NHL

2010-11 NHL Previews: Los Angeles Kings

| by Sports Nickel

2009-10 RECORD:

46-27-9/101 pts

3rd in Pacific Division

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6th in Western Conf.

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GM: Dean Lombardi

COACH: Terry Murray

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2010-11 PAYROLL:

$52,297,000 ($9.9M below cap)

It was a season for turning a new leaf in the Pacific Division. Two main contenders from the division, Dallas and Anaheim, both experienced seasons of rebuilding after a step back in the standings. In their place the Pacific yielded a couple of great success stories. Phoenix’s rise from the ashes got most of the publicity, but Los Angeles is a team that was built for the long haul and came on last season to sneak in and secure its first playoff berth in seven years.

The nucleus is in place to contend for the Pacific Division for years to come. But with several key players in their contract year as impending free agents and only six players signed beyond next year, the time is now for Los Angeles to prove last year was anything but a fluke and return to the playoffs for a potential deep run. While much of the story in the offseason was about those players they failed to sign (read: Kovalchuk, Ilya) the fact is that this team is strong enough to rise up and contend for a top-four spot as this year’s Phoenix. Terry Murray must make sure this team plays with a sense of urgency every night, because they have a great opportunity to surpass last year’s marks for points and wins and potentially break team records in the process…

#
POS
Name
Height
Weight
Age

23
F
Dustin Brown
6′ 0″
208
25

56
F
Rich Clune  
5′ 10″
198
23

26
F
Michal Handzus  
6′ 4″
216
33

11
F
Anze Kopitar
6′ 3″
222
23

21
F
Scott Parse  
5′ 11″
197
26

27
F
Alexei Ponikarovsky  
6′ 4″
229
30

15
F
Brad Richardson  
5′ 11″
195
25

17
F
Wayne Simmonds  
6′ 2″
183
22

94
F
Ryan Smyth  
6′ 2″
189
34

28
F
Jarret Stoll  
6′ 1″
215
28

14
F
Justin Williams  
6′ 1″
193
28

8
D
Drew Doughty  
6′ 0″
211
20

44
D
Davis Drewiske  
6′ 2″
222
25

40
D
Johan Fransson  
6′ 1″
183
25

2
D
Matt Greene
6′ 3″
237
27

5
D
Peter Harrold  
6′ 0″
185
27

3
D
Jack Johnson  
6′ 0″
218
23

83
D
David Kolomatis  
5′ 11″
189
21

33
D
Willie Mitchell
6′ 3″
208
33

7
D
Rob Scuderi  
6′ 1″
211
31

31
G
Erik Ersberg  
6′ 0″
165
28

32
G
Jonathan Quick  
6′ 1″
223
24

MOST IMPORTANT COG IN 2010: Drew Doughty (defenseman) — He may be just 20 years old, but Doughty firmly established himself amongst the best two-way defensemen in the league last year in his sophomore campaign. With 59 points he ranked third amongst all defensemen in the league, and better yet he improved 37 points on his +/- to finish a +20 for the season. The second overall draft pick just two years ago, Doughty has had his two seasons of seasoning in the NHL… this is the year he must bust out a Norris-worthy level of play to guide this team toward the promised land once more.

KEY ACQUISITION: Alexei Ponikarovsky (W – FA from Pittsburgh) — A longtime Toronto veteran who was traded to the Penguins for their stretch drive last year, Ponikarovsky will fill the void left by the departure of Alexander Frolov on the left side of the ice. He projects as a top-six forward in this lineup, and his 20-goal potential and gritty ability that should hopefully see him doing his best to fit into the Kings way and clean up at both ends of the ice will be a welcome change for the depleting talents of Frolov over the past few years. And on a one-year contract, Ponikarovsky has the motivation to play to his fullest potential in order to attract one last good deal for his career, either from the Kings or another suitor. That motivation alone make him one of those sleepers for a monster season — a career high of 62 or more points and 24 or more goals is not unthinkable playing alongside Michal Handzus and Justin Williams.

KEY DEPARTURE: Sean O’Donnell (D – UFA to Philadelphia) — Okay, so this might just be the biggest reason why I have a good feeling about Los Angeles this season… when your biggest dilemma in writing their season preview comes down to whether the 38-year-0ld O’Donnell or the ever-disappointing Alexander Frolov is a team’s key departure, you know they’ve done a great job setting themselves up with a good roster on which they can depend. O’Donnell signed a one-year deal with the defending Eastern Conference champion Flyers, but with younger players in the pipeline and looking for minutes it would’ve been overkill to keep a guy like O’Donnell around.

KEY YOUNGSTER: Jack Johnson (D/23 years old) — The 6’1″, 225-pound third overall pick in the 2005 NHL Draft, there is no time like the present for Johnson to step up and perform the the level of security that Carolina thought he’d provide by drafting him so highly and then gave up on so quickly when they traded his rights for Tim Gleason and Eric Belanger right after the draft. Johnson really rose to the occasion in 2010, finally healthy enough to play 80 games for the first time in his career. He will have to continue to show a clean bill of health and display lockdown potential as one of the keys to Los Angeles’ top-line defense.

OUTLOOK: The Kings have all the ingredients there for a deep playoff run — a goalie that was the rock in the rearguard for a team that has long suffered for a competent, reliable netminder; hungry players battling to boost the value of their next looming contract; a couple of top-shelf talents that are just barely legal to drink… in Canada; and a coach that apparently knows just what it takes to get it done in the long haul of the regular season. Last year Los Angeles benefitted from losing in the playoffs, as it will make them stronger going forward and less in awe of their surroundings.

So can this incarnation of the Kings make good on its vast potential and reach the playoffs a second straight season? If the team doesn’t make good on all that promise now and play as well as it is capable, then it becomes even smarter that GM Lombardi has so few contracts on the books going forward. There is little likelihood of that catastrophic a meltdown. Home ice might just be out of reach for the club, but Los Angeles is fiscally healthy and enters 2010-11 with cap room to spare… a buffer to add the perfect part to the mix right before the trade deadline to boost its postseason prospects?

FINAL PREDICTION:

  • 49 wins
  • 104 points
  • 2nd in Pacific/5th in Western Conference

2010-11 NHL Previews: Los Angeles Kings is a post originally from: SportsNickel.com - In Sports We Trust

 

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