A powerful team during the early 2010s and winning two Stanley Cups during their reign, have been on the decline ever since their defeat in the 2017-18 playoffs against the up and coming Las Vegas Golden Knights. The Kings failed to make the NHL’s twenty-four team return to play, making this the second year in a row they were absent from the playoffs. Although the current standings seem bleak, the future promises to return the Kings to their glory days of the early 2010s.
Why the Kings failed to make the Playoffs
The Kings have one of the older cores in the NHL with lots of money tied up in a few players whose game has started to decline. A deteriorating core is never a good thing for a franchise that wants to stay competitive as a big market team like the Kings aim to be. The Kings have signed some of their best performers from the Stanley Cup teams to massive contracts that are now starting to hurt the team as the quality of their play declines. The Kings paid lots of money to some of their best forwards during their glory years, but now the Kings are not scoring as many goals due to the decline of play from the handsomely paid players.
During the 2019-20 season, the Kings ranked 30th out of 31 teams in goals. Only 177 goals were scored in 70 games. The Kings also struggled with the defensive side of the rink as they allowed 209 goals during the regular season. They ranked 18 out of 31 teams in goals allowed. If the Kings want to be competitive, they need to implement lots of their prospects into next year’s line up to help develop them into the future stars of the team.
As previously mentioned, the Kings have a lot of contracts that are hindering their salary cap. The Kings decided to lock up their core from their Stanley Cup championship teams and now the Kings must be regretting their decision of signing these big contracts.
The Kings captain is still one of the best players on the team, but his contract and age may cause issues in the future. Kopitar scored 21 goals and added 41 assists this season. He had a very good year, but Kopitar is 32 years old and still has four years left on his contract. Most player’s production starts to tail off after they turn 30. So far, his production has not dropped, but it would not be surprising if he started putting up fewer points in the remaining years of his contract.
The former Kings’ captain has been with the Kings his entire career. Brown had a really good season with the Kings, as he was one of their best players. He scored 17 goals and added 18 assists for 35 points. Although Brown had a great season last year, he had some seasons in the past where he did not achieve 30 points while playing 82 games. Dustin Brown has been very inconsistent in his career. If Brown produces for the remaining two seasons on his contract then, the Kings will be very pleased, but if he does not produce then, he will be a thorn in the Kings’ side.
Once a prolific goal scorer in his prime, Jeff Carter was a force to be reckoned with on the Kings. Carter only scored 17 goals and added 10 assists this season. He has two years remaining on the massive contract that he signed way back in 2011. Carter was playing for the Philadelphia Flyers when he signed the contract. Carter is owed a bit over five million dollars for the next two seasons. Similar to Dustin Brown, if Carter finds his former game, the Kings will be happy to pay him his five million dollars, but if he continues to put forth a lack of production at this level, then the Kings will not be pleased. At 35 years old, Carter is more likely than not to continue to decrease in his production.
Although Doughty is still contributing points and is a reliable defenseman, he is 30 years old and just finishing the first year of his massive contract. Doughty is owed 11 million dollars for the next seven seasons. The likelihood that Doughty’s production drops off in the next seven years is very high.
The backbone to the Kings’ two Stanley cups, Quick is on the downside of his career. Quick was dominant during the Kings’ Stanley cup years and earned himself a massive 10-year contract worth $58 million on July 1st, 2012. Although the contract didn’t officially start until the 2013-2014 season, Quick’s play since signing the contract was incredible up until the 2018-2019 season.
During the 2018-19 season, Quick had a 3.38 goals-against average and a .888 save percentage. During the 2019-2020 season, Quick had a bit of a bounce-back season as he had a 2.79 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage. Although he bounced back from his awful 2018-2019 season, Quick will never find his once-dominant play again. The remaining three years of his contract probably will not be good for the Kings. The team owes Quick almost six million dollars for the next three years. With Quick’s play declining, the Kings will have to overpay an underachieving goalie for the remainder of his contract.
The Kings will have almost 20 million dollars to spend in free agency this offseason. Instead of investing almost all of their money into one player, the Kings should instead invest their money into many different players if they want to succeed.
Free Agent Forwards
The Kings lacked offensive firepower this season, and in the offseason, they need to look for new players to produce offense for them.
The Vancouver Canucks forward has fallen out of favor with Canucks head coach, Travis Green. Leivo is a 27-year-old winger, and he only played 36 games during this past season. He scored seven goals and added 12 assists during 2019-20. Leivo will create more offense for the Kings, and that is exactly what they need.
Alex Galchenyuk is an interesting player, as he can play all forward positions. He did not have the best season offensively as he only had eight goals and 16 assists. During the 2019-2020 season, Galchenyuk played for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Minnesota Wild. Galchenyuk once scored 30 goals for the Montreal Canadiens. He still has the potential to be a consistent 30 goal scorer. If his scoring touch can return, then he will be a fantastic addition to the Kings.
Free Agent Defenseman
The Kings ranked 18th in goals allowed during the 2019-2020 season showing one of their weaknesses. Los Angeles will need to sign some solid defenseman to try and make their defense better.
Demelo had a fantastic season with the Winnipeg Jets and the Ottawa Senators. Demelo does not produce much offense from the back end. He only had 10 assists during the 2019-2020 season, but his play defensively made up for his lack of offense. Demelo averaged 20 minutes a game and had a +4 rating during the season. The +4 rating shows that Demelo is defensively responsible. While Demelo is on the ice there are not many goals scored. If Demelo is signed by the Kings, then he will improve their defense drastically.
Gustafsson is an excellent offensive defenseman. The Calgary Flames defenseman played 20 minutes a game and helped produce lots of offense. Gustafsson is solid on the defensive side of the puck, but his real value is when he produces offensively. This season Gustafsson had 29 points between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Flames. Although he had a really good season, it was a disappointment because he could not produce the same as he had during the 2018-2019 season. In the 2018-2019 season, Gustafsson produced 60 points in 79 games. Gustafsson will be a fantastic addition to the Kings as he will provide needed offense. Also, he will be a solid addition to the Kings’ defense.
Injecting Youth Into the Lineup
The Kings have brought in lots of young players that should be put into the lineup in the coming seasons. The Kings were blessed with getting the 2nd overall pick during the 2020 draft. The future for the Kings looks bright. They have drafted high-level prospects, including Rasmus Kupari, Akil Thomas, Alex Turcotte, Arthur Kaliyev, Tobias Bjornfot, and Kale Clague. These players will be competing for roster spots on the Kings come training camp.
The Kings also have acquired some talent from other teams in trades. Players such as Carl Grundstrom, Tyler Madden, and Sean Durzi will be competing in training camp to try and earn spots on Los Angeles’ roster.
With the potential to draft a franchise player in the 2020 draft. The Kings will most likely be able to draft Quinton Byfield with the 2nd overall pick. Byfield is a center that is currently tearing up the OHL for the Sudbury Wolves. If the Kings do draft Byfield, he will be a dynamic piece that will help propel the Kings back into the promised land.
The Kings may have to suffer through a few more bad years due to some of their large contracts, but the future is very bright thanks to great drafting and trading. The large number of prospects coming through the system will help the Kings return to Stanley Cup champions.
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