The Los Angels Kings’ offseason has seemed to switch gears. In the early days of summer the Kings were dealing with a media storm surrounding the legal troubles associated with Jarett Stoll and Mike Richards. Stoll and Richards’ troubles added to the drama that has been Slava Voynov had Kings fans in a panic.
Message boards and forums were littered with questions about player’s character, exclamations about needing to abandon ship and second guessing the Kings’ front office.
But now with the initial shock and speculations that come with trouble off the ice, the focus on the Kings seems to have shifted back to on ice issues like roster projections and player contracts.The Kings most recently took care of a large number of restricted free agents including Nick Shore and Jordan Weal.
However one of the bigger signings of the offseason took place a while ago but may have been put on the back burner because of when it was signed. Somewhere between Stoll getting caught with illegal drugs, the termination of Richards’ contract and Voynov getting jail time, Kings forward, Tyler Toffoli, was re-signed.
On June 26 to be exact, Toffoli and the Kings agreed to a shiny new two-year contract worth $6.5 million. Toffoli is coming off of a season where he established new career highs in almost every statistic. Toffoli recorded 23 goals, 26 assists, a plus-25 rating, three power play goals and five short-handed goals, all career highs, in 76 games last season.
Now the stars seem to be aligning for Toffoli to have a break out year in Los Angeles.
One of the biggest factors in Toffoli’s production continuing to improve next season has to do with three certain stars coming back together. Those three stars being Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson and Toffoli. The reunion of the original “That 70s Line” is sure to help Toffoli in the long run.
Last season Pearson suffered a broken left fibula during a game against the Winnipeg Jets in early January. Pearson’s season was cut short to 42 games because of the injury, which ultimately slowed down the production of the line as a whole.
Now I’m not saying Dwight King’s number 74 was not a worthy replacement for Pearson’s 70 in the line’s dynamics. Carter and Toffoli’s numbers, which were good enough to finish second and third respectively in team scoring, definitely suggest the line was still productive.
But there is a swagger to the line with Pearson where he belongs. The line is built around talent and speed, and in King’s case, the talent is there at times and the speed not as often for a line with Carter and Toffoli.
Now everything should be back to normal for Toffoli. Carter will still be in the middle and Pearson back on the left side. If everything clicks back into place, “That 70s Line” should return to the offensive juggernaut that carried the Kings through the 2014 playoffs.
Playing behind a top line of Milan Lucic, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik should also continue to help Toffoli and his growth. A one-two punch of Kopitar, Lucic and Gaborik and Pearson, Carter and Toffoli is any coaches nightmare.
A healthy “That 70s Line” would likely be a top line combination on most teams. Sitting in the number two slot and not getting the opposing team’s top defensive pair can only help a line with the offensive power of Carter, Toffoli and Pearson.
Now is Toffoli’s time to jump on the opportunity. Can Toffoli break the 30 goal barrier? A 23 goal season says it’s a possibility. Can he get to 40? A 23 goal season where he missed six games and only played with his line in tact for half the season says it’s not a long shot. Can he lead the Kings in scoring? We’ll have to wait and find out.
Eric received his BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Eric has contributed to RinkRoyalty.com, Buffalowdown.com and California Rubber Magazine.