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Tuesday, September 30, 2008


30 September 2008

The Los Angeles Kings are six years removed from their last playoff appearance. Last season marked a new low, as they finished last in the Western Conference. In 08-09, there’s nowhere to go but up. How high will they climb in the standings this season?

In the last three seasons, the Kings have failed to qualify for postseason play, finishing an average of -9 below the Playoff Qualifying Curve, or PQC. That average is a bit misleading, however, as LA ended the 05-06 campaign at -2.5. The past two seasons have been brutal down on Figueroa.

Some statistics of note from last season:
  • First, the good news: The Kings were quite good at holding onto a lead going into the 3rd period, winning 91.7% of those games (5th in the NHL)
  • Now, the bad news: LA had the worst Penalty Kill in the NHL (78.0%)
  • Their Goals/Game average was a middle-of-the-pack 2.76 – remarkable, given the fact that the Kings had just FIVE players score 10+ goals
Los Angeles used SEVEN different goalies last season – three more than any other team
Following a season like 07-08, any team would be blown up and rebuilt by management, and the Kings are no exception. Head Coach Marc Crawford was replaced with veteran bench boss Terry Murray. Top defensemen Rob Blake and Lubomir Visnovsky were sent packing, as was 2nd line center Mike Cammalleri. Taking their places are center Jarret Stoll (acquired from Edmonton) and rookie d-men Drew Doughty and (possibly) Thomas Hickey. Make no mistake: youth rules in Hollywood, and youth will rule the Kings.

For better or worse, Los Angeles will have one of the youngest defensive units in the NHL this season. If the Kings can settle on one – or maybe two – goalies, though, the lack of experience on the blueline won’t hurt quite so much. Up front, LA has in Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown two young stars on the rise (and if they could re-sign Patrick O’Sullivan, the Kings would have three). Los Angeles should show improvement over last season, but patience will be necessary – these kids need time to develop.

The Kings’ first ten games of the season are played 11 OCTOBER – 1 NOVEMBER. Our exhaustive research indicates that in that timeframe, LA earns an average PQC rating of 5.0 and about ten points in the NHL standings. Last season, the Kings played below the PQC from Game 1, and were called OUT of the playoffs by OGA on 10 DECEMBER. In the 05-06 campaign, LA fell into OGA’s “13% Club” – OGA calls are made with just over 87% accuracy – by getting off to a strong start and prompting us to call them IN the playoffs on 25 OCTOBER. OGA did not anticipate the Kings’ nosedive in the second half of the 05-06 season, but we have learned from the experience.

Some statistics of note for OCTOBER:
  • The Kings are a combined 14-14-2 through the first ten games since the Lockout
  • In 07-08, LA began their campaign with two games in London, and jet lag was a problem: they lost four straight upon their return to North America
  • Los Angeles won’t do much early-season traveling in 08-09: only 3 of their first 10 (and 9 of their first 31) games are on the road.
OGA will be measuring the Kings against their average PQC rating of 5.0, as well as against other NHL teams, in order to provide you more in-depth analysis with Los AngelesGame 10 Report, due to season subscribers by 2PM CST on 2 NOVEMBER, and available for order from ongoalanalysis.com by 2PM CST on 3 NOVEMBER. (See a sample G10R here…)

Realistically, the Los Angeles Kings are at least a season away from battling for a playoff spot. That does not mean, however, that they won’t be worth watching. If the Kings can find a goalie ready to claim the starting role, errors committed by their young D-men (D-boys?) won’t be so glaring, and the youngsters (or, in the cases of Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty, youngstars) will gain confidence. Blueliners who are willing and able to take calculated risks will provide Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown & co. with greater opportunities to showcase their All-Star talents. All in all, the Kings should be quite entertaining, but expectations must be tempered by the fact that they play in the toughest division in the NHL. Follow the Kings’ progress in The OGA Blogs, and don’t miss the comprehensive review of the first ten games in the Los Angeles G10R on 3 NOVEMBER.

Wednesday, we’re off to Music City for the Nashville Predators SPR. Until then, Big Tex says, “Try the funnel cake, because you can only eat so many corny dogs before you need a little something sweet.”

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