NHL 2017 Season: Los Angeles Kings Pre-Season Overview
The Los Angeles Kings finished the 2016 – 2017 season with a disappointing fifth place finish in the Pacific Division, with a mediocre record of 39 – 35 – 8. Failing to qualify for the playoffs, it’s safe to say that the Los Angeles Kings will want to prove themselves in this upcoming season, but have they done enough to give them a better shot at this year’s post season?They’ve got changes right at the top, and some fresh faces on the ice, so it’s time to take a look at who we think will be the most important new names in the season ahead.
New Coach and General Manager
Dean Lombardi is out as the General Manager of the Kings, as is coach Darryl Suter. Replacing them are Rob Blake as General Manager and Vice President, along with John Stevens in the head coaching position. Stevens has been a member of the Los Angeles Kings’ coaching team since 2010, and he was an assistant during their 2014 Stanley Cup win. He has most recently been the associate head coach to Darryl Suter, so that should help with continuity and familiarity with the players.There will be a slight amount of controversy surrounding the decision to let Darryl Suter go. He coached the team to Stanley Cup victories in the 2011 – 2012 and 2013 – 2014 seasons.
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper
Ben Bishop is one of the best goal tenders that any team could ask for, but he has now signed a six-year contract with the Dallas Stars. To try and offset any damage that will come from the loss, the Los Angeles Kings have acquired the services of Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper is a promising player that could turn out to be the right fit for the King’s if he can become a regular starter. In the 2016 – 2017 season he played 18 games for Minnesota Wild, recording a save percentage of .902. Although there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement there (something around a .915 would be more desirable) Kuemper could be the type of player that will thrive when given the kind of opportunity that he will get at Los Angeles. With Ben Bishop gone, the Kings will be looking for their next star. It is our prediction that the 2017 – 2018 season is going to be the best yet in Kuemper’s career.
Christian Folin on Defense
Swedish defenseman Christian Folin will join the Kings this year, and he’s one of the additions that could help to solidify the defensive line and make the Kings more competitive in 2017. News has emerged recently that Folin has had right shoulder surgery to repair an existing injury, but it is expected that he will be fully recovered and available for the training camp later this month.Folin is a player who performs better when he has more time on the ice, which is something that even his old coach at Minnesota would agree to. He could get the opportunity with his new contract at Los Angeles. Last year he only appeared for the wild in 51 games, the most that he has played in an NHL season. He scored two goals from those appearances, and provided eight assists.
After three seasons with the New Jersey Devils, Michael Cammalleri will return to the Los Angeles Kings for a new contract. He previously played for Los Angeles from the 2001 – 2003 season, up until the end of the 2007 – 2008 season. Michael is still highly effective in the wing, and he should be able to bring some maturity and much needed experience to the offense. Although his stats are nowhere near what they once were, they’re still good enough to make a difference for the Kings. In the last three seasons, Cammalleri totaled 51 goals, and 60 assists. While Cammalleri is a long way past his NHL career best season of 2008 – 2009, we still think that he’s a solid addition and still has something to offer.
Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli Retained
Although not new additions, it’s reassuring to see that the Kings have decided to retain Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli.Pearson signed a four-year extension, and Toffoli has been signed for another three years. The two are arguably the best scorers that the Kings have at this time, and they already have a good dynamic between the two. Combined with a veteran like Michal Cammalleri in offense, we could see a Los Angeles team that is more capable of scoring goals and putting pressure on other teams.Toffoli played 63 games in the previous season, where he scored 16 goals and made 18 assists. In the 2015 – 16 season. He had an impressive 31 goals and 27 assists. Tanner Pearson had his best season so far in 2016 – 2017, scoring 24 goals and making 20 assists. Both of these players are still developing and it could easily be argued that we haven’t yet seen the best of what they have to offer. With a new coach in the top position, and some new faces in the team, it could be time for these two players to shine.
Has Enough Been Done to Get the Los Angeles Kings Back on a Winning Path?
It doesn’t seem too long ago that the Kings were holding the Stanley Cup. Just as in any sport, success in ice hockey can be short lived, and the Kings have definitely been feeling the pain of underperformance for the past three years. With a familiar face now in the top coaching position, and some promising new talent, the Kings could be set for a better year than 2016 – 2017. While it’s probably a stretch to say that they’re going to be regularly challenging teams like the Ducks or the Oilers in the Pacific Division, a Top 4 finish might not be out of the question this year, and a playoffs appearance is definitely a possibility with their improved roster.