The LA Kings must incorporate a winning culture again

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

Friday night’s loss to San Jose all but killed the LA Kings playoff hopes for this season. To get back to contention, the team will need new personnel and a new attitude.

Going into this season, it was expected the LA Kings would be concentrating on transitioning from their rebuild toward becoming a playoff contender. A bulk of their highly-rated prospects would start the season playing for the Ontario Reign in the American Hockey League and were supposed to be called up intermittently to “see what they have.” Then, a funny thing happened.

There was real hope the LA Kings could actually make the playoffs this season.

Sparked by a six-game winning streak in February, the Kings vaulted into the NHL Honda West Division’s playoff conversation. While the top three playoff spots in the division are already spoken for, the fourth final spot has been up for grabs for most of the season. The LA Kings appeared to have just as good of a chance as anybody to claim that spot.

The team’s fortunes, however, have soured since the beginning of March. Injuries on defense, a power play that suddenly went cold, and an overall lack of offensive punch at even strength have contributed to the Kings going 6-11-2 in their last nineteen games. As a result, LA has dropped to seventh place in the West Division and is currently seven points out of a playoff spot with the regular season rapidly coming to a close.

While it looks like the LA Kings will miss the playoffs again this season, they are expected to start becoming a playoff contender next season. The aforementioned prospects should start making their full-time NHL debuts, and GM Rob Blake will have at least $20 million in cap space to address the teams in free agency – certainly enough to bring in a big name or two. Bringing new blood into the lineup should improve the team’s record, but they need to bring something else in that they haven’t had since the Stanley Cup-winning days.

More from Rink Royalty

A winning culture.

Shiny new toys in free agency (or via trade) and phenom prospects will generate a lot of excitement in the City of Angels. Still, to get back to being a bona fide contender, the LA Kings will need to once again ingrain a winning culture into the organization. It is true, the Kings are a better team this season than they were last season, but even still, too many times, by the eye test, it looks like losing has become acceptable. Drew Doughty and Todd McLellan can’t be the only ones that seem visibly upset by this, can they?

The Stanley Cup-winning teams of 2012 and 2014 were not the most talented teams in the NHL, but they had a “refuse to lose” attitude that propelled them to the top.

Dustin Brown did a fine job as the Captain, and Anze Kopitar wore an “A” on his sweater. Still, the other leaders in the room were players like Matt Greene, Willie Mitchell, Justin Williams, and Jarret Stoll, who didn’t put up the flashy numbers, provided the heart, soul, and grit needed to make a champion. It’s no coincidence that as these players left, the franchise began to sink in the standings.

No team can win every single game – it’s statistically impossible. What separates the great teams from the rest is that great teams expect to win every game. The LA Kings are beginning to put the pieces in place to build a successful team for years to come and will have the salary-cap space to add to that. Adding the right players for the sake of the scoresheet is extremely important, but just as important is adding the right pieces to build a winning culture once again.