As the holiday season approaches, PHR will look at what teams are thankful for as the season nears the quarter point of completion. There also might be a few things your team would like down the road. We take a look at what’s gone well in the first month and what could improve as the season rolls on.
What are the Kings most thankful for?
After missing the playoffs two of the last three years and a total overhaul in the front office, things weren’t looking too promising for the Los Angeles Kings, who were looking old, injury prone and shy on young talent coming into the season. The roster seemed to be comprised of past-their-prime players on long-term deals with little hope of things improving. Yet, new coach John Stevens started the team on a positive note as the team began the year going 11-2-2 and giving the Kings some much needed hope that the team might still be good enough to compete for a playoff spot. Granted, the team has struggled lately with a more recent 1-6-1 stretch, but the Kings currently hold second place in the Pacific Division and fifth in the Western Conference. That’s a solid way to start the season.
Who are the Kings most thankful for?
The four highest paid forwards on the Kings roster are 30 or older and all are locked up for between four and seven years, and while neither Jeff Carter or Marian Gaborik have accomplished much this year, veterans Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown have proven that they are still the elite in Los Angeles. Kopitar is tied for the team lead in goals with 10 after 23 games, which is better than last year’s 12 goals throughout the entire season. Brown, who already has eight goals and is second on the team in points, hasn’t put up big scoring numbers in years. If those two can continue to lead this team, a playoff berth is very possible.
What would the Kings be even more thankful for?
Continued health from their goaltender.
One big positive is the health of 31-year-old veteran goaltender Jonathan Quick. When healthy, Quick can be one of the best goaltenders in the game. After an injury-plagued season last year, Quick has been healthy and his numbers support that. He’s already played in 18 games this season (he managed just 17 all last season) and sports a 2.44 GAA, but more importantly, a solid .926 save percentage — something he hasn’t had that high since the 2011-12 season.
What should be on the Kings’ Holiday Wish List?
The team has done a nice job attempting to infuse their youth along with their veteran players, but the more they can develop those young players, the more likely the team can continue to win as the long season begins to take a toll on the veterans. The team has relied heavily on 2014 first-rounder Adrian Kempe, who has tallied seven goals so far this year. After a bit of a down season a year ago, the team is getting more out of 25-year-old Tyler Toffoli. Undrafted Alex Iafallo has spent some time on the first line, but so far has just a goal and seven assists to show for his playing time. Other players like Jonny Brodzinski (one goal), Oscar Fantenberg (one goal, five assists) and Michael Amadio (one goal) have contributed, but the team will need more from them if they want to keep winning down the road.