Monday, September 12, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Los Angeles Kings

The Kings have been knocking on the door of North American wide recognition for the efforts of Dean Lombardi for some time now, but two first round exits in the last 2 seasons have delayed that process. GM Lombardi made some big splashes this offseason, so will it finally translate into respect, and possibly Stanley Cup contention?

Strengths: They already have an amazing young nucleus, aside from the acquisitions this offseason. Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson form a formidable top defensive pairing that can rival almost any in the NHL, and their is decent depth behind them with Matt Greene and Rob Scuderi being the best of the depth. Offensively, of course the big guns are Anze Kopitar, who may have done even more if he hadn't suffered a bad knee injury late in the season. Dustin Brown is also a very good centerman and captain. But the big focus is on the two big newcomers, Mike Richards and Simon Gagne. Former Flyers teammates, they both should open up the offensive firepower even more than a season ago, and Richards and Kopitar could be the best one-two goal scoring punch in the NHL this season. They also have good depth at the wings as well. Goaltending is another strong suit, with Jonathan Quick coming on last year as a premier goaltender in this league, and it helps to have the up and coming Jonathan Bernier behind him.

Weaknesses: There aren't many to find on this team. They did lose Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn in the Richards trade to Philly, and they also lost Michal Handzus and Alexei Ponikarovsky to free agency, but that shouldn't be such a big problem for a team that only lost 1 of their Top 7 scorers this offseason in Ryan Smythe.

Any Help Coming? They lost Brayden Schenn to the Flyers in the Richards trade, but their are some good prospects left in the system. Aside from Jonathan Bernier, Andre Loktionov is a good center prospect with some potential to do almost anything from penatly kill to possibly lead the power play. D Derek Forbort projects as a possible top pairing defensemen at some point in the future, and D Thomas Hickey has yet to fully develop, but has good potential to.

Outlook: The LA Kings are gunning for the Sharks in the Pacific division, and possibly the Canucks and Blackhawks and Red Wings in the West. They have legitimate Stanley Cup Contender written all over them, and all that is left to do now is try to live up to the hype.

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