In 2012, the Los Angeles Kings went on an amazing run to the Stanley Cup Finals where they beat the New Jersey Devils in 6 games, as the 8th seed out of the Western Conference. Just two years later, in 2014, they won Lord Stanley’s prize again, this time after finishing 10th in the NHL.
Following their 2014 Stanley Cup win they had been deemed one of the NHL’s best teams, alongside the Chicago Blackhawks. But were they ever really that good, or did they just get hot at the right time?
During the 2012 run, LA made the playoffs by just 5 points, beating out the Calgary Flames for the 8th and final playoff spot. The team had to face the 1st place Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the playoffs. It seemed impossible for them to pull off the upset, but clearly nobody told them, as they went on to win the series in just five games. Next up was the St. Louis Blues, and once again the Kings won it with ease, this time pulling off the four game sweep. After this was the Western Conference Finals, against the, then Phoenix Coyotes. The Kings took the series in just 5 games. They went on to the Stanley Cup Finals where they beat the New Jersey Devils in 6 games. The Kings won the cup after playing just 20 playoff games.
What made this run so unbelievable was that they barely made the Playoffs and didn’t exactly put up great numbers during the regular season. That year the LA Kings averaged just 1.84 goals per game in 5v5 situations, second last in the NHL. They had a shooting percentage of just 6.03% in 5v5 situations, last in the NHL. They couldn’t score any goals. Their leading goal scorer was Anze Kopitar with 25 goals on the year.
After winning the Cup in 2012, despite having trouble scoring any goals, the Kings were labeled a team to look out for entering the 2014 Playoffs. This time around they faced the San Jose Sharks in the first round, and after a hard fought series that went 7 games, the Kings were victorious.
In the second round they played the Anaheim Ducks, and once again the Kings won the series after playing 7 games. Then came the Western Conference Finals against the previous victors, the Chicago Blackhawks. For the third straight series, it went to 7 games, but despite playing their 21st playoff game in game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, the Kings managed to pull off the win, booking their ticket to the Stanley Cup Finals. In the Finals, the Kings would meet the New York Rangers, who had also played a lot of games in the playoffs that year (20 games for the Rangers.) Many expected a long series after both of these teams had played so many games in the playoffs, but this series wouldn’t last long as the LA Kings won the series in 5 games, winning their second Cup in three years.
This time around the Kings were expected to be more dominant, and in the regular season they finished with 5 more points than they did two seasons prior. But did they manage to figure out their scoring woes? They did improve their goals per game at 5v5 from 1.84 to 2.03, but still sat 5th last in the league in the category. They also improved their 5v5 shooting percentage from 6.03% to 6.51%, but remained 2nd last in the league in that category. They did, however, get a much better individual scoring performance from Anze Kopitar, who had a shooting percentage of 14.5% and had 29 goals, but 10 of those goals came on the power play. Other than Kopitar there was only one 20+ goal scorer on the team, Jeff Carter. So in the two years following the 2012 Stanley Cup run they were still having trouble putting the puck in the net, and because of that, they still weren’t a dominant regular season club.
The LA Kings were one of the first NHL teams to really buy into the Corsi trend that swept the NHL around the time they won their first Cup. They have been one of the best possession teams over the last several years. They also rely heavily on the goaltending of Jonathan Quick, who has been arguably one of the best goaltenders in the NHL since the Kings Cup run of 2012. While having a good possession numbers and solid goaltending may be important, at the end of the day you’re going to have trouble winning if you can’t score goals, and the current LA Kings are a great example of that.
It seems as though, until a new management core takes over in LA, which I don’t believe is entirely necessary yet, the Kings will be a team that just always has the puck and will shoot a fair bit, but will have difficulty getting it past the goalie. Dating back prior to the 2011-12 season the Kings have been having trouble scoring, so one would think they would go out and find a decent goal scorer. To their credit, they did pick up the 5v5 goal scoring for a few years during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, but their offensive production has plummeted this season.
When the trade deadline came around this season, the Kings knew what their problem was: goal scoring. While there wasn’t a lot available in terms of goal scorers, there were players available that could have given the team a little boost. However, instead of finding that little boost in an attempt to make the playoffs, they went out and picked up goalie Ben Bishop. This move made little to no sense as they had Quick returning from injury and Peter Budaj playing pretty well, so they didn’t need a goalie, but for some unknown reason, they made the trade. What was stoping them from calling Arizona and asking the price for Radim Vrbata? A lot was made about the Vrbata contract that sees him getting a $1,000,000 dollar salary and another million in bonuses, with additional playoff bonuses that would ensure he gets paid $312,500 for every series his team wins. Should his team win the Cup he would cost a team 3.25 million dollars, of which the Coyotes could retain up to 50%. According to Capfriendly.com, the Kings have just under $500,000 in cap space. Assuming you avoided the Ben Bishop trade, and made getting a goal scorer your priority, you would then have roughly 4.16 million dollars of cap space to work with. Vrbata would be worth spending your cap space on if you need a goal scorer, he has 15 5v5 goals on the 29th place Arizona Coyotes this season.
The LA Kings weere known as one of the NHL’s best since 2012, however they have had difficulty scoring goals, and only play like an above average team in the regular season. Now the lack of goal scoring, and management refusing to address the problem, have caught up to them and that is the main reason they are not going to make the playoffs this season.