The lockout delayed the Kings' coronation as Stanley Cup champions but that hardly mattered to fans who had waited so long for such a moment. The Kings soon realized that defending the Cup isn't easy as they found themselves battling for a playoff spot in the final weeks of the season. The Kings finally got their ticket punched with a fifth-place finish in the Western Conference before bouncing the Blues and Sharks in the first two rounds before finally seeing their title defense end at the hands of the Blackhawks in a hard-fought seven-game series.
The offseason didn't include much fanfare as the team returns much of its core for another run at the Cup. The two biggest offseason departures were Rob Scuderi and Jonathan Bernier. While the Kings shouldn't have a problem replacing the veteran Scuderi, they figure to see a slight drop in play from their backup netminder whether its Ben Scrivens or Mathieu Garon.
The Kings' biggest hole is finding a left winger behind Dustin Brown to give the team some scoring punch of the second line. Matt Frattin, who came over in the Jonathan Bernier deal, figures to get a crack as does Tyler Toffoli if the Kings feel the youngster could handle the shift to the left side. Apart from that, the Kings will count on much of the same cast of characters that finished 10thin the league in goals scored for the bulk of their offense. The veteran Scuderi may be missed, but the Kings have plenty of depth to plug into a squad that finished ninth in goals allowed last season despite some wobbles from Jonathan Quick.
The Kings figure to battle some familiar division foes despite some reshuffling in a tightly-contested Pacific Division in their quest to regain the Cup. The health of some key veterans and goaltender Jonathan Quick will go a long way in determining their fate.
The Big Guns
Jonathan Quick (G): Quick had an impossible act to follow after coming off a Stanley Cup and Conn Symthe season in 2011-12 and then signing that monster, 10-year contract extension. His numbers (18 wins, 2.45 GAA, .902 save percentage) were still decent and he tried to carry the Kings once again with some brilliant netminding in the postseason. The Kings hope that the form he flashed in the playoffs are a better indication of the next decade than the uneven play he showed at times in the regular season, particularly after dealing backup Jonathan Bernier to the Leafs in the offseason. We have every confidence he'll rebound.
Anze Kopitar (C): Kopitar got off to a hot start in 2012-13, but faded badly down the stretch when his shooting percentage returned to normal and his power play production went south. He remains an integral part of the Kings at both ends of the ice, but his increased defensive focus may limit his fantasy upside going forward. He's still a heck of a hockey player, but he may never hit the 40-goal mark that many had foreseen as he enters the prime of his career. At this point, his owners might have to be happy with 25.
Justin Williams (RW): It took Williams a bit to find his scoring touch last season, but he managed to finish with 11 goals despite a prolonged slump to start the year. He figures to be back in a top-six role again this year and will probably play alongside Anze Kopitar on the Kings' top line. Expect another 60-point season.
On The Rise
Slava Voynov (D): Voynov's breakout season (nine goals, 19 assists in 48 games) carried over into the postseason (six goals, seven assists in 18 games) and earned him a six-year contract extension with the Kings. He got more power play time as the season wore on and you can look for that trend to continue. He may be overvalued due to last year's success and postseason performance, but is on his way to surpassing Drew Doughty as the Kings' best fantasy blueliner. Yes, you read that correctly.
Jake Muzzin (D): Muzzin got a look with the Kings last year thanks to some injuries and blossomed with 16 points in 45 games under head coach Daryl Sutter. His play seemed to get better as the season wore on and he started to see consistent minutes on the power play by season's end. He could be a sneaky source of points if his development continues and his power play time sticks.
Two To Watch
Dustin Brown (RW): Brown put together another solid season (18 goals, 11 assists in 46 games) for the Kings and inked an eight-year contract extension that will keep him in LA until 2021-22. He's always been a streaky point producer and had been remarkably healthy given his style of play ... until the most recent playoffs. He did suffer a torn PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) in the postseason, so his offseason was spent rehabbing the knee injury. He'll be back as captain and will fill a top-six role for the Kings, and should deliver his typical 50-plus points and 300 hits.
Mike Richards (C): Richards bounced back (12 goals, 20 assists in 48 games) in his second year as a King thanks to some timely production on the power play and a nice finishing kick to the season. But he does come with some warning signs this season. His shooting percentage (14.6 percent) was a career high and his concussion history reared itself again in the playoffs. He's never been a volume shooter since leaving the Flyers, so he'll seriously need to sustain his power play production. He'll be back as the team's second-line center behind Anze Kopitar.
Jeff Carter (C): Carter's first full season in Los Angeles certainly went better than his time in Columbus as he netted 26 goals in 48 games, a tally that was good enough for fourth in the NHL. His overall point production wasn't helped much with just seven assists though. An abnormally high shooting percentage (19.5 percent last year; 11.5 percent for his career) will make a repeat performance in the goal-scoring department difficult. Expect a drop off.
Drew Doughty (D): Doughty had another fine season (six goals, 16 assists in 48 games), but still disappointed most fantasy owners who were banking on more. Right now, his breakout season in 2009-10 (16 goals, 43 assists, nine power-play goals, 22 power-play assists) seems more like an outlier than a sign of things to come. And he's really going to have to do more damage on the power play if he's to approach that kind of production again. It remains to be seen if the emergence of Slava Voynov as another power play threat will open things up a bit for Doughty or further reduce his role with the man advantage.
Jarret Stoll (C): Stoll continued to see most of his time in a third-line role for the Kings last year and his offensive numbers continued their downward trend. Don't expect that to change this season as he reprises his checking role again. He's simply not going to get much time in an offensive role, what with Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards around, and will need to make the most out of his limited power play chances to get much of his offense.
Tanner Pearson (LW): Pearson jumped straight from the 2012 draft to the AHL and had a very nice debut (19 goals, 28 assists in 64 games) at Manchester. He spent time on the team's top line and power play, as well as killing penalties, and may give the organization some top-six potential at the left wing spot. He'll most certainly get more time to round out his game at the AHL again this season.
Tyler Toffoli (RW): Toffoli backed up his pair of 100-point campaigns in the OHL with a fine 2012-13 debut in the AHL at Manchester. He scored 28 goals in 56 games before chipping in five points in 10 games with the Kings. And he capped off his season with six points in 12 playoff games with the big club. There's a log jam at pivot, though, so he's likely headed back to the AHL unless the Kings decide to try him at wing. He's an elite prospect with a nose for the net, but may have to wait for his opportunity with the Kings.
Valentin Zykov (RW): The Kings had to be overjoyed when they landed Zykov with the 37th overall pick in the 2013 draft. He earned Rookie of the Year honors in the QMJHL with 40 goals and 35 assists in 67 games. He capped off the season with a strong postseason performance with 19 points in 19 games. He's a tough guy to knock off the puck and isn't afraid to go into the dirty areas of the ice to score a goal. He's likely headed back to the QMJHL for more seasoning but could rise quickly.