This team came into the 2011 season as a dark horse favorite to make a Stanley Cup run. The team was an utter disappointment through the first half of the season and it cost head coach Terry Murray his job. The last week of 2011 saw Daryl Sutter fully take over the team and a spark of revival began to show. The team has definitely shown some improvement over the weeks and sales of Kings tickets has been on the rise.
Fixing The Problem
The problem with them has been obvious all year – they can’t score. They have the worst offense in the league, scoring a miserly 2.2 goals a game. The only thing keeping them afloat has been a solid group of defensemen and a stellar goaltending effort by Jonathon Quick who is a favorite to take the Vezina Trophy as the leagues top goalie.
This problem is particularly maddening for the team’s management because it sought to improve the offense over the last year. Anze Kopitar has been his usual self and new addition Mike Richards has been fine when not injured. Captain Dustin Brown has been bad, but has started coming on. Uber young defensemen Drew Doughty was handed a $7 million a year contract, but has scored only 3 goals and 15 total points. Free agent Simon Gagne only has 17 points, but has been injured. Dustin Penner has been Dustin Penner, which is to say he has been terrible. All in all, if these players don’t start to make significant improvements, it will be another stale market for Los Angeles King tickets this year.
The reign of Daryl Sutter began in all seriousness after the Christmas holiday. He has the team playing much harder than they were under Murray, but they still have issues scoring. Let’s look at a run down of their games since the coaching change.
December 28: LA 2, Chicago 0
December 29: LA 0, Winnipeg 1 Overtime Loss
December 31: LA 4, Vancouver 1
January 1: LA 1, Colorado 2 Overtime Loss
January 5: LA 1, Phoenix 0
January 7: LA 0, Columbus 1
January 9: LA 5, Washington 2
January 12: LA 4, Dallas 5 Overtime Loss
The good news is they are racking up points again with a 4-2-3 record during this stretch of games. This has pushed them up into the top half of the league in the overall points battle. The bad news is they are still having problems scoring with 2.12 goals a game, which is slightly worse than what they were doing under Terry Murray. It has only been two weeks, so one has to be careful drawing any particular conclusions from this run.
In truth, there are rays of hope in this run of games. The first is the Kings convincingly beat Vancouver, something the team has had problems doing the last few seasons. The second is they managed to score 9 goals in its last two games. Whether this represents a breakout or not is difficult to say, but it has been a very long time since they have scored 9 goals in a week, much less two games.
They Call Me Pancake
The offensive ineptness took an odd turn when perennial disappointment and fan whipping boy Dustin Penner suffered a back injury. Already considered soft by fans, he somehow set a new low when throwing out his back leaning over to…dig into a stack of pancakes.
The question moving forward is whether the Kings will find their offensive stride under Darryl Sutter. If they can get their goals up to something close to 3 a game, they could very well win the Stanley Cup given their defensive prowess. The next week is going to give us a good idea of where things stand as they play five games in seven days – at Calgary (1/14), at Edmonton (1/15), at Vancouver (1/17) followed by Calgary (1/19) and Colorado (1/21) at home. Of particular interest are the games against Calgary, who fired Sutter from his last job.
Can they produce more offense to take the pressure off their defense and goalie? Only time will tell, but the last two games suggest there is the potential there to do so. If they can carry it forward, the potential so many saw in this team before the season just might be realized.