The Los Angeles Kings’ season has come to a close, and the team will not be participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season. Despite being one of the most successful teams of the past decade, the last time they made it past the first round of the playoffs was in 2014, when they ended up winning the Stanley Cup.
Though the outcome of the season is unfortunate, as there were points throughout the campaign where it looked like the Kings might go on a run, fans shouldn’t be disheartened. Not a lot was thought of the team this season in the first place, and they exceeded the expectations of many. The best is yet to come for the team, so Kings fans should just enjoy the excitement of playoff hockey, knowing that they will be able to cheer on their favorite team soon enough.
That being said, some fans like to be invested in a specific team and have some skin in the game. If this sounds like you, I’ve put together a list of a few teams that might be good options for Kings fans.
Keep It Out of the Division
If a Kings fan decides to root for a specific team these playoffs, it would be advisable to stay away from the Honda West Division and teams from the old Pacific Division. With the way the divisions have been formatted this season, all of the bad blood has stayed in the division. No team has played any other team outside of their own division, and this won’t happen in the playoffs until the third round.
If one were to want to root for a team from this year’s division, though, it would make the most sense to go with a team that the Kings have played especially poorly against this season: the Colorado Avalanche or Vegas Golden Knights. That way, if they win the Stanley Cup, you can chalk up the Kings not being in the playoffs to their record versus the team that won it all.
The rationale behind a Kings fan rooting for the Pittsburgh Penguins is simple: Jeff Carter. Before the start of this season, I wrote about a Carter trade as something that should be a priority for Rob Blake, the Kings’ general manager. On April 12, the Kings pulled off a mutually beneficial deal, trading Carter to the Penguins for a 2022 conditional third-round pick and a 2023 conditional fourth-round pick.
Since Carter arrived in Pittsburgh, he has become one of the team’s best players, powering them to a first-place clinch in the MassMutual East Division. In his 14 games with the Pens, Carter has put up 11 points, including an astounding nine goals, adding two assists. He leads the team in goals and is tied for third on the team in points since the trade.
Carter has also shown great team metrics since he was sent east. Both his Corsi for percentage (CF%) and expected goals-for percentage (xGF%) have stayed above 50 percent with his new team, 53.5 percent (eighth on the team), and 57.95 percent (second on the team), respectively.
It is clear that since Carter was moved, he has made a massive impact on the Penguins, and this is shown in his wins above replacement (WAR). WAR is a stat that assigns a number to a player based on how much that player has contributed to his team, and Carter has contributed a lot. He has posted a WAR of 1.2 with the team, and though that only puts him seventh on the roster, he has done this in just 14 games. When looking at his wins above replacement per 60 (WAR/60), Carter moves up to fourth on the team with a WAR/60 of 0.308, second for players playing more than eight games.
Though it is understandable that we would not want to see the Penguins win the Stanley Cup yet again, as they recently won two times in consecutive seasons, this may be Carter’s last shot at winning it all one last time. With the season he has had with the team, it would be nice to see the 36-year-old get rewarded with a championship.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs have a few former Kings on the roster for their playoff run, so a Kings fan rooting for the Leafs throughout the playoffs makes sense. One long-time King playing for Toronto is Jake Muzzin. He was sent north of the border back in 2019 when LA traded him for Carl Grundstrom, Sean Durzi, and the Leafs’ 2019 first-round pick who would become Tobias Bjornfot. Muzzin has had a solid season, posting four goals and 23 assists, totaling 27 points in 53 games.
Another former King who will be trying to go on a run with the Leafs this summer is Jack Campbell. Campbell was moved to Toronto along with Kyle Clifford in February of 2020 in exchange for Trevor Moore, a 2020 third-round pick who would become Alex Laferriere, and a 2021 third-round pick. Campbell has had a record-breaking season; in the 22 games he has played, he has a record of 17-3-2, posting a .921 save percentage (SV%), a 2.15 goals-against average (GAA), and a 5.86 goals saved above expected (GSAx). These numbers have granted him the net for game 1 of the Leafs’ first-round series versus the Montreal Canadiens.
The last reason why we should consider rooting for the Maple Leafs in the playoffs is that Cup-less veterans Joe Thornton (age 41) and Jason Spezza (age 37) both have a shot at their first championship. Even though Thornton spent a lot of his career in San Jose, we should be rooting for him these playoffs.
The Canadiens are another possible team for Kings fans to root for in the coming weeks. Former King Tyler Toffoli has found a home in Montreal this past season, so LA fans should be rooting for his continued success. In February of 2020, Toffoli was sent to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Tim Schaller, Tyler Madden, a 2020 second-round pick, and a 2022 conditional fourth-round pick. Prior to the start of the 2020-21 season, Toffoli signed a four-year, $17 million contract. The deal has certainly paid off, as he led the team in goals and points during the regular season, posting 28 goals and 44 points.
Like the Maple Leafs, the Habs have a few players on the roster deserving of a Stanley Cup that have yet to win one. Franchise goaltender Carey Price (age 33) has not yet won a championship, despite being one of the best goalies to play the game, and Shea Weber (age 35) also has not hoisted the Cup. To see these phenomenal players finally get what they deserve would be special for the entire hockey world.
Kings Fans Will Soon Be Able to Root for Their Own Team in the Playoffs
The Kings are slowly turning into a playoff team, and with all of the young, developing talent the team has, next season may give Kings fans a chance to root for their favorite team in the playoffs. This offseason, the team has a chance to lock down some important pieces through trades or free agency, as they have the assets to do it. With the anticipated new additions to next season’s lineup, the Kings will be set to make the postseason.
Advanced Stats per Evolving-Hockey