LA Kings: Proposed division re-alignments could be a problem

LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The LA Kings could have a difficult task matching up with their opponents in the NHL’s proposed division re-alignment.

Inching ever closer to hockey returning for the 2021 season, the LA Kings and the rest of the league are likely headed toward a 56-game schedule. The NHL and NHLPA reportedly agreed on the financials earlier this week but still had to sort out a few logistics.

It’s long been rumored that the league would temporarily re-align the divisions in an effort to accommodate less travel for teams while also keeping all seven Canadian teams north of the border. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and cases continuing to surge, the mandatory quarantine period for US travelers into Canada simply made a normal season impossible.

According to The Athletic‘s Pierre LeBrun, the following proposed division re-alignment could be finalized by the end of the week.

Aside from their fellow Pacific Division opponents, the LA Kings will round out their schedule with the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, and St. Louis Blues. The first two were rumored in potential re-alignments for quite some time. However, the Blues come in as somewhat of a surprise, as the Minnesota Wild had been linked to the Pacific Division.

The Avalanche fell to the Stars in seven games in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, while the latter made a run all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Colorado features one of the game’s best young stars in Nathan MacKinnon, along with reigning Calder Trophy winner Cale Makar.

Dallas features Joe Pavelski, who became the all-time leader in playoff goals for an American-born player. The Stars’ backbone is their defense, led by Miro Heiskanen, John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, and Jamie Oleksiak. The group allowed the least amount of goals in the Western Conference last season.

If there’s a weakness in these two teams, Colorado’s goaltending and Dallas’s offensive prowess are in question. Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer left Game 1 in the playoffs against the Stars with a lower-body injury and never returned.

The Blues are two years removed from hoisting the Stanley Cup. They were eliminated by the young, upstart Vancouver Canucks in the first round of the 2020 playoffs. It’ll be interesting to see how the defense performs without long-time captain Alex Pietrangelo, who signed with the Vegas Golden Knights in the offseason.

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St. Louis replaced him with Torey Krug. The 29-year-old has generally been held in check against the Kings, tallying just a goal with five assists in 12 career games. Still, he adds an established veteran presence along the Blues’ blue line, and the Kings will need to determine a game plan on how to attack St. Louis’ defense.