now struggling to find an identity.
The Anaheim Ducks were supposed to be a Stanley Cup favorite but sit three games under .500 after 23 games played. After a strong start to the season, Max Domi and the Arizona Coyotes have cooled down and now sit in the middle of the pack. Last year’s feel good story in Calgary has gone up in flames now that the Calgary Flames are flirting with the division’s basement and look like a team far from contending for the playoffs.
The Kings had struggles of their own to start the season but have benefited from the struggles of the rest of the division. The Kings righted the ship quick and were able to shoot up the standings because of the quick fix.
2. Tyler Toffoli
The future of the Kings is coming to fruition right before the Los Angeles fan bases’ eyes. Fresh off a new two-year contract worth $6.5 million, Tyler Toffoli is showing that it will be money well spent.
Toffoli currently leads the Kings with 11 goals and sits behind only Jeff Carter, who has 21 points, in the points department with 20. The 23-year-old is a budding star not only on the Kings’ roster but in the NHL and finds himself among the top ten in goals scored across the league.
As the Kings have just passed the quarter pole on the season Toffoli is at nearly a point per game pace and isn’t showing signs of slowing down. Toffoli is going to cost a pretty penny when his current bridge deal is up, but it will be worthy every dollar coming out of the Kings’ pocket book when it happens.
3. 3-On-3 Overtime
Last season was a rough one for the Kings. An up and down season all capped off by not qualifying for the post season. A major factor in that dark fate was the Kings’ inability to finish teams off in extra time.
In games decided in overtime last year, the Kings went a measly 1-7. When things got passed the extra period the Kings did not perform much better having gone 2-8 in the shootout. When your team misses out on the playoffs by just two points and only grabbed three of a possible 15 extra points, that’ll add some salt to the wound.
This season has been different for the Kings and they can thank a rule change for it. This season, the NHL switched its overtime format to a three-on-three extra frame, which opens up the ice for more offense and back and forth action. With the new format the Kings are 2-0 in overtime and have gone 1-1 in the shootout.
The Kings have already won more overtime games this season than they did in a full 82-game season. It’s probably safe to say the Kings wont want to switch back anytime soon.
3. Jhonas Enroth
Outside of one game this season, Jhonas Enroth has played incredible to start the season. Yes, Enroth’s most recent start, a 3-2 loss to Detroit, was one most would like to forget. But, Enroth’s first three starts as a King should be what everyone is focused on.
Enroth started his career as a King with several statement wins. In three games, Enroth allowed two goals, turned away 94 shots and boasted a .979 save percentage. These weren’t gimme games against the NHL’s bottom feeders either, Enroth shut out the St. Louis Blues, put up a 39 save outing against the San Jose Sharks and a just as impressive 31 save game against the New York Islanders. Adding to the impressiveness of Enroth’s performances, all four of his starts have come away from Staples Center.
Sure, Enroth’s record now has a blemish on it, but Kings fans should be thankful they know they have a fully capable back up behind Jonathan Quick.
5. The Next Chapter Is Here
This may be corny and seem like a scapegoat to others, but the Kings had a hell of a couple of months. From missing the playoffs, to a summer filled with court dates and TMZ coverage, there was no other team looking forward to the start of the new season more than the Kings.
Now over 20 games into the new season, last year’s let downs and the summer’s media cyclone are behind them the Kings have shifted back to what matters, the hockey.
Eric covers the Los Angeles Kings for the Hockey Writers. You can follow home on Twitter at @_Roberts11.