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Sunday, September 13, 2009

OGA SPR: The Los Angeles Kings - by Big Tex

Today, OGA looks at the Los Angeles Kings, Western Conference whipping boys for the past four seasons. Will 2009-10 be the season for the Kings to start kicking sand in other kids' faces? Let's take a look...

Last Season versus the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC): Reached Tee Time on 31 January 09 (Game 48). After a slow start (3-6-1 at Game 10), the Kings found themselves behind the 8-ball. LA improved, going 5-3-2 through Games 11-20 to pull up almost even with the PQC. They continued to play just below the PQC, posting an identical 5-3-2 record in Games 21-30. Los Angeles then began to run out of steam, posting a 4-5-1 record through the fourth furlong to end up Dusting Off Clubs (on the verge of playoff elimination) at Game 40. They continued to slump, going 3-4-1 over the next eight games, and forcing OGA to make the call of Tee Time at Game 48. Following that call, the Kings went 14-16-4 the rest of the way to finish 3.95 vs. the PQC (34-37-11, 14th in the Western Conference).

Post Lockout Average versus the PQC: Since the Lockout, Los Angeles has averaged 3.8 vs. the Playoff Qualifying Curve. After posting a respectable 4.45 in 2005-06, they dropped to 3.4 the following season, improving slightly to 3.55 in 2007-08. In the last three seasons, LA has reached Tee Time on 7 December 06, 10 December 07 and 31 January 09. The Kings fooled OGA once, by starting the 2005-06 season 13-6-1 and causing us to call them Chasing Stanley on 25 October 2005. Unfortunately for them (and for OGA’s batting average), LA only played half the season – after Game 40, they played consistently below the PQC and missed the playoffs, becoming a Shot Off the Post (a blown call) for OGA. Here at On Goal Analysis, we break the season down into ten-game segments (furlongs) for the purposes of our analysis. Thus, we can tell you that Game 40 of the 05-06 season marked a turning point for Los Angeles: In the three-and-a-half seasons since, they’ve only played above the PQC in 2 of 28 furlongs. It’s been a brutal four years for the Kings, but they’re moving closer to the light at the end of the tunnel…

How does Los Angeles look heading into the 2009-10 season?

Team Play: ISSUE – Assembling the Puzzle. The Kings bottomed out in 2006-07, and have steadily improved since. On paper, it appears GM Dean Lombardi has collected enough pieces to assemble the puzzle – a Stanley Cup Playoff-caliber team. In July, LA made a couple of significant moves: On July 2nd, they signed free agent blueliner Rob Scuderi from the Stanley Cup Champs. The next day, they sent defensemen Tom Priessing and Kyle Quincey to Colorado for power forward Ryan Smyth. Trade rumors continue to swirl around the Kings (including the now-debunked myth of LA being part of a three-team deal with Ottawa and San Jose involving Dany Heatley), but the thinking here is that unless someone makes Lombardi an offer he can’t refuse, he’ll now put the roster in the capable hands of Head Coach Terry Murray, and see what sort of team the coach can assemble.

One thing is certain: it will be a young team, as 33-year-old Ryan Smyth instantly becomes the oldest forward (in fact, Michal Handzus (32) and Raitis Ivanans (30) are the only other forwards over the age of 27), and four of the Kings’ top six d-men will be 26 or younger…Oh, yeah: Erik Ersberg, 27, is the only goalie on Los Angeles’ training camp roster over the age of 23.

Look for the Kings to continue to improve in 09-10, but in a very tough Western Conference, their playoff chances will depend just as much on other teams’ failures as on their own successes.

Fantasy Value: In his pre-training camp blog, Rich Hammond asks a question which gets right to the heart of Terry Murray’s “To Do” list: Finding the right combinations for the Kings’ first AND second lines. As the model line of Net Crasher-Playmaker-Sniper has proven quite successful (see: Dallas), expect Coach Murray to put together pairs of wings (Frolov-Brown and Smyth-Williams), and figure out which centers best mesh with those pairs. In the end, Kopitar will probably center Frolov and Brown again in 09-10, and their numbers can be expected to improve with the addition of a legitimate second line (Smyth-Stoll-Williams).

On defense, keep an eye on Drew Doughty (81GP, 6-21-27, -17). With the departure of Kyle Quincey, expect the sophomore’s responsibilities (and points) to increase. This kid is the real deal.

In goal…well, it’s probably Jonathan Quick (21-18-2, .914 Sv%, 2.48 GAA, 4 SO), but he’ll have some challengers in training camp. Because Quick has yet to make the starting job his own, and because LA is really still climbing to reach the middle of the pack, Quick should be a late-round pick in deep leagues.

Schedule Analysis: ISSUE – Last season, the Kings were doomed by their 3-6-1 start. This season, they have a 6-game, 10-day road trip in their first furlong, playing @: STL, NYI, NYR, DET, CBJ and DAL. NYR and DET are back-to-back, and the Kings have FIVE different start times for these six games. If LA can play .500 hockey through their first ten games, they’ll have passed a very important early test.

Today, the Kings. Tomorrow, OGA goes WILD…

Take me back to On Goal Analysis.

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