The Elimination of the Kings: Timeline
Sharks fans, please don't forget your popcorn.
It's finally over for the Los Angeles Kings. It took more than 40 cans of bug spray and a dismal 3-15 OT/SO record to finally bring down the defending champs.
On one hand, this gives them six months to rest, heal and prepare for next season. It's been a grueling three years of gutting it out in defense of their two titles but alas, this was not their year.
So where did it all go wrong? What finally killed their season? Was it leaving points on the table in the extra session? Did losing high-profile defenders sink the ship? Did losing Tanner Pearson hurt them more than they thought it would?
In order to truly answer these questions, we have to go back to last June. Shortly after the Kings won the Stanley Cup. During exit interviews, GM Dean Lombardi informed veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell that they would not be re-signing him.
Fast-forward to October when defenseman Slava Voynov was arrested for assaulting his wife. With Voynov suspended for the duration of the investigation, the Kings had lost another defenseman. These losses forced the Kings to promote Alec Martinez, who had been a third-pairing defenseman for most of his career.
Though the Kings were initially prepared to cope with such a loss thanks to the acquisition of defenseman Brayden McNabb, a rash of injuries in early November complicated matters for the team. At the time, Slava Voynov's salary still counted against the Kings' salary cap, so the Kings were not able to recall anyone from the Manchester Monarchs. As a result, the team was forced to play with 5 defensemen for a game. Dean Lombardi was able to add defenseman Jamie McBain a short time later and the Kings were, technically, no longer shorthanded.
To help ease the stress on a beleaguered defense, Drew Doughty played enormous minutes for the Kings, often surpassing 30 minutes a night. Despite being just 25-years old, there was concern about wearing him out. Doughty silenced all doubters and played every single game for the team this season.
Promising rookie Tanner Pearson left the lineup with a broken leg on January 10th. Even as his scoring had dried up, his presence had finally given the Kings some long-required depth on the left side. Darryl Sutter tagged Dwight King to fill the role left behind by Pearson.
Pearson's injury started a tumultuous month for the Kings. Around the same time, Tyler Toffoli contracted mononucleosis and missed 6 games. The team was fortunate that he was able to make a speedy recovery as he didn't suffer from many of the symptoms related to it. Jonathan Quick's January was his worst calendar month as a NHL player. As a result of all these coinciding factors, the Kings won just 2 of their 9 games in the month.
In the middle of that messy month, the Kings finally decided that they'd seen enough from Mike Richards. After an acceptable first season with the Kings, the veteran has seen his play decline precipitously. The Kings waived the highly-paid center and sent him to Manchester in favor of rookie Nick Shore.
Sick but not dead, the Kings survived January and tried to carry on. In February, the team rallied around an 8-game win streak to temporarily save their season.
Heading into the trade deadline, the Kings were still searching for another defenseman. Enter Andrej Sekera. Once the Slovakian defenseman settled into his role with the team, things truly seemed to be looking up. Unfortunately, Sekera had his season cut short after a Blackhawk fell on his leg in the team's final match-up with Chicago.
The Kings limped to the finish line from there, winning just 2 of their next 5 games, including losses to the Oilers and Flames. As a result, the Kings were eliminated from playoff contention following their second-to-last game of the season.
None of this even touches on the matter of the Kings' historical badness in the shootout. If they'd managed to be even an average team in the skills competition, they'd have picked up 4 additional points, and would still have the third spot in the division. To make matters worse, the Kings were also bad in the overtime period, going just 1-8. On the whole, the Kings were just 3-15 once the game moved past regulation time.
How much of this really hurt the Kings? What really sunk them? We have more on the subject here.