Happier Times – the Kings celebrating their latest Stanley Cup triumph at downtown L.A’s Staples Center in June of 2014
AT LEAST IN THE OPINION OF THIS LONGTIME OBSERVER OF LOS ANGELES SPORTS
Allow me to exude some brutal honesty from the onset:
When it comes to the sport of hockey, I freely admit that I’m not really a fan.
In fact, not only I have seen a hockey rink in the flesh just once in my life,
Not only have I never put on ice skates in my over forty years on this planet,
But I have never seen a hockey game of any kind in person; not even a pee-wee game, let alone a game featuring two teams from the National Hockey League.
And I still have difficulty understanding the icing rule.
But that does not mean that I have not been swept up in the success that the first NHL franchise calling Los Angeles home, the Kings, have had these past three years.
It’s virtually impossible to not get caught up in a team that has won the greatest trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup, in two of the past three seasons, regardless of the level of involvement you have in Canada’s national pastime.
Despite my extreme lack of hockey experience – my sports background and expertise lies in baseball and softball – I have been keeping up with the fortunes of Darryl Sutter’s team as they have struggled to defend their NHL title and keep Lord Stanley’s Cup.
In what I’m sure is a most distressing point for all the rabid black-and-silver supporters who scream “Go Kings Go!”, with their record and number of points being what it is right now (23-18-12, 58 points as of this writing),
While their won-loss mark is not terrible in the slightest, if the regular season were to end today these Kings would fail to qualify for the NHL playoffs as their 58 points not only puts them in 10th place in the Western Conference,
It leaves them five points out of the number eight slot.
Which means they would not get the chance to defend their crown as the last time a Stanley Cup winner was shut out of the playoffs the next year was in 2007, when the Carolina Hurricanes were denied the opportunity.
Meanwhile their SoCal rivals, the Anaheim Ducks, have flourished with the NHL’s second best record.
I have read things from different people speculating on why the team has not done as well as expected; I won’t elaborate on the different theories that have been espoused as it will take too long, but I will give my view on this under achievement, which is a rather simple one:
THESE KINGS ARE TIRED.
It is known that along with the NBA, winning a championship in the NHL is a VERY difficult task because of the number of postseason games (16) that must be won over a period of two months for a team to be allowed to hoist the Cup.
The main factor in such difficulty is the amount of games needing to be played – four best-of-seven series – after a grueling 82-game schedule.
The fact that no team has won back-to-back NHL championships since the Detroit Red Wings of 1997 and 1998 certainly serves as evidence as teams who win the Stanley Cup in June get a short off-season; just a couple of months before they report to training camp in September.
In the Kings’ case, injuries to key players such as Tyler Toffoli, Marian Gaborik and Alec Martinez have definitely taken their toll along with one of the other guys who played a big part in winning their two Cups, Slaya Voynov, facing serious legal trouble as he is accused of domestic battery ala Ray Rice and is consequently suspended by the NHL until things are resolved one way or another.
Having said all of this…
It would be very ignorant of me to write this team off as a lost cause as I – and every Kings fan in existence – remembers fondly 2011-12, when the team barely sneaked into the NHL postseason as a number eight seed, having clinched that spot on the very last day of the season, only to go on perhaps the most intense tear in sports history as the Kings not only rolled to their first Stanley Cup, they demolished teams along the way as they swept nearly every (higher ranked and favored) opponent.
There’s no reason why history can’t repeat itself as this is a hockey team that has been shown to relish the role of underdog, which they are certainly in at the moment.
They can begin to show that resilience over the course of these next few days as they face three teams that are far ahead of them in the standings – Calgary, Washington, and Tampa Bay.
Most pundits will undoubtedly predict losses in at least two of those next three games, if not all three.
Even if that comes to pass, it wouldn’t be surprising in the least if these Kings find themselves playing in May and June despite their fatigue and all the adversity they have faced this season.
After all, they have done it before.
The defending champs in action