Los Angeles Kings 2009-10 Season Preview
In the NHL, there are many different ways of doing business to re-build, re-tool, and re-organize your franchise. There is a complete overhaul (this year’s Minnesota Wild), you could choose to spend like drunken sailors (last year’s Tampa Bay Lightning), or you can build from within, relying on specific, key, free agent signings and a solid draft record. Undoubtedly, the Los Angeles Kings have chosen method number three. Let’s look at their chances for success for this coming NHL season.
The Kings have what can be described as a delightful mix of old and new. Skilled players who are in the primes of their career, buttressed by older players who can certainly contribute but may have seen their very best days passed already. The third component, young players just beginning to make their mark in their league, round out this triumvirate of success up-front for the Kings.
Specifically, the Kings are led up front by one of the most singularly talented players in the NHL, Anze Kopitar. Supplementing him with the point producing responsibilities, will be seasoned and proven players like Alexander Frolov, Justin Williams, Michal Handzus, Jarret Stoll, and Sean Avery’s good friend Dustin Brown, he of the stuttering problem that Avery in his typical classy manner found worthy of ridicule while both were teammates. Their key off season addition up front was veteran Ryan Smyth coming over in a trade from Colorado that saw Tom Preissing and Kyle Quincey subtracted from the Kings roster.
Grade of Forwards: B
On the blue line, the Kings continue to emulate their strategy up front with a solid mix of veterans and young players with their best days in front of them. Their main off season addition on the blue line was veteran Rob Scuderi, he formerly of the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Scuderi knows his role well, and will provide veteran leadership, and sandpaper tough defense on the blue line. He won’t be relied upon too much offensively, but will be relied upon as a steadying influence on the other young Kings blueliners. Offensively on the back end, the Kings are led by three talented young defensemen in Drew Doughty, Matt Greene, and Jack Johnson. As three young players with very promising careers still in front of them, the Kings are the envy of the league in talented young defensemen (Remember, the Kings also have Thomas Hickey and Colten Teubert, both first round draft picks, chomping at the bit to get their chance in the NHL.) For this year, the Kings round out their blue line with steady solid veteran Sean O’Donnell and Peter Harrold and Dave Drewiske.
Grade of Defensemen: B+
Unto everything positive, must fall a little bit of negativity. We have reached the point of the examination of the Kings roster, where the team’s Achilles heel becomes evident—for this year at least. The Kings do not have a proven NHL goalie. End stop. That’s not to say that the future isn’t bright in the nets for the Kings, as Jonathan Bernier will be given every opportunity to prove he is the Kings goalie of the future, but as often occurs with inexperienced players, the growing pains will be awkward, gangly and pockmarked with zits. If the Kings can get average play from the triumvirate of Bernier, Jonathan Quick and Erik Ersberg, they will be pleased as punch. Unfortunately, when the back end is shaky, it affects the rest of the team in a terribly negative fashion. Just ask this year’s Illegal Curve summer hockey team.
Grade of Goaltenders: D
The future is bright in Los Angeles. The management of Deam Lombardi has done an admirable job of building a roster in Los Angeles that should be a solid NHL franchise for years to come. The question comes down to this year. Will the young defensemen continue to develop positively. Will the question marks in net surprise everyone and turn into an asset? Will the forwards up front continue to blossom, mature, and produce as is expected? Questions abound in tinsel-town, and until those question marks turn into sure things, the bright future of the Kings, will be just that—the future.
Ceiling: 3rd in Pacific division, 8th in the Western Conference.
Floor: 4th in Pacific Division, 13th in the Western Conference