Sunday, April 25, 2010

What's Next: Los Angeles Kings 2010

Much like the team eliminated before them, the Kings really didn't have too much pressure on them, because many deemed them a couple years away before a playoff spot. However, the quick maturity of Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar realized his true stardom ways, and Jonathan Quick surprised many with how he commanded the crease; the Kings made noise early and often, getting LA back into a hockey state-of-mind after years of indifference. The biggest thing now, even after the first round exit, is to build off the momentum they did have.

Starting with Quick, he had a lot of life event this year towards the end of the season, which could have mentally thrown him off his game. After the birth of his child, it seemed that he was a bit off his game when he came back. I think the buzz about how Jonathan Bernier breathing down his throat didn't help much either for his confidence. Even with his small extension, the presence of Bernier will make him worry more. The starting role is still up for debate because of it, many saying Quick played himself out of the role and Bernier can't be held back anymore. If Quick wants to get his job back that he lost-- he'll have to get mentally tougher in the off-season and work on his positioning better as there are a lot of goal he shouldn't have gotten beaten on in the Vancouver series.

Up front, the Kings look solid for another season. Kopitar will undoubtedly lead the way with Ryan Smyth and Dustin Brown there for support. However, I would expect big things next season when it comes to Wayne Simmons, as he showed very strong signs of promise towards the end of the year. Also, you can probably expect Brayden Schenn to come up and bypass his overage season in Brandon of the WHL. Schenn will probably take the place of Alex Frolov, who probably won't be re-signed at all, considering his tiffs with management. Along with Schenn, Oscar Moller will probably break through an everyday spot on the roster next year and you have to put the wild-card of Brandon Kozun of the WHL's Calgary Hitmen on the prospective break-through guys for next year.

Drew Doughty was the anchor of the Kings blue line and you can expect to hear that for the next decade or so. The young Olympian had a stellar year and should build off of that. The Kings haven't seen something like that since a young Rob Blake patrolled the back-end. Jack Johnson is going to have to improve on his minus-15 if he wants to continue to get 20+ minutes a game. With Thomas Hickey coming up, it should only add to the stellar youngsters the Kings have on their blue line. Plus, they have a benefit of having some older guys (by proxy) in Matt Greene and Rob Scuderi to help mold the younger guys into the system and be the veteran presence to the team.

All in all, the Kings got to their goal faster than even they had though. They are proof that the youth movement trend is alive and well. I mentioned in April of '08 that this team was my team to look out for in the West and they're proving me right this year. Hopefully, even with all the small changes from their prospects (especially a goaltending one which could get hectic) that they'll be able to keep on the same path to success. No one will underestimate them and now will be gunning for them. Whether they can battle back will be the true test.

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