Wednesday was the biggest day in the LA Kings’ organization history. The winning of their first Stanley Cup made forgotten years of waiting and turned the current roster of players into heroes. Before the season it would not have been that big of a surprise to anyone to see this team win the Stanley Cup but midway through the season that opinion was different. The Kings had a disappointing first half of the season that saw a coaching change that brought in former Flames’ coach Darryl Sutter. Under Sutter the team was able to rebound and qualify ever so narrowly for the Stanley Cup playoffs. Once thy got a taste of playoff hockey they never looked back winning all but 4 of their playoff games. After the champagne has dried and the thoughts sunk in this is most likely the most intriguing team we will study in this article series. How a team not only rebuilt themselves into champions but overcame disaster to make the playoffs look like a pregame skate. Ahead we will take a look at how the Kings built their team, what factors made this effective and what we can expect from the team in the future.
Position during the 2011-12 season conference (league):
Record during the 2011-12 season:
What method did they use to build their team?
For the Los Angeles Kings building their team came from almost all possible methods. They made several solid draft picks that supplied them with the necessary talent to built a solid core. These draft picks have provided them with either key players or important pieces in trades. This brings us to the next part of the Kings’ winning formula: their use of the trade. They made several daring trades the past couple of seasons that surprised the hockey world. For example sending Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, both highly touted prospects, to the Flyers in exchange for Flyers Captain Mike Richards was the kind of blockbuster move that momentarily turns the hockey world upside down. Not only that trade but midseason this year they acquired Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets in yet another high risk trade. The Kings sent young defenceman Jack Johnson and a 1st round pick to the Jackets in exchange for Mike Richards’ former teammate with the Flyers. Finally the Los Angeles Kings were able to fill in the holes that couldn’t be filled via trade or draft by making some excellent free agent signings.
Why was this method effective?
This method ended up being effective because the Kings were able to find the perfect balance between veteran presence and the young players they picked up in the draft. The Kings were able to get their goal tending position secure quickly, having one of the best goalies in the world at their disposal in Jonathan Quick with promising youngster Jonathan Bernier backing him up. They picked up Drew Doughty who came into the league as an instant success and after some disappointing seasons returned to play better then ever in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Furthermore all the trades they made that were considered high risk turned out to be important to their Stanley Cup Championship. Richards had a tough regular season with the team but was able to use his experience and effort to speed along the development of several young players on the Kings’ roster. During the playoffs he found his form and was a major contributor in the world class run the Kings went on. Furthermore, Carter who joined the team half way through the season helped provide the scoring punch that the team had lacked all year. This impact play from Carter continued into the playoffs, in fact it was him who scored the Stanley Cup winning goal. The loss of Johnson, Simmonds, and Schenn all may turn out to be big losses in the future but after what the Kings accomplished Wednesday they would make the trades again in a heartbeat.
What experience did the General Manager have going into his position?
Dean Lombardi did not have much of a career as a player which is different from many of the other people in this position. But this didn’t stop him from getting involved in the sport he loved in different ways. Lombardi became a player agent early on but quickly transitioned into management. He started his career as an assistant with the Minnesota North Stars before moving with the team to San Jose with the Sharks. He eventually became the head general manager of the Sharks. Interestingly enough Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter, now Stanley Cup Champions, were both fired from their posts with the San Jose in 2002-03. He had been the general manager of the Sharks for 7 years when he left the organization. He became a scout as a holdover until another management job presented itself with the Los Angeles Kings. He took the job in 2006 and as they say the rest is history.
What can be expected from this team in the future?
The same night they had won the Stanley Cup coach Darryl Sutter outlined the team’s expectations for the next season. They were going to do it all again the next season. Whether this will happen or not remains to be seen obviously but with a few additions it could defiantly become a reality. The Kings are blessed with one of if not the best goalie in the game in Conn Smythe Trophy and Vezina Trophy Nominee Jonathan Quick. Behind him they have a younger goalkeeper who could command a decent price on the trade market, although goaltenders never have the same trade value as skaters. At defence the team have Drew Doughty who will be a sure-fire Hall of Famer if he can play like he did in the Final series consistently throughout his career. Surrounding Doughty is a blueline full of size and experience that played a huge role in the numbers and season that Jonathan Quick had. Up front the team is blessed with at least 4 forwards who are in the upper echelon of the league. Richards, acquired via trade, is a solid two-way forward who works hard for every puck. Carter is a forward who if used in the right way has the potential to be a 40 goal scorer. Anze Kopitar, while disappearing in the final series is an incredibly talented forward who will be terrorizing defensive corps for years to come. Meanwhile the entire team is led by American forward Dustin Brown who demonstrated he has both the talent and the fight to lead the team for years to come. Trading Brown at the deadline this year as was reported in the media would have been one of the biggest mistakes in franchise history. While this is all easily written it will be very difficult for the Kings to regain their title. Not since the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998 has a team won the cup two years in a row and that very same team was the last to appear in the finals twice in a row (along with the Penguins) in 2007 and 2008.
How was the core of the team put together?
The core of the Los Angeles Kings consists of 8 players. The forwards are Brown, Kopitar, Richards, and Carter. Behind them Rob Scuderi, Doughty and Matt Greene have provided offence and while keeping the puck away from the net. When the puck gets to the net Quick has been there to stop it. Most of this core was acquired in the draft but trades and free agency also played a factor in the building of the core of this team. Captain Brown was drafted by the Kings 13th overall in 2003 while Kopitar was drafted a couple spots earlier in 2005. Richards and Carter were both acquired via the trade route as discussed earlier.. On the backline Scuderi was signed as a free agent in 2009 to a 4-year deal worth $13.8 million. Drew Doughty was drafted 2nd overall in 2008 while Greene was acquired in a trade from the Edmonton Oilers that also saw Jarret Stoll join the Kings in exchange for Lubomir Visnovsky. Between the pipes, Quick was selected 72nd overall in 2005, the same draft that landed them Kopitar.
Average Age: 27.3
Average Time Spent With Team: Since 2008
Trades are some of the most risky moves in all of sports because if they go wrong they can impact a club for many years to come. In our look at teams who have failed to rebuild or build their team earlier in the series (part 2 – link below) one of the reoccurring things among the teams were trades that ended up hurting the team immensely. Players in the positions dealt can end up being those that elude the team for any number of years down the road. But on the other side of things trades made right can be used to ensure the backbone of a franchise. Just look at the trade the Kings made that brought their last Stanley Cup run, acquiring the best player to ever play hockey in Wayne Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers and finding themselves in the Stanley Cup Finals a few years later. Trades can be excellent tools because unlike free agency they usually shed salary instead of just adding it. In a salary cap NHL this is all too important for any team looking to compete year in and year out. Trades also give more selection then Free Agency, with essentially any player in the world up for acquisition, as was again proven by Gretzky. Versus the draft, trades again have more selection with no limitation other then salary cap and the players who are acquired are usually already proven at the NHL level. The Kings were able to use trades widely to their advantage and it ended up earning them an NHL title and possible a dynasty, although that remains to be seen. One thing that proved certain is that the Kings have built themselves a championship team in a way different from any other we have seen so far this article series. That is why they are the most intriguing team to win a championship in the modern NHL.