Looking back on the Los Angeles Kings' two Stanley Cups, the most amazing quality of the two playoff runs is how different they were. Asking a question like "Who are this year's Los Angeles Kings?" just isn't gonna cut it, because it's not specific enough!
We're going to be more specific.
Who are this year's Los Angeles Kings (2012 Edition)?
Here are the factors which made the Los Angeles Kings of 2012 so special, and which team could fit the bill for each.
- Team that fired their coach midseason
Only one playoff team had a midseason coaching change: the Ottawa Senators, who hired Dave Cameron on December 8, 2014. (Darryl Sutter was hired on December 17, 2011.)
- Team that has their possession rolling
The Winnipeg Jets are the trendy lower-seed pick due to a consistent record of possession success this season. The problem? Anaheim's good at it this year. More on that later.
- Team with a Vezina-caliber goaltender who made "the leap"
This has to be either Devan Dubnyk or Carey Price, but the closest comparable is Price. Price carried a .917 SV% into this season and had never been a Vezina finalist before dragging his team, the Montreal Canadiens, to new heights. (Honorable mention: Andrew Hammond, who has no comparable.)
- Team that wasn't scoring, then started scoring
Three teams exhibited the kind of offensive jump LA did in 2011-12: the Ottawa Senators, the Minnesota Wild, and the Vancouver Canucks.
- A bottom seed with a deceptively straightforward path
Because we've got four bottom seeds instead of two, this seems like a complicated question, but it can only be the Winnipeg Jets. That's not meant to disrespect Anaheim; quite the opposite, as like Vancouver, they are a tremendously strong opponent. But LA ground out four victories against the Canucks, who were missing Daniel Sedin, and Winnipeg could do the same against a team with a hobbled Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf. If they do, the path is open. Vancouver and Calgary, the two worst possession teams in the playoffs, await in the second round. And if Chicago doesn't make the WCF, the Jets would get this year's version of the Phoenix Coyotes: a team without Stanley Cup Final experience and NBC-quality ratings power.
Your three contenders that fit the 2012 Kings bill: the Winnipeg Jets (the unheralded Corsi darlings), and the Ottawa Senators and Minnesota Wild (bottom seeds that caught fire)! Unless we got this all wrong...
Who are this year's Los Angeles Kings (2014 Edition)?
Now, the factors which made the Los Angeles Kings of 2014 so special, and which team could fit the bill for each.
- A proven team with an underwhelming regular season
The Chicago Blackhawks, like LA, sit in the #3 spot in their division two years removed from their last Cup.
- Analytics darlings
The Kings were atop the Corsi Hockey League standings in 2013-14. In 2014-15? Well, it was also the Kings. (Sigh.) So the team cruising in carrying that belt this year is the runner-up... the Chicago Blackhawks. How about some factors that DON'T favor Chicago?
- A difference-making midseason acquisiton, preferably for peanuts
You could opt for the Anaheim Ducks, but amid rumors they're healthy scratching James Wisniewski, I'll take the Montreal Canadiens in this slot. Defenseman Jeff Petry was acquired for a 2015 second-rounder and a conditional fifth-rounder at the deadline. Now? He's averaging over 22 minutes per game and picked up at least one point in six of his last seven games. Meanwhile, the Rangers and Blues grabbed defensemen from Arizona, though they actually had to pay.
- No major awards consideration
Aside from Anze Kopitar's second-place finish in the Selke race, no Kings really were in contention for postseason recognition after 2013-14. From browsing the various NHL awards polls out there, there are a few teams whose players' don't seem to have major awards chances. However, most of the teams with players being overlooked have coaches being touted for the Jack Adams. The only team who also has a coach being ignored -- which also has a Selke contender -- is the St. Louis Blues.
- A playoff rematch to kick things off
There's only one first-round series which was a matchup of a series from last year; the New York Rangers face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Rangers could go all in on copying the Kings' road by taking on their nearest rival in Round 2 and an Original Six squad in Round 3. Meanwhile, St. Louis and Chicago, and Montreal and Tampa Bay, could be on a collision course in Round 2.
Your 2014 Kings candidates: the Chicago Blackhawks, the New York Rangers, and the St. Louis Blues. (Sorry, Montreal, but you're nothing like last year's Kings.)
We'll come back to this in a few days to see who's actually tracing the Kings' 2012 or 2014 path.