Things feel a little different this time around, don’t they? It has been quiet, there is no real rumblings of players being moved, no need for a break out player, no panic as to how the Kings may be a different team when the Free Agency opens. It is all different, different from what Kings fans have become accustom to.
It is weird, but this feeling of uncertainty should be seen as a good thing
It is no secret the Kings have had some dark times. In a 20-year span from 1990-2010, 20 total seasons, the Kings only qualified for the playoffs nine times and had a winning record ten times. Both of those stats are padded by the Kings of the early 90s and the Kings of recent memory. But between those two time periods things were not so bright.
After the Kings lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the ’93 Stanley Cup Final, they went four seasons without a winning record amassing a record of 95-184-50, if the ’94-’95 season was not shortened because of a lockout that record might be a little more painful.
Things got better at the beginning of the new millennium where they qualified for the playoffs three seasons in a row. But again there was no consistency,when they followed that run up without an appearance in the playoffs for six consecutive seasons.
This inconsistency translated onto the Kings roster, changing frequently, looking for that winning combination.
Then began this run we are currently on, where the Kings have qualified for the playoffs four seasons in a row, made it to the Western Conference Final the past two years and won the first Stanley Cup in Kings history.
The Kings now have star players that want to play here and are locked up long-term. You have Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, all players that would be welcomed with open arms on any other team. When was the last time there was a line-up even close to this on the Kings?
You can look at this from a production stand point as well, when you see the Kings all time stat leaders you come across names like Marcel Dionne, Luc Robitaille, Wayne Gretzky and Bernie Nichols. There is a very noticeable gap that directly coincides with the Kings’ dog days.
Even in net, you have Kelly Hrudey, Rogie Vachon and Quick atop the list. Hell Jonathan Bernier, the Kings backup for most of his time with the Kings is among the top 15 Kings goalies in wins with 29, and he sat in Quick’s shadow for pretty much his entire time with the Kings.
The Kings have come a long way from the days of Ziggy Palffy, Jozef Stumpel and Roman Cechmanek, oh god Cechmanek. But the Kings would not be where they are if they did not struggle through those times.
Dean Lombardi has built a fine tuned machine and he has done so over time, with well thought out drafting and trading, making moves when moves were needed. Since coming in as the Kings’ General Manager, he has grabbed Doughty, Slava Voynov, Quick, Bernier, and Alec Martinez all via the draft. He still has a deep pool of prospects that seem poised for NHL success all through smart drafting.
The quietness everyone is experiencing recently is new, Richards was brought in on a pre-draft trade, Doughty was brought in as the number two overall selection in ’08, Carter was brought in with a pre trade deadline deal. This quietness though, although unfamiliar and quite boring at times is a great thing to have.
Big pre-draft trades and deals, and blockbuster free agency signings are signs of a team that needs change and is missing a piece of the puzzle. This is not the case in Los Angeles.
The Kings have stability. They have proven talent, that has been successful, locked up for the distant future and there really is no need for major changes. The saying, “Why fix what isn’t broken,” is the best description of what is happening right now.
There is a good chance not everyone will be able to come back next season due to a drop in the salary cap, but you can bet Lombardi will do his best to bring back as many pieces as he can. But for now everyone outside of Lombardi’s office will just have to sit and wait and remember, no news is good news.