A new year brings new resolutions, and the Kings resolution is to win — or at least make it into the playoffs.
‘That’s what we expect to do,” said GM Rob Blake to the LA Times after watching the last two postseasons from the sidelines.
It was the first time in a decade the team had missed consecutive playoffs.
And as the team reaches the pinnacle of its rebuilding phase, the players are eager to turn that around.
“It’s an exciting time to be part of the Kings,” forward Dustin Brown said to the LA Times after the team’s first day of training camp. “We got a lot of young talent that we’ve accumulated over the last few years. And we still got some older players that can play. So it’s just a matter of meshing them together and getting on the right track.”
And that might be possible this season with top prospects Gabriel Vilardi (C), Tobias Bjornfot (D), and Samuel Fagemo (LW) all competing for spots on the roster; along with Quinton Byfield (C), Alex Turcotte (C), and Tyler Madden (C), who tore up the college hockey scene last season with 37 points, 19 goals, and 18 assists in 27 games most likely landing on the taxi squad.
The additions of defenseman Olli Maatta, center Lias Andersson, and forward Andreas Athanasiou only add to the team’s chances of making a playoff push.
One big thing that may benefit the Kings’ chances is the realignment of the divisions due to the pandemic. The 31 NHL teams will be realigned in four new divisions for this season: North, Central, East, and West. The Kings falling into the later division along with the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, St. Louis Blues, and Vegas Golden Knights.
The Kings showed success against some of the new teams in their division, going 2–1–0 against the Wild, 2–0–1 versus the powerhouse Avalanche team, who are considered favorites to win the cup, and even went 3–1–0 versus the Golden Knights. Unfortunately, they didn’t have much luck against the other teams in their division and no luck against the Blues, another powerhouse team.
The Knights, the Blues, and the Avalanche are favorites for the top three seeds, so how can the Kings turn the tides on the Ducks, Coyotes, and the Sharks and steal that fourth playoff spot?
The Ducks are in a similar position as the Kings. They’ve missed their second consecutive playoff appearance, and they’re a fairly young team relying on the progress of young players. It’s always hard to tell how a young team will pan out, but it looks like the Ducks may be a year or two behind the Kings’ rebuild. The Coyotes seem to be in a do-or-die situation, and some are speculating new GM Bill Armstrong might begin to sell if the team has a rocky start. The Sharks are also facing an uphill battle after finishing 7th in the Pacific Division last season, just below the Kings.
The Kings aim to start strong and continue the seven-game win streak they left off on last season. In the first eight games, they play the Wild four times and the Avalanche twice. They held winning records against both teams last season.
They’ve improved their chances on raising their goals per game with the additions of Andersson and Athanasiou if he can get back to his 30 goal form, and it would certainly help if Byfield ends up on the roster as well.
If the Kings can come out of the gate strong in the shortened season, they definitely have a shot at using that momentum to put them into that fourth seed.
Whether this season turns out the way the Kings want it to, they are headed in the right direction, and that’s the playoffs.
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