2017-18 team-by-team NHL season outlook: Previewing the Los Angeles Kings
After changes up top, L.A. has experience, but it's still lacking too much offensive speed to go far
As October creeps closer, another NHL season creeps with it.
In the 10th of a series of team-by-team summer reviews and season previews, here's a glimpse at the ...
Los Angeles Kings
Three years after winning the Stanley Cup and just a single season after a second-place finish in the Pacific Division, the Kings (39-35-8) went big but ultimately fell flat in 2016-17, wheeling and dealing at March's in-season trade deadline to land veteran goalie Ben Bishop and touting a top-six defense but stumbling on the road en route to a postseason at home. Los Angeles' 205 goals against was almost top-five material, and the team mustered a 23-16-2 mark at home, but an offense sorely lacking pop finished in the bottom five and prompted an overhaul in management this offseason.
Preaching the necessity of a culture change, the Kings replaced general manager Dean Lombardi with assistant GM Rob Blake, then canned two-time title winner Darryl Sutter in favor of assistant John Stevens. So, for better or worse, L.A. will be banking on enough of a momentum shift to come from a pair of guys who've already been around the team. And with their activity this summer, the Kings sure seem intent on making that momentum shift the preface to an immediate return to the playoffs.
After sending Bishop to the blockbuster-happy Dallas Stars in May, Blake actually kept Los Angeles intact about as best he could. Couple the reasonable re-signings of Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson with the bargain-bin additions of Cammalleri and defensive help, and the Kings actually had a quiet, albeit respectable, summer. Speaking of Cammalleri, he's the only potential impact player to join the roster unless you factor in first-round draft steal Gabriel Vilardi, and even if he doesn't pan out as well as hoped, he's hardly commanding anything after being bought out by the Devils.
There's a little left to be desired, however, thanks to some questionable moves by the front office. You can't fault Blake too much for passing on a 45-year-old Jaromir Jagr, but suggesting anyone with more-than-decent offensive skill isn't a "fit" for an offense that needs juice as badly as L.A. sounds a little off. Blake's predecessor, though, is even more at fault here, leaving the Kings tied down by top-dollar deals for aging guys like Marian Gaborik and Dustin Brown.
The Kings had Bishop for part of 2016-17, not to mention younger versions of Brown, Gaborik, Jeff Carter and Jonathan Quick, yet they still failed to overcome their own inconsistencies as a middle-of-the-road wild-card hopeful. Now? They have an intriguing talent in the pipeline thanks to Vilardi's arrival, they have somewhat-fresh, somewhat-old voices behind the bench and upstairs and they have a roster that isn't a whole lot different outside of the 35-year-old Cammalleri stepping in from New Jersey.
In other words, on paper at least, the Kings don't look much like a team positioned to take a substantial leap after their non-playoff 2016-17 campaign. Cammalleri might very well be the steal of the summer at $1 million, and Vilardi should be a fan favorite sooner rather than later, but this is still a team in dire need of some short- and long-term speed. Some added boost from Anze Kopitar sure would help. What Los Angeles has for sure is experience, especially with a guy like Stevens boasting a head coaching rèsumè of his own. But in a tough Pacific Division, that probably isn't going to be enough to emerge from the middle tier of NHL contenders in 2017-18.
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