A Different Perspective: It Was Defense That Doomed the Los Angeles Kings Playoff Hopes


We are two weeks into the Stanley Cup Playoffs and many fans of the Los Angeles Kings are still trying to figure out what went wrong. How did the Kings miss the playoffs? Clearly there were several factors that lead to LA being unable to defend their crown (if you do not remember, the Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2014, FYI).

Los Angeles Kings
Los Angeles Kings /

Los Angeles Kings

Rink Royalty Editor Eric Fleischmann recently put it out there that the lack of scoring is what doomed the Kings. It is hard to disagree with that when LA was 18th in scoring this past season with only 2.7 goals per game.

The Los Angeles Kings have not been known as a scoring team, but this season it was horrendous. LA only had three players with 20 or more goals: Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik and Tyler Toffoli. That begs the question, what happened to the other guys that have been proficient scorers for LA, specifically Dustin Brown, Mike Richards and Justin Williams? There was offense, but not enough.

As Fleischmann puts it, “The Kings went through numerous droughts during the 2014-2015 season where offense wasn’t a problem, but scoring was.  L.A. routinely put up more than 30 shots a game, but they were stifled and snake-bitten; scoring only one or two goals.” He is right and frankly, it was quite annoying. On one hand you have the Kings holding the puck in the attacking end for extend periods of time, but on the other hand, they did nothing with it.

That is a great observation, but I have a different take.

Although I whole-heartedly agreed with my Editor, I dispute his claim and believe that it was the defense that doomed the Kings.

Oct 14, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov (26) against the Edmonton Oilers at the Staples Center. The Kings defeated the Oilers 6-1. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This is team was built with a defensive foundation and this season, things imploded for the Kings. First you have Slava Voynov making a less-than-genius decision which has kept him out of the line-up since mid-October. Right there, chemistry took a hit, but the downward spiral continued for the Kings, though out of their control.

Alec Martinez was out for a month and a half with a concussion. General Manager Dean Lombardi acquired Andrej Sekera by the trade deadline to help the defense, but then he got hurt and was out for the rest of the season. Robyn Regehr was out for 15 games with a hand injury and though he returned in time for the end of the season, he announced he is retiring after 15 years in the NHL.

That puts a lot on a defense which caused a few to try and pick up the slack, namely Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin.

Mar 1, 2015; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Los Angeles Kings defenceman Drew Doughty (8) prior to the game against the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Doughty played his arse off this season and it is unfortunate that his efforts will not be used in the playoffs. Because of the need for consistent defense, Doughty had averaged 28:00 minutes on the ice per game, the most of his career. Along with that, he also posted his highest point total (46 points, 7 goals, 39 assists) since his second year with the Kings five years ago.

It was the same for Muzzin. He had never averaged more than 20 minutes of game time in his short career, but this past season he was on the ice for nearly 23 minutes per game. Although, like Doughty, the extra time on the ice this season helped him produce the most goals, assists and points in his career (41 points, 10 goals, 31 assists).

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And let us not forget the scrappy newcomer Brayden McNabb who came out of no where with 24 points. Though he will be a big contributor in seasons to come, LA could not have expected him to do as much as Doughty and Muzzin.

The defensive-minded Kings were not the brutish, stubborn hockey team we have known them to be in the last three years. Though the Kings were still in the top five teams of goals allowed with 2.4,  from March 1 to the end of the season, LA had 8 games giving up 3 or more goals, a stretch that was vital to their playoff hopes. They only won one of those games.

Sure the Kings have the summer off and it should be time well rested, but once it is time to get back into the grind of a new season, Dean Lombardi is going to have a hell of a time on his hands. He not only has to balance LA’s salary cap, but try to find a suitable defensemen or two to help out next year. Sure he has a lot of talent with the minor league hockey clubs, but LA’s needs are bigger than that. Lombardi might need to make some moves that land the Kings another solid veteran defenseman.

But until then, as it stands, it is unknown what will happen with Voynov (or his contract), Regehr needs to be placed and on top of that, what ever line combinations head coach Darryl Sutter puts out on the ice will have to go through some growing pains.

I have complete trust Lombadri will get the Kings back to were they should be but as of now, I hate to say the Kings are in rebuilding mode, but… “the Kings are in rebuilding mode”.

Mar 28, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Los Angeles Kings head coach Darryl Sutter in the second period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Minnesota Wild beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports