Can veteran winger Marian Gaborik bolster the Kings’ ineffective offense?
The Kings ranked near the bottom of the NHL in scoring last season with only 206 goals, the fewest of the 16 teams that advanced to the playoffs. The Pacific Division champion Ducks scored 266, by way of contrast. Gaborik’s scoring during the postseason was one of the reasons the Kings won the Stanley Cup, however.
Gaborik enabled Kings coach Darryl Sutter to form a strong first line with center Anze Kopitar and winger Dustin Brown. It also allowed Sutter to team Jeff Carter with Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, giving the Kings the sort of scoring punch they lacked. Gaborik and Kopitar seemed like a match made in hockey heaven. They are two skilled European-born and -bred players who see the ice better than most. When they click, it’s like magic on the ice.
The Kings have so much going for them that it’s strange to think they struggle in any one aspect of the game, but their inability to score cost them a better seeded place in the Western Conference standings. They won the Stanley Cup despite having home-ice advantage in only the last of the four playoff rounds. At some point, the stress of travel and the unpredictability of road conditions will prove costly to the Kings. Scoring more goals, moving higher in the standings, could ease their burden in 2014-15.
Gaborik is the man to make that happen.
Here’s Kings coach Darryl Sutter on the anticipation of watching the second Stanley Cup championship banner in three seasons being raised to the Staples Centers rafters before the season-opening game Wednesday against the San Jose Sharks:
“Are we looking forward to it? Are we looking forward to seeing our banner being raised? Absolutely. We were looking forward to last night (the presentation of the Stanley Cup championship rings during a dinner downtown), too. ”
Here’s what Kings coach Darryl Sutter told my fellow beat scribes when asked about team-boding trips such as the three-exhibition game trek the team embarked upon Monday: “If you have to go somewhere to learn about your personality, you probably have a disorder.”
Kings coach Darryl Sutter didn’t talk to reporters after Saturday’s practice. Now we know why. Actually, we knew he was headed to the race track. We just wanted him to make a few wagers for us. Runyoustupidnag was a favorite in the ninth race.
Here’s what Kings coach Darryl Sutter had to say about Tyler Toffoli, who had a goal and an assist in a 4-3 shootout victory Thursday over the Ducks: “He had a tough camp last year, so the difference in demeanor would be that this year he’s playing well two games in, and last year he struggled. We get along good. He’s a good boy.”
There is no timetable for Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick’s exhibition debut, at least not one for public consumption. Quick, coach Darryl Sutter and the team’s medical staff will determine when Quick’s surgically-repaired wrist is sound enough for him to play.
“We’ve got a lot of minds put together trying to figure it out,” Quick said. “We’ll figure it out. We’ve got a little time. Obviously, it’s going to happen in a hurry. I’ll come in and keep working every day and keep getting better like I have been and, hopefully, I can get a couple of games in.”
Quick played only 49 games last season because of a nagging groin injury, well down from a career-high of 72 set during the 2009-10 season. He said he hadn’t thought much about decreasing his workload for the coming season, leaving the decisions up to the coaching staff.
“You love playing games, so you never voluntarily ask for games off,” Quick said. “I think the coaching staff has a good feel for goaltenders and the team and what’s best for them. They run the ship and we just go to work. That’s it.
“They tell me to take a day off, I take a day off. They tell me I’m going, I’m going. You want to be involved. You want to be a part of it. You work so hard all summer to play in those games, you want to try to get in there and be a difference-maker for the team.
“So, you want to be a part of it, obviously. I don’t have a number in my head that I want or anything like that.”
Here’s some of what Kings coach Darryl Sutter had to say after a split-squad loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday in Glendale, Ariz.: “You are still wanting to see more of your young players who you want to give opportunities to in an exhibition game, as I said before. When you play two in one day there are a lot of guys that normally would not get a game at all, so now they get an opportunity.”
Here’s more: “Looking at Jeff (Carter), Tanner (Pearson) and Tyler (Toffoli) as a unit not as Jeff Carter. And we are trying to get some lines together and seeing if it can work together. Yeah, I think that line is really good. They were good all night.”
The Kings play split-squad exhibitions against the newly renamed Arizona Coyotes. Here’s the full schedule of preseason games: http://kings.nhl.com/club/page.htm?id=97755
Here is the best of the best writing on the Kings from the opening weekend of training camp, starting with Los Angeles News Groups columnist Mark Whicker’s look at Stanley Cup playoffs hero Alec Martinez: http://www.dailynews.com/sports/20140920/alec-martinezs-journey-with-los-angeles-kings-becomes-legendary
My look at the moves the Kings’ rivals in the West made during the summer: http://www.dailynews.com/sports/20140919/anaheim-ducks-the-west-bulk-up-to-challenge-los-angeles-kings
Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times takes a look at defenseman Drew Doughty and his goal of winning the Norris Trophy here: http://www.latimes.com/sports/kings/la-sp-kings-drew-doughty-20140920-story.html
Dillman also catches up with captain Dustin Brown here: http://www.latimes.com/sports/kings/la-sp-dustin-brown-kings-20140922-story.html
In the Orange County, er, Los Angeles Register, Rich Hammond previews the Kings’ No. 1 goal in Monday’s split-squad exhibitions with the Arizona Coyotes: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/kings-635851-monday-home.html
The Kings on Wednesday took a step toward planning for the day Darryl Sutter is no longer their coach. Sutter and general manager Dean Lombardi announced assistant John Stevens was promoted to the new job of associate head coach, an indication he’s in line as Sutter’s replacement. What’s more, assistant coach Davis Payne and goaltending coach Bill Ranford were given new contracts.
“Our coaching staff has been an integral part of the success of our team the last three years,” Lombardi said in a statement. “We are extremely pleased that they will remain part of our team and continue together as we strive for excellence.”