The Los Angeles Kings stumbled throughout the regular season in 2011-2012, barely clinching a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But you wouldn’t have known it by the way they performed once the postseason began.
The Kings absolutely rolled to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. They lost just two games in the process and dominated in just about every facet of the game. Offensively, defensively, and between the pipes, no one stood a chance against the Darryl Sutter-led Kings last spring.
Yet, as we head into the 2013 season, this is a team that is somehow still flying under the radar. Much of the Cup buzz, somewhat predictably, has rested with teams in the Eastern Conference, more specifically in the Atlantic Division. Little talk has been heard of a potential repeat.
But make no mistake about it, this team is absolutely capable of making another run this season. What they did last year was no fluke.
The Kings return their entire team from the Stanley Cup title, save Kevin Westgarth who was traded for Anthony Stewart. If anything, that has the potential to be an upgrade.
Offensively, the Kings should be much better this year. A full season of Jeff Carter should prove beneficial, and they have a dynamite top six if everyone can stay healthy. Anze Kopitar is standing on the cusp of super stardom, while Dustin Brown, Mike Richards, and Simon Gagne are all still in the fold.
This is also an incredibly deep team, with some more young talent waiting to make an impact (Andrei Loktionov). They’re strong on the forecheck and have plenty of forwards capable of playing both the physical game and a strong offensive game. They’re dangerous.
The blue line is deep. Drew Doughty is going to be a Norris finalist again very soon. He’s the star of this blue line, but there is plenty of size and smarts around him to go around. It’s a group that handles opposing forwards very well, even when they’re up against a tough forecheck like their own.
Then you have the man in the crease: Jonathan Quick. He’s the best goaltender in the league, even if he didn’t take home the hardware that would validate that statement. He’s completely recovered from his back surgery and has shown he can carry the team on his back if he has to.
There’s no reason to think that this team isn’t going to be a force in the Western Conference this season, with all of their pieces returning. Though it will be interesting to see if their old offensive woes return, don’t expect this club to stumble through the regular season like they did last year.