State of the Kings At The All-Star Break

Record: 30-16-3, 63 points

1st in the Pacific Division

4th in the Western Conference 

5th in the NHL

Power Play: 20.4%

Penalty Kill: 82.3%

Team Leaders

Points: Anze Kopitar, 42

Goals: Tyler Toffoli, 22

Plus/Minus: Tyler Toffoli, 24

It’s that time of year again and whether you’re a fan of the game or find the yearly gimmick pointless, we enter another All-Star Weekend.

The NHL’s best, and John Scott, have all made their way to Nashville for the 2016 NHL All-Star Game. Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty will represent the Los Angeles Kings on the ice while Darryl Sutter will man the bench for the second straight year.

It will be the second All-Star game for both Quick and Doughty. Quick’s first appearance was in Ottawa in 2012 and Doughty’s first appearance was in Columbus last year.

But outside of the All-Stars and the city of Nashville, the rest of the league will spend the next several days in the idle position before the final stretch of the 2015-16 regular season.

With a break in the action and 33 games remaining once play picks back up, now is as good a time as any to take a look at the Kings and assess how the season has gone.

A Welcomed Break

The Kings’ first game back will be on Feb. 2 when they visit the Arizona Coyotes, which will give Los Angeles just under one full week between games. Any time a team can get that many consecutive days to recharge their batteries is a good thing. But this break is placed at an opportune time for the Kings.

Los Angeles just wrapped up a somewhat grueling part of their schedule where they played eight games over a span of 17 days. The Kings went 4-4-0 during that stretch of hockey. But the big thing to take away from this break is the Kings will be able to prepare for a road-heavy portion of the schedule in February.

The Kings will soon be forced out of Staples Center and sent on the road. The yearly Grammys trip is fast approaching which will send the Kings on the road for seven games over 12 days. This break should prove to be a great time for the Kings to rest up before their travel legs are really tested with nine of their 13 games in February being on the road.

Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) during the NHL game between the Los Angeles Kings and the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC Arena.
Anze Kopitar signed an 8-year $80 million dollar deal with the Kings, giving him the third-highest cap hit in the NHL. (Photo By: Andy Martin Jr.)

Kopitar Got His Money

The talk of the town leading into this season was Kopitar and his expiring contract. When a contract didn’t get done before the season the talked spilled over into the regular season.

Every other day a new rumor would get out that Kopitar and the Kings aren’t close to a deal. Then the next day they would be. The conflicting reports played ping-pong with the emotions of Los Angeles’ fans.

Well, Kopitar finally got his new deal and the idea of him possibly hitting the open market this summer is no more. Kopitar and the Kings agreed to a shiny new eight-year, $80 million beginning in 2016-17.

Seeing Kopitar will be in his late 30s once the contract is up, this contract should make Kopitar a King for life. There is a limited no-trade clause in there on the backend of the deal, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

For now, Kopitar will be in Los Angeles for what looks the rest of his career.

New Kings Making Their Mark

Dean Lombardi has down a lot for Los Angeles. We can talk about the two Stanley Cups and the salary cap wizardry all we want but where Lombardi has really left his mark has been with the players he has brought in on a yearly basis. This year has proven no different for the Kings General Manager.

(Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)
Milan Lucic has hit the ground running in Los Angeles. (Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports)

Just after last season ended, Lombardi pulled the trigger on a deal that sent Martin Jones to the Boston Bruins for Milan Lucic. In 48 games with the Kings, Lucic has 12-goals and 29 points. Lucic has spent time on lines with the Kings’ top talent and is contributing in key moments.

The Kings’ most recent acquisition has many asking, how Lombardi does it? Vincent Lecavalier had played in seven games for the Philadelphia Flyers this season and hadn’t dressed since Nov. 12. Lombardi sees something they didn’t in Philly and traded Jordan Weal and a third round pick for the seasoned veteran and defenseman, Luke Schenn.

Since coming to Los Angeles, Lecavalier has played in all ten games, has scored four goals and grabbed six total points. Schenn has stepped right into the lineup and has been on the ice for key moments for the Kings in all ten games.

Two birds one stone.

Kings of the Pacific

At the All-Star break, the Kings sit atop the Pacific Division with seven points separating them and the San Jose Sharks in second place.

The Pacific Division has seemed a bit shaky at times this season which allowed the Kings to jump out to a big lead over the rest of the division. However, the Sharks have gone 8-0-2 and the Anaheim Ducks have gone 7-3-0 in their last ten games while the Kings have put up a 5-4-1 record in theirs.

While Los Angeles sitting pretty now, they will have to find the gas pedal coming out of the break if they want to keep pace in the Pacific.

The Kings big lead in the Pacific and their spot in the Western Conference and NHL overall is thanks in part to a new franchise record set by this year’s team. The Kings needed just 48 games to hit the 30 win mark this season which is the fastest ever done so by a Kings team.

Toffoli Breaking Out

The major pieces are obvious in Los Angeles. Players like Quick, Kopitar, Doughty, Jeff Carter and even newcomers like Lucic are the heavy lifters on the team. These players are looked at to carry the load both because of their skill and their veteran status in the NHL.

But the future of the Kings is not far behind them, and from a statistical view ahead of most of them. Toffoli is having a career year in Los Angeles and is at the ripe age of 23. Toffoli is two goals away from setting a new career high in goals and has 33 games to do it.

The 23-year-old is scoring in every situation for the Kings, including seven power-play goals and four game-winning goals, and making goalies look silly while doing so.

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Toffoli is set to become a restricted free agent at the end of next season when Lombardi will likely have to work some more magic, but until then Kings fans can relish in more goals like the one above.

Moving Forward

Winning games at a record pace. Check. A nice lead over the rest of the Pacific Division. Check. Off-season and recent trades paying off. Check. Star player locked up long-term. Check. Future stars blossoming. Check.

Going into this season, there was plenty of questions about the Kings. How they would rebound from missing the playoffs last season? How would off-ice issues play into the new season? And the Kings, after a brief speed bump in the form of a 0-3-0 start to the season, have answered those questions and look like the Cup contender they should be.

Everything seems to be coming together for the Kings in time for a push towards the playoffs and a possible third Stanley Cup in five years