Los Angeles Kings 2012-2013: The Future Remains Bright

Chase W.
August 09 2012 02:09PM

Dustin Penner and Drew Doughty
The key to the Stanley Cup rides high
Photo by JulieAndSteve via
Wikimedia Commons

Sifting through the futures odds to win the Stanley Cup for the 2012-2013 NHL season, it is no surprise that the Los Angeles Kings currently sit atop the chart as 8/1 favorites. Coming off a 16-4 playoff record, the team will return an identical roster to the one that defeated New Jersey 6-1 in game six of the Stanley Cup Final. GM Dean Lombardi has been relatively quiet this offseason, focusing on retaining his key contributors and role players. Since the team figures to look stunningly similar on opening night, projecting the Kings’ season success will best be accomplished evaluating last season’s roster moves and results to determine how many rings they’ll win in the next five years what we can expect this year.

Looking Back at 2011-2012

5v5 SF/60 (NHL Rank): 30.7 (9)

5v5 SA/60 (NHL Rank): 26.4 (4)

5v4 SF/60 (NHL Rank): 45.1 (25)

4v5 SA/60 (NHL Rank): 49.1 (13)

 

 

Los Angeles 5v5 Performance

Coach

5v5 GF

5v5 SF

5v5 GA

5v5 SA

Shots %

5v5 PDO

Record

Murray (29 games)

39

651

44

621

51.2

989

13-12-4

Stevens/Sutter Pre-Carter (32 games)

45

777

48

665

53.9

986

14-10-8

Sutter Post-Carter (21 games)

43

544

30

409

57.1

1006

13-5-3

Sutter Total

88

1,321

78

1,074

55.2

994

27-15-11

 

Last season’s edition of the Los Angeles Kings is a story best viewed through the lens of two different seasons. After Dean Lombardi reshaped his roster during the 2011 offseason with the additions of Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, et al., the team was filled with high expectations heading into 2011-2012. However, through 29 games they were muddled with a mediocre record, underperforming at even strength, and frankly running into poor shooting luck. There were also systemic issues, prompting the team to fire head coach Terry Murray and eventually settle upon Darryl Sutter to assume the job behind the bench.

Over the next 32 games under interim coach John Stevens and Sutter, the team saw significant increases in 5v5 SF/SA ratio, and their goal differential continued to improve. Just days before the trade deadline, Lombardi made a huge splash sending defenseman Jack Johnson and a first round pick to Columbus to acquire the services of forward Jeff Carter. Over the team’s final 21 games, the Kings’ shot and goal ratios skyrocketed and they stormed into the playoffs with the league’s best post-deadline score-adjusted Fenwick.

Flying under the radar as the Western Conference’s 8th seed, Los Angeles had quietly positioned themselves for playoff dominance. With an improved roster and a bit of shooting regression to the mean, we saw that the Kings were not merely a mediocre team that got hot at the right time. 

Looking Forward to 2012-2013 

The Kings are a rare form of champion in that they will be returning the exact same team that lifted the Cup in June. For Dean Lombardi, this offseason has been spent locking in key contributors and role players from last year’s squad. Goaltender Jonathan Quick signed a 10-year, $58 million extension, UFA Dustin Penner signed a 1-year contract, and RFA Dwight King, UFA Colin Fraser, and UFA Kevin Westgarth were locked into two-year deals.

While locking in key pieces that helped your team win in June is never to be frowned upon, the main difference between last year’s Kings and this season’s will not be found in Lombardi’s offseason dealings. Instead, a full season of Coach Darryl Sutter, and just as importantly, a full year of Jeff Carter instead of Jack Johnson is going to be the significant difference.

After the Kings decided to deal Johnson to Columbus in a masterful trade at last season’s deadline, the team had accomplished two important goals of any franchise in one fell swoop. When Carter replaced him in the lineup on February 25, subtracting Johnson meant both an immediately improved defensive unit and a more dangerous top-six forward group. 

We’ve seen in the past that Johnson was continually unable to handle assignments against mediocre competition starting his shifts primarily in the offensive zone, dragging down his team when he was on the ice. In such a fortunate case of player misevaluation on Columbus' part, Dean Lombardi found the chance to add a player capable of absorbing a slew of tough minute assignments, subtracting a net negative at the same time. The move also allowed young, capable defensemen Slava Voynov and Alec Martinez to replace Johnson’s minutes in the lineup; an added bonus to replacing one of their worst players with one of Columbus' best.

Though the mid-season additions of Dwight King and Jordan Nolan would also bolster the Kings up front, it was the Carter for Johnson deal that took the preliminary impacts of the coaching change to the next level. Such masterful use of asset management has positioned the Kings to be Stanley Cup contenders for years to come.

It will be interesting to track the performance of Jonathan Quick after receiving such a risky extension, especially considering the considerable performance jump over his career averages last season. Though it may be premature to expect a .929 save percentage forever, a bit of regression shouldn't hurt Los Angeles. Even if their power play remains lackluster, if the Kings pick up where they left off at even strength, they should have no trouble winning the Pacific Division. 

 In sum,
 

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Chase is a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers and also contributes to Driving Play, the blog with three first lines. You can find many of his hockey-related tweets by following @DrivingPlay. FACT: Simon Gagne is the greatest hockey player of all time.