The Los Angeles Kings are returning to the playoffs. The Kings got off to a hot start, were never more than a point or two out of the West’s top eight, and were still more likely to make the playoffs than miss the playoffs even after a rough January. Even so... it’s still a little surprising, right? It was to most of the hockey media; Yahoo, Sporting News, CBS Sports, and 14 out of 17 NHL.com experts predicted LA to finish out of the running, and even our own SB Nation overlords picked LA to finish sixth in the Pacific. You all, on the other hand, had a little bit of optimism. Good on you!
The Kings’ journey to the postseason was anything but predictable, however. Before the season we posted several polls to gauge our fanbase’s outlook on 2017-18. How’d everyone do?
POLL: Of the following four forwards starting the year in LA, who will appear in the most regular season games?— Jewels from the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) October 3, 2017
All four of these guys actually did end up with a decent chunk of games this season; Jonny Brodzinski appeared in 34 games, Andy Andreoff played 45, and Nic Dowd got into 56. Only 16 of those were with LA, though, as he was shipped off to Vancouver two months in. However, we largely missed the boat on Alex Iafallo; though many people had high hopes for the rookie, I imagine no one saw him drawing into the lineup 75 times.
POLL: Of the following four defensemen likely to be in an LA-Ontario "rotation," who will appear in the most regular season games?— Jewels from the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) October 3, 2017
Another whiff here, though not by much! Kurtis MacDermid was a reliable option on the back end until he wasn’t, but he still got 34 games before he returned to Ontario. That’s eight more than Oscar Fantenberg, 18 more than Kevin Gravel, and 23 more than Paul LaDue. The other three are still with the Kings, though, so maybe they win in the long run.
POLL: Who will lead the Los Angeles Kings in goals this season?— Jewels from the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) October 3, 2017
Well then! Carter wins in the goals-per-game department and may well have won out over a full season, but less than 10% of you saw Kopitar’s outburst coming. Dustin Brown is insulted that we didn’t throw him into this poll; he’s 13 goals ahead of Tanner Pearson.
POLL: Since he wasn't in the previous poll, how many goals will Mike Cammalleri score this season?— Jewels from the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) October 3, 2017
Most of you thought we were too optimistic with this poll. You were right.
POLL: Which long-running trend will come to an end in 2017-18? (Each has happened at least four times in a row.)— Jewels from the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) October 3, 2017
WE GOT ONE
In fact, even the percentages were in the right order here. Doughty sits 19 points ahead of Jake Muzzin, so that wasn’t even close, while Kopitar’s standout campaign has him seven assists ahead of Doughty. Quick did play fewer games this season, but he still posted 62 starts. As for the Kings’ shooting percentage? Their all-situations shooting percentage is 9.37%, good for 13th in the NHL and just ahead of the league average of 9.17%, while the Kings’ 5v5 shooting percentage is also an above-average 7.93%. It’s the first time since the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign they’ve done that, and the first time over an 82-game season since 2009-10. (Anze Kopitar shot the lights out that season, too.)
POLL: Of the following people who played (or head coached) in no Kings games last season, who will be the most pleasant surprise in 2017-18?— Jewels from the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) October 3, 2017
Looking good here, too. Though some would argue that Stevens’ presence was a large factor in getting the Kings back into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s not easy to gauge his impact. It’s certainly not as easy as gauging the impact of Iafallo, who spent most of his season with the two most productive, longest-tenured forwards on the Kings and more than held his own.
POLL: Finally, which player who wasn't mentioned in any of these polls will have the best season?— Jewels from the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) October 3, 2017
Not bad! All four of these guys stepped up from 2016-17, Kempe to the tune of 16 goals and Martinez to the tune of fewer goals against and more minutes. Muzzin was clearly LA’s second-best defenseman all season and was a rock before his injury. However, this honor was Brown’s even before he dropped four goals on the Wild. What a year he’s had.
Predicting individual performances is tough, though. How about the team projections?
POLL: Where will the Kings finish in the Pacific Division in 2017-18?— Jewels from the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) October 3, 2017
Amazingly, we still don’t know if 66% of the voters nailed this one or not. LA could sneak into the second spot in the division tonight if both San Jose and Anaheim lose. More than likely, though, the Kings are staying in that 3-4 range.
So the individual performances were a little unpredictable, but clearly our group optimism won out. (For what it’s worth, all four of us on the preseason Jewelcast also predicted the Kings would sneak in to the playoffs, which we totally aren’t going to brag about, we swear.) Either way, the road was unusual, but we’re happy everybody was on board the Kings train all along!