After the first week of the shortened NHL season, it looks like fans are in for a season full of drama and surprises. Traditional powerhouses like the Flyers, Rangers, Red Wings, Captials, and Canucks all got off to slow starts, which can have a huge impact on the playoff picture considering the season is so short.
The defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings also stumbled out of the gates, only earning one point since raising their championship banner in Staples Center. This comes as a huge surprise after last year’s heroic playoff run and emergence of Jonathon Quick as the league’s best net minder. The Kings lack of success despite high expectations for a Stanley Cup Championship is starting to look like… dare I say… the Lakers…
Okay, so maybe that was a little drastic but the Lakers simply aren’t good while the Kings are more than capable of turning it around. Lets take a look at a few of the problems LA will face this season.
1. Quick’s Offseason Surgery
With the 2012-2013 season virtually cancelled, it looked like Jonathon Quick would have ample time to recover from offseason back surgery. But after some miracle negotiating and Gary Betman realizing he was even more hated than David Stern, a deal got done and Quick was forced to snap back into action. Wait, are you telling me there are two Los Angeles franchises suffering from offseason back surgery to their best line of defense?!?! Okay, enough of the Laker references, it’s a tad depressing. However, it is worth noting since some of Quick’s best strengths are his flexibility and ability to contort his body into Transformer like positions while sliding across the crease. Look for more than capable backup Jonathon Bernier to make a few extra appearances early so Quick can get some rest.
2. Kopi Down
The Kings’ best offensive player, Anze Kopitar, injured his knee in a game in Sweden on the Saturday before the season started (talk about timing). Kopitar is missed for both his skill and leadership ability, leading the Kings in scoring for the last five seasons while serving as an Assistant Captain. Just for an example of how valuable he is, a dangerous Kings team was bounced out of the 1st round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2010-2011 after losing Kopitar to a broken ankle. In the next postseason with a healthy Kopitar, Lord Stanley made his first visit to Los Angeles. Luckily he is already back and should be back to true form before fans know it.
3. A Pair of Vets Missing
Los Angeles strived with their incredible combination of young guns with wily vets, but with Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene injured, there is just not enough experience on the defensive front. Defenders like Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov often get credit for being the Kings’ best defensemen, but Mitchell and Greene provide immeasurable heart, knowledge, and teaching. This loss becomes even more magnified with a slower-than-usual Quick in net. LA will have to rely on some gritty performances from some inexperienced players.
Now in no way am I writing the Kings off after just three games, but there is reason for concern. Yes Kopitar and Mitchell may only be out a few weeks (Greene for longer), but in a 48 game season, that means they are missing roughly 20% of the team’s games. Head coach Darryl Sutter is known for getting the most out of his players, and he will have to work some of his magic to keep his Kings close until he gets a healthy roster.