But can they get back to their glory of winning the Cup, or are they forever trapped between a rock and a hard place
One year removed from winning the Stanley Cup, the Kings had a disappointing finish in 2014-15, as they missed the playoffs, mainly due to not being able to win in OT. Looking to return to their former glory of tough hockey, the Kings decided to go after the one player notorious for being tough: Milan Lucic.
The season went well for a most of it. They started off strong, and held a massive lead in the division for a majority of the season, until the last day when Anaheim came from out of nowhere and won it, while the Kings struggled to stay afloat.
For the fifth season in a row, the Kings led the league in 5v5 CF%, finishing with 57.04%, their second highest total during that span. They were flawless at both ends of the ice, leading the league in 5v5 CF60 (64.13) and 5v5 CA60 (48.29). However, they finished second in xGF% with 55.27%, second only to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins’ 55.81%.
They also had their fair share of potential awards this season. Drew Doughty has a Norris nominee, Anze Kopitar has a Selke nominee, and Jonathan Quick has a Vezina nominee. Not a bad sign for your franchise center, defenseman, and goalie.
— Carolyn Wilke (@Classlicity) June 6, 2016
Once well known and feared for their depth everywhere, the Kings have hit the point where they clung to their core players too much that they have very little depth.
Before, they had Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Jarrett Stoll (when he was good), and Mike Richards down the middle, a center depth feared greatly throughout the league. Now, they have Kopitar, Carter, and not much else signed for next season. Basically Jordan Nolan, Nick Shore, and Vincent Lecavalier, if he doesn’t retire. Maybe Trevor Lewis is he resigns, but even then, it’s Trevor Lewis. Nick Shore has emerged as a very strong possession player, but had only 10 points.
On the wing, it’s much the same. Milan Lucic, Marian Gaborik, and Dustin Brown were once very good players, but they aren’t what they used to be. Lucic was solid, but not spectacular, Gaborik is showing his age, and Dustin Brown is making his contract look like one of the worst, and it’s only been two years. Toffoli and Pearson remain bright spots on the team, but either than that, there isn’t much promise.
On defense, it’s basically Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin. Doughty had one of his better seasons, registering 51 points, while Muzzin is showing that he can be a consistent offensive force on top of his spectacular defense, scoring 40 points for the second year in the row. After that, there isn’t much. Brayden McNabb is solid defensively, and Alec Martinez is good offensively, but having a good top four doesn’t cut it if you have no bottom pair. Rob Scuderi is literally a pylon, while everyone else is injured or a UFA.
In net, it’s one of the more overrated goalies in the league, Jonathan Quick. He isn’t a terrible goalie, but he isn’t the world beater that everyone thinks he is from the 2012 playoffs. Jhonas Enroth is a solid backup, but it looks like he might try to go elsewhere, so they’ll need to look for an option this season.
For next season, the Kings have 11 forwards, 5 defensemen, and 1 goalie locked up for next season. That’s 3 players that they’ll need for next season, all with about $3.3 million in cap space. This should be fun. They’re also trying to resign Milan Lucic by somehow pulling cap room out of nowhere.
They have a lot of high cap, long term deals on the team, which based on the lack of depth, it’s starting to show how big of an impact it’s making. With Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik, Alec Martinez, and Jonathan Quick all locked past 2020 with cap hits north of $4 million, it adds up. Even the less bad contracts, like Kyle Clifford and Anze Kopitar, look bad because they just take up more space. Particularly Kopitar’s, whose $10 million extension kicks in this season, looks bad, not because he’s overpaid, but because it takes up so much space on an already cap strapped team.
The team has two options: look to the minors and bring guys up to replace the players leaving, or try to squeeze as much as you can under the cap. For a team trying to contend for a Cup that’s already lacking depth, the first option might not be a good idea. Except, the second one might not be an option.
So, they need to offload some bad contracts.They’re already trying to trade Dustin Brown, except his contract is untradeable, so good luck with that. You might have to look at getting rid of some of the “cheaper” ones, like Marian Gaborik and Alec Martinez, but that will destroy even more of the depth that they lack.
But, this is the Los Angeles Kings, and the cap doesn’t apply to them. So, check your bags when you cross the border Dustin.
It’s tough to make fun of the Kings. After all, this mess of a cap situation is the result of two Stanley Cup championships. So, it clearly was worth the price.
But, this also could have easily been avoided. Maybe don’t lock up Brown for 8 years to a cap hit that will look awful only a couple years in, even if he is your captain. Maybe don’t give Jonathan Quick a 10 year contract. Maybe don’t sign Gaborik for 7 years. Maybe don’t give Kopitar $10 million a year.
Dean Lombardi was loyal to his players, and he’s paying the price for it. Considering his questionable roster construction of Team USA for the World Cup, we’re starting to see that Lombardi has lost his touch. Yes, he has some Cup rings, but that doesn’t mean that he’s the best, especially since his team has one playoff win in the last year. Can they go back to their Cup winning ways, or are they destined to fall down a dark path.