2010-11 NHL season preview: Los Angeles Kings

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for doughty.jpgLast season: (46-27-9, 101 points, 3rd in Pacific Division, 6th in Western Conference) Last season was a big step forward for the Kings. They went from one of the worst teams in the West to the sixth seed. Drew Doughty burst onto the scene and became a Norris Trophy candidate while Jonathan Quick managed a Brodeurian workload. Most look at last season as a stepping stone for bigger things to come.

Head coach: Speaking of stepping stones, Terry Murray seems like the right kind of coach to help a team transition between a bad one and a solid one. He preaches defensive responsibility and seems like a solid bench boss, but I get the feeling the Kings won’t be true contenders until they hire a proven entity.

Key departures: F Alex Frolov, D Sean O’Donnell, F Jeff Halpern, F Fredrik Modin. The Kings might have been better off if they brought back Frolov, but it was clear that the Kings and Frolov had a falling out last season. O’Donnell is a steady defenseman but is far from irreplaceable. Halpern and Modin are two injury-prone guys who can bring something to the table but won’t be missed too dearly.

Key arrivals: D Willie Mitchell, F Alex Ponikarovsky. Mitchell is the big coup of free agency for the Kings. If he can stay healthy, he’ll provide L.A. with a genuine shutdown defenseman. Ponikarovsky seems to be a replacement for Frolov. He flopped badly with the Penguins, but the Kings hope he can be the useful player he was with Toronto.

Under pressure: The Kings top line is under pressure for a simple reason: the rest of the team won’t provide much offensive punch. They don’t really have a true second-line center (Michal Handzus and Jarret Stoll are nice checking centers, but won’t score very often) and get pretty thin at wing once you get past Dustin Brown, Ryan Smyth and eternally-injured Justin Williams. Anze Kopitar, in particular, will face a lot of pressure.

quick2.jpgProtecting the house: Quick is coming off a strong season, even if it was more on the ‘quantity over quality’ side. The team could probably get into the playoffs based on his play alone, but the other Jonathan (Bernier) will make things interesting. It’s unclear if he’ll be able to take the top job from Quick this season, but the Kings might have two solid goalies on their hands at a cheap price, something many teams envy.

Doughty is truly a force of nature. It’s one thing that he’s blessed with incredible talent, but he also possesses the hockey IQ of a veteran defenseman. To imagine that he might just be scratching the surface of his potential is staggering. Beyond Doughty, the Kings have a great shutdown guy in Mitchell, a promising, if occasionally infuriating, talent in Jack Johnson and another solid defense-oriented player in Rob Scuderi. Many teams seem to focus on forwards and goalies, but the Kings are built from the blueline.

Top line we’d like to see: Smyth-Kopitar-Williams. When healthy, this trio is an impressive first line. Smyth is fearless when attacking the net, Kopitar is possibly the most underrated center in the NHL, while Williams can bring speed and goal scoring skill to the table.

Oh captain, my captain: Dustin Brown is one of the many young captains in the NHL, but he breaks certain trends by throwing his body around with reckless abandon. I’m not sure if he’s a natural leader, yet Brown hopes to get the job done by leading by example.

Street fighting man: With Raitis Ivanans ‘playing’ in Calgary now, the Kings lack an obvious fighter. Beyond that fearsome enforcer, it honestly doesn’t seem like the Kings really emphasize fighting anyway, but we’ll see if Wayne Simmonds or someone else picks up the pugilistic mantle.

Thumbnail image for ryansmyth.jpgBest-case scenario: The Kings make a big jump from a middle of the pack Western Conference team to Stanley Cup champions thanks to great goaltending and fantastic defense led by Doughty. Smyth and Williams stay relatively healthy to support Anze Kopitar on a great first line while Brown and Ponikarovsky provide timely offense. Johnson flourishes while Mitchell stays healthy.

Worst-case scenario: Doughty plateaus, the team tunes Murray out and injuries and a lack of depth keep the Kings from producing consistent offense. The Kings barely make the playoffs and then the Sharks punt L.A. out in the first round, leaving Dean Lombardi & Co. to ask what’s next.

Keeping it real: Los Angeles should be able to get solid goaltending from one or both of the Jonathans. Their defense is among the best in the league, particularly with their top two pairs. Kopitar is a truly elite player who would receive a lot more credit if he played in the East. Those are the positives, but this team could be very shallow, especially if they get hit by injuries. They could win the division, yet I’m inclined to say they will probably finish second in the Pacific and fifth in the West.

Stanley Cup chances: On a scale from 1-5, with one being the worst and five being the best, the Kings justify a 4. If they manage to land another scorer or two via trade, waiver pickup or a late free agent signing, their ceiling might be even higher.

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    Hey look: Flyers reel off three straight wins for first time in 2015-16

    Sean Couturier
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    When you’re talking about bright sides, most people believe that they boil down to the light at the end of the tunnel for the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a little success in the present while waiting for that bright future, though.

    The Flyers are providing at least a burst of sunshine lately, as Tuesday’s 4-2 win against the Ottawa Senators gives them … (drum roll) their first three-game winning streak of this season.

    Even in recent darker moments, Philly’s been pretty impressive on offense, so Flyers fans are likely relieved to see a relative offensive outburst.

    Sure, it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns – Radko Gudas might have gotten himself into some trouble, for instance – yet this is still a nice sign of life for a team expected to finish in the draft lottery.

    If that fails … hey, the future may require shades.

    This own-goal captures the start of Dougie Hamilton’s Flames career

    Dougie Hamilton
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    Here’s an understatement: things haven’t gone very well for Dougie Hamilton early in his first season with the Calgary Flames.

    (It must feel like the opposite of Tyler Seguin in Dallas for Boston Bruins fans, but feel free to disagree in the comments.)

    You could look at Hamilton’s meager offensive stats and break down his disappointing work through a very of “fancy” and traditional metrics …

    … Or you could just fire up a projector and show this own-goal on a loop.

    Senators lose Michalek, Zibanejad to injuries vs. Flyers

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    It remains to be seen if the Ottawa Senators can avoid losing against the Philadelphia Flyers tonight, but either way, it’s been a costly night.

    The Senators saw two forwards leave the game with injuries, as Milan Michalek and Mika Zibanejad were banged up on Tuesday.

    Michalek may have gotten hurt blocking a shot while a Radko Gudas hit on Zibanejad left the Senators forward with an upper-body injury.

    Gudas may get a call from the league for his infractions.

    Patrick Kane gets so much time, extends streak to 20 games


    In hockey terms, Patrick Kane was like a star basketball player left alone for an almost strange amount of time to score. Sometimes you miss that opportunity out of the sheer shock of getting that much time and space.

    Devan Dubnyk wasn’t so lucky, however, as Kane beat him to score a 1-1 goal.

    You can watch the whole sequence in the video above, including an absolutely fantastic play by Duncan Keith.

    With that tally, Kane’s scoring streak is now at 20 games, leaving him one game behind Bobby Hull’s Chicago Blackhawks record.

    PHT discusses Kane’s streak and his place among the all-time great runs in the clip below.