This is part of Los Angeles Kings day at PHT…
Look, the Los Angeles Kings are more or less stuck with what they have.
In some ways, that’s not such a good thing.
Dustin Brown bitterly gave up his captaincy, but his onerous contract is still on the books through 2020-21. Jeff Carter is 31, sometimes a scary age for a sniper. Marian Gaborik probably counts as “an old” 34, considering his troubling history of injuries.
The team is dragging along some problematic contracts, especially if you’re among those who believe that Jonathan Quick is overrated.
So, yeah, there are some problems.
On the other hand, the Kings only need to look to the team that booted them from the first round to see how quickly negative buzz can turn to a deep playoff run.
Many in the hockey world largely gave up on the San Jose Sharks, possibly expecting the team to blow up by trading aging stars like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. While the team was a pre-season favorite for ages, they weren’t atop many lists for 2015-16.
Perceptions seem a lot sunnier in San Jose after their surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, older players and all.
Let’s take a look at a few other reasons for optimism in Los Angeles:
- They’re not that old: Sure, there are signs of fatigue, but plenty of guys are at or near their prime ages.
Drew Doughty, somehow, is just 26. Anze Kopitar has plenty left in the tank at 28. Jake Muzzin remains worthy of more accolades at age 27, while Tyler Toffoli still has room to climb the ranks of forwards at 24.
Most of the team’s key players are veterans, but not GRIZZLED veterans.
- The West isn’t necessarily at its best: Look, the Western Conference is still foreboding, yet it’s taken a slight step back.
The Blackhawks seem to suffer a painful loss or two every off-season. St. Louis made some tough free agent decisions. The Stars are paying more than $10 million for paltry goaltending, and so on.
It’s not outrageous to picture a scenario where the Kings win that battle of attrition.
- They find a strange way of sneaking under the radar: Let’s not forget that the Kings ranked third in the Pacific Division heading into the playoffs before both of their Stanley Cup victories.
They went years without making the playoffs (2002-03 to 2008-09), went two straight postseasons in which they were booted in the first round, then won their first-ever Cup.
Their only division title was the Smythe, everyone. This is a team that’s at its best when it isn’t quite the favorite.
Do these ideas erase all the misgivings about the Kings? No, but the point is that stranger things have happened in California.