The school year is starting, the World Cup of Hockey exhibition is happening, and it’s starting to finally feel like we’re gonna make it to the next hockey season. At this stage, we’re down to three more franchises to preview: the California trio. To kick things off, here’s writer Chris_J from Jewels from the Crown to tell us about the Los Angeles Kings.
1. The biggest loss of the offseason for the Kings was Milan Lucic to free agency. How do you see the Kings' top six shaping up for this season? Do you think they will generate enough offence?
The top six will most likely feature some combination of Anze Kopitar, Marian Gaborik, Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli. The sixth spot is up for contention, and we could see Dwight King, Teddy Purcell, or Dustin Brown slot in at various times. As for offense, we pretty much always believe there won't be enough on this Kings squad. The loss of Lucic hurts offensively, but when you consider what Dwight King did in the same spot, you see it's pretty great to play with Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli.
2. The Kings have possibly the best top pairing in the league, but their lack of defensive depth was exposed in the playoffs, with Rob Scuderi having to play. How do you think the crew looks this year? How much do you think Scuderi will play?
One of the problems is that the Kings don't actually pair their top two defensemen together right now. I think we're divided here at Jewels as to whether that's a bad thing, but they've consistently put Jake Muzzin with Alec Martinez in a more defensive role when Muzzin has established himself as the best offensive d man on the team.
The top 4 is some combination of Drew Doughty, Brayden McNabb, Muzzin, and Martinez. McNabb is probably better suited to the second pair, but Sutter has outright said he doesn't want to split Muzzin and Martinez.
The bottom pairing will see a lot of contention. The Kings were prepared to buy out Matt Greene to keep Lucic, and his lost season due to injury last year casts a lot of doubt on his future. Tom Gilbert is definitely on the down swing but is a capable bottom pair guy. Zach Trotman didn't see enough of a shot in Boston in my opinion, and I think he could be a bottom pair guy as well.
Some people in the Kings blogosphere have suggested Scuderi will be waived. I think Sutter likes him too much for that, but I think/hope he'll be a 7th guy at best. Derek Forbort and Kevin Gravel are NHL ready and I would like to see at least one of them get an extended shot at the Kings.
3. Opinions this season are split on the Kings, from Micah McCurdy seeing them running away with the West to Carolyn Wilke seeing them squeaking into the playoffs and losing in the first round. What do you expect from them this cmoing season?
I expect them to finish in the top three of the Pacific, but I don't expect them to take the division. The Sharks will remain good and be serious contenders for the division. I think Edmonton finally has the chance to be decent as well. The Kings may find themselves in need of a mid-season move to push them over the edge into being a serious contender.