Every time a team, in any sport, wins a championship the discussion immediately turns to whether or not they can repeat. Whether it’s an old team or a young team, it’s always a focus right after a champion is crowned.
We’ve seen it in recent years in the National Hockey League, with teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks capturing a Stanley Cup, followed by the immediate passing around of the word “dynasty”. It’s something you can likely expect with the 2011-2012 Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
Many have focused on the fact that the Kings were an eight seed and were surprised to see a team that snuck into the postseason on one of the final days of the regular season perform so well. In fact, it’s not surprising at all.
This was a team that was expected to still be in the mix in May and June. Like the Penguins and Blackhawks before them, they built up a very strong core of young players, complementing them with solid role players and eventually adding bigger pieces in guys like Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
This is a team that has all the right pieces to contend not just this year, but for years to come. That doesn’t mean they’re going to repeat next year. But they’ll be right in the thick of things on a regular basis, assuming they’re able to maintain the young core that they already have in place.
That obviously starts with Jonathan Quick. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy and I’m of the opinion that he should take home the Vezina as well. He’s a free agent next season and you can bet the Kings will lock him up long term.
On the blue line, Drew Doughty is already signed long term after the long holdout last summer that has him signed for seven more years. The team has Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene locked up for a couple more years on a defense that is returning pretty much everyone from this year’s Stanley Cup team, as of right now.
On the forward lines, the Kings boast some of the top offensive talent in the league. Anze Kopitar is one of the top few forwards in the league, and one of the best two-way centers. Dustin Brown brings offense and a physical game and Justin Williams is signed for three more years. Richards is signed through 2022 and Carter through 2020.
There are going to be players from this team that will have to be replaced. Dustin Penner could bolt for a big contract after a very impressive postseason. Jarret Stoll could end up finding a new home. Dwight King and Colin Fraser are also free agents this summer.
But as long as the nucleus of this team as in place, with the guys like Quick, Kopitar, Doughty, Brown, along with Carter and Richards, this is going to be a tough team to compete against in the Western Conference for a number of years. Many were too quick to declare the Chicago Blackhawks a “dynasty” after winning the Stanley Cup, but that’s not what I’m saying here.
The Stanley Cup is considered “the toughest trophy in sports to win”. Whether or not you agree with that sentiment, there’s truth to it. It’s tough to repeat, in any sport, after you’ve won a championship. But the pieces are there for the Kings. They’re not going to sit happily with their first Stanley Cup title in franchise history and be satisfied.
Expect this team to be a regular contender out west. With the size and speed this team has in place, the defense they play, and the man between the pipes, this is a club that few teams are going to be able to match up against. Whether or not that means repeat won’t be known until about a year from now, but you can count on the Kings having another opportunity to host Lord Stanley’s Cup in the very near future.