Los Angeles Kings(39-35-8: 5th Pacific):
What a whirlwind of a season for the Kings last year, between Jonathan Quick getting injured and missing 65 games, Anze Kopitar’s 52 point season and Drew Doughty’s 44 point year the Kings faced their struggles offensively and defensively. On the bright side though they signed Tyler Toffoli back and Jeff Carter had a year for himself leading the Kings offense with 32 goals and 66 points. Heading into this season the Kings signed former Devils forward, Michael Cammalleri and former Wild back up Darcy Kuemper. Aside from their offensive question marks, the Kings have a healthy Quick back and some positive signs on the back end in Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez and although Doughty had a down year he is still a Vezina defenseman. Quite honestly though the Kings are in a tough division and with Calgary getting better and Edmonton here to stay, the Kings may have a tough time squeaking into the playoffs next year, their only shot is a wildcard clinch. But I am going to come out and say it, Kings won’t make the playoffs next season, nope. Winnipeg may catch that last wild card spot.
For L.A. though some offensive changes need to be addressed and some guys need to put the past behind them and step up big time next season for this team to even be considered a playoff team. To start…
Anze Kopitar: Bit obvious one here but Kopitar is better than 44 points, We all know that. But that can’t happen again and if it does the Kings are done. Kopitar is going to need to get back to his 70 point capability, put the contract signing behind him and start leading the Kings offense again. Kopitar is easily a 25 goal scorer, and paired with Cammalleri and Gaborik(hopefully, barring his health) on line two, this three should be able to find produce top six forward points. If Kopitar has those kinds of linemates despite their age, they both can play with talent if it’s there. Kopitar is going to need to take a major stride and see if he can handle the pressure because last season he failed, miserably.
Tanner Pearson: Major strides for the 25-year-old forward, tallying a career high 44 points and 24 goals, Pearson is now expected to do that again, especially being paired with Carter and Toffoli. It’s not impossible for the left winger, but it’s not an easy feat to handle. Pearson on line one will see another increase in production and will have to perform big time alongside those two guys. Pearson set the bar high for himself after last season, the opportunity is there to produce and the Kings are going to need Pearson to answer.
Jake Muzzin: People, what happen to Muzzin last season, a -21 plus/minus???? 28 points?? He took the same amount of shots(175,173,203,184), played the same amount of minutes and wasn’t injuried. He was bad, let’s just say that. He’s done this before though in 2013-14 he had a similar year(not nearly as bad +/-) he posted 24 points then put up 40 for two seasons now back to 28, if the Kings want a shot at some sort of post season hockey Muzzin is going to need to play that #3 defenseman a little more consistently. With some powerplay and top four minutes, plus with what he’s shown in the past. There’s no reason for Muzzin to not be a 40 point defenseman next season and if he can accomplish that, the Kings chances of postseason play increase just a tad.
Jonathan Quick: I’ve been a bit harsh on the Kings here, but with all due respect they were missing one of the best goaltenders in the NHL last season. Quick missed 65 games and the Kings missed their number one goaltender, it showed. Although Peter Budaj posted some fantastic numbers the Kings could not get into a groove without their number one guy, Quick. With Quick back 100%, healthy and ready to start 60 games plus the Kings will benefit tremendously, having a familiar face in net, a guy you can rely on, does wonders to a streaky team. Quick will return to his 30 plus wins, 2.15 GAA caliber and give the Kings some postseason hopes.
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