Season preview in the rearview mirror

2011-12 Kings season preview - Jewels from the Crown

[O]ne way or another, [the epic collapses of the previous season] [were] a problem of leadership. Captains, core players, veterans, coaches, all of the above? -- that's almost impossible to say from the outside. But it looks like Dean Lombardi also felt like the team could use an infusion, because he brought in Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Ethan Moreau and Trent Hunter, which is the largest off-season addition of veterans since the glory days of 2007 (Michal Handzus, Ladislav Nagy, Tom Preissing, Brad Stuart, maybe Kyle Calder, too, I forget).

And, as veteran infusions go, this years hasn't been appreciably better than the Nagy/Preissing/etc.. Not that I don't love Mike Richards, I do, I do. But Hunter, Moreau, Gagne? I do so wish we had Handzus right now.

Meanwhile, Obiwan Handzus signed with San Jose, Alexei Ponikarovsky went to Carolina, wily veteran Ryan Smyth hightailed it to Edmonton, Oscar Moller (and Bud Holloway) absconded to Sweden, and Wayne Simmonds (and Brayden Schenn) were assigned to the Kings East affiliate. I have no way of knowing what the locker-room effect of swapping out Smyth and Simmonds for Richards, Gagne, Moreau and Hunter will be...but it will certainly be different than it was.

Only Richards is left. And I'm glad to have him. But he's not the captain. And leadership does appear to be an issue, still.

Power Play

During the pre-season, the idea of Andrei Loktionov and Viatcheslav Voynov both working the second power play unit had me feeling pretty rosy about this year's power-play. Now Loktionov is in Manchester, and Voynov -- I hope he sticks around, but I have a feeling he'll be in Manchester soon, too. At which point, I'm not sure how our power-play is any better than last year, when it frankly sucked to the point of costing us playoff wins (a 5 minute major powerplay in the 3rd and OT of a playoff game?). Smyth and Handzus were pretty important pieces of the power-play, too, and I'm not sure who is supposed to be the guy sticking his butt in the goalie's face now. Richards and Gagne are probably an upgrade over those two, but I have to label this another area where improvement isn't guaranteed.

[...] At least with Loktionov and Voynov there was movement. I'm tired of Anze Kopitar on a lazy-susan at the half-wall, telegraphing passes to Stoll or Johnson for the blistering high/wide shot at the glass.

Yeah, that's still a fair description of the power play. And it's just as deadly (deadly to us, not to opponents). The power-play, in and of itself, could have solved every problem the Kings now face, by being just a little more productive. Or, even without being more productive in quantity, just being a little more clutch.

Scoring

Smyth, Simmonds and Handzus are out. That's 50 goals right there. It's reasonable to expect Richards and Gagne to replace that.

Oh well.

Last year, I thought it was possible for the Kings to have ten 20 goal scorers. That didn't happen. (We ended up with five: Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Smyth, Stoll.)

This year, I'm hoping for 20+ goals from Kopitar, Penner, Williams, Gagne, Richards, Brown, Stoll and one of Doughty or Johnson. If Parse survives this week and gets his train rolling, I would add him to that list. If Loktionov were still here, he'd be on it, too. Everyone on the top two lines is capable of scoring 30. I'm going out on a limb to say I think Penner and Richards will.

Hahahahahahaha. One guy, Kopitar, is on pace for 20 goals. One guy.

Stupid Shoot-Outs

All the nerdy analysis of shoot-outs since the lock-out indicate that the outcome of any given shoot-out is essentially random. A team may have a great run or a hideous dry spell, but over time, everyoneregresses to the mean. This worries me. Stoll (9 goals, 10 attempts, 90%, 4 game-deciding goals) and Jonathan Quick (10-0 record) were miraculous last year. I hope they continue to be, because the Kings wouldn't even have made the playoffs if they hadn't grabbed 10 out of 12 crap-shoot points (best in the league, by the way).

As I feared, the Kings are more human in the shoot-out this year, and in OT. They are on pace for five fewer SO points than last season. Think those five wouldn't come in handy?

The last two years have been defined by runs of extreme hot and cold. If the Kings continue to count on historic hot streaks to save them from catastrophic slumps, they're never going to have the confidence or fortitude to get out of the first round.

And, once again, they need, if not a historic hot-streak, then at least a very strong finish, even to make the playoffs.

Prediction

I have no clue. So here you go: the Kings' conference seed will be determined by this equation:

x = 12 - y - (z-5)/2

x = conference seed, y = number of 20 goal scorers, z = number of shoot-out wins. Results are rounded to the nearest counting number.

As of today, what does that equation tells us? The number of 20 goal scorers will be 1. The number of shoot-out wins (currently 4), projects to 5.

x = 12 - 1 - (5 - 5)/2

x = 12 - 1 - 0

x = 11

11th in the conference. If they continue as they are, that sounds about right. I guess I should patent that formula.

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