Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Here's To You, Los Angeles Kings

Coaching changes, culture changes, and personnel changes-- the Los Angeles Kings had a roller-coaster season. At the end of it all, the Kings became the first 8th seed in the playoffs to win the Stanley Cup. Sure, they didn't play like a 8th seed and were a couple wins away from being the 3rd seed. Yet, the end of it all-- the Kings made a lot of history for their organization-- a Stanley Cup for the first time in 45 years.

One of the biggest changes was the Kings dumping Terry Murray from behind the bench for Darryl Sutter. Sutter was a guy who was able to give the team an identity and allow them to make the run like they did. The work ethic for Sutter is second-to-none and to have an entire team buy into as quick as they did shows that they knew it was the right time for them.

However, the reason Jonathan Quick was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner is the same reason why the Kings were solid throughout the season. Quick has the chance to win the Vezina and really was able to stifle any competition, even when people thought they had "the book" on him and knew how to score on them. Quick outwitted shooters and really kept them uneasy through the season.

Yet, the biggest thing for the Kings was the fact they slowly became the Philadelphia Flyers of the West coast. With a line-up that had Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter, John Stevens (assistant coach), and Ron Hextall (assistant GM); the City of Brotherly Love had its hockey icons well represented in this Cup victory. Also, Justin Williams spent a time with the Flyers several years ago and GM Dean Lombardi was a Flyers' scout before he got the GM gig in LA.

Most importantly though, the Kings output from top to bottom-- Dwight King was a hero for a time, Trevor Lewis had two goals in the clinching win, Dustin Penner was johnny-on-the-spot, and Jarret Stoll was crucial in the face-off circle. Along with Colin Fraser as the leader of the fourth line, the role players got their due-- as they would in a Sutter system.

Yet, you can't say enough about the bigger stars like Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, and Drew Doughty. Brown, a hot button of trade rumors early in the calendar year, book-ended the playoffs with big performances to start and end the playoffs. Kopitar showed that he is another West coast star who may not get the due he deserves. Doughty's hold-out gave him the legs in order to be one of the faster guys out there by the Finals....or so conspiracies would make you believe.

Everyone was give a role, everyone played their role, and the Kings won the Stanley Cup in 20 games-- 16-2, 10-1 on the road, and took home the Cup in six games.....like I said.

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