When the new season starts for the National Hockey League, whenever that may be, the heavy focus is going to be whether or not the Los Angeles Kings can avoid a Stanley Cup hangover.
It’s an issue that has plagued championship teams in the past. The Chicago Blackhawks struggled mightily in the season following their Stanley Cup season in 2010, barely making the playoffs as a no. 8 seed in the Western Conference the following year.
To a lesser degree, we saw the Boston Bruins struggle at times last year, though they looked downright dominant at other times, as well. Similar to the Kings, that was a team that saw virtually no change to their roster, with only a player or two finding a new home last summer.
Unless they completely bomb and miss the postseason, it’d be difficult for the Kings to have a more disappointing regular season than they did last year. They struggled offensively and couldn’t piece together consistent wins until the spring, barely in time to grab a postseason birth.
What I’d expect to see from the Kings next season is much more similar to the Bruins than the Blackhawks. In fact, I’d expect a much better regular season out of this group than we saw last year.
The Kings head into the 2012-2013 season with a roster that looks exactly the same as it did during their dominant postseason run. Every player is returning. On top of that, they have some young players that may be ready to crack the regular lineup if the Kings need an extra punch, with Jordan Nolan looking at some increased playing time and Andrei Loktionov and Tyler Toffoli potentially adding some extra points to the stat sheet at some point this season.
It’s tough to say that any team is safe from that Stanley Cup hangover. But if any team is, the Los Angeles Kings certainly are. Anze Kopitar should become elite and could be a Selke Trophy candidate next season. Jeff Carter will be in Hollywood for a full year. This is a group that has already meshed very well and they still have the best goaltender in the league between the pipes, in Jonathan Quick.
They may not repeat, but when March and April roll around, I highly doubt that we’ll hear fans and analysts talking about the Los Angeles Kings, a team in danger of missing the playoffs.