Kings Can Only Go Up From Here
Yes, it’s a worn-out cliché, but the Los Angeles Kings certainly didn’t picture their season to be playing out the way it has thus far. No proud franchise wants to be sitting in third place within their division a little more than a quarter of the way through the season. At 13-10-4 through 27 games, it would be far from an understatement to say that these Kings have underachieved.
Success is never a guarantee, even when seemingly all the right pieces are in all the right places. Professional teams from all over the world with far higher expectations (and consequently) far more media exposure have set the bar disappointing fans, players and owners alike. And let’s be clear, I am in no way suggesting that a team sitting a mere 3 points behind the Pacific Division-leading Phoenix Coyotes is in the same category as the Miami Heats and Philadelphia Eagles of the world. Those competing, yet compelling narratives will never, ever be mentioned in this space again.
But what I am suggesting is something that was far from the minds of Kings’ fans that very first week of October. A prolonged offensive scoring slump and the continued disappearance of $4.25 million-dollar man Dustin Penner has almost negated the stellar play of goaltender Jonathan Quick. Quick, at age 25, is putting together one of the best seasons of his young career. He has earned a league-leading 4 shutouts and his 2.01 GAA leads all goaltenders who have made at least 19 starts. It would be safe to say that the young net-minder is not only at the top of a shortlist for early Vezina Trophy voting, but could also take home the Kings MVP as well.
Furthermore, through all the toil the team has endured, they still post an impressive 6-2-2 record within the division, falling just short of one more point in last night’s ugly loss at the hands of Bobby Ryan and the Anaheim Ducks. With the exception of a home date with the surging Minnesota Wild on Thursday and a trip to Boston scheduled for next Tuesday, the Kings’ December schedule wields enough less than impressive foes that could help foster a winning streak. More divisional games versus each one of the Pacific division’s combatants loom on the slate, and if there is one thing the Kings have proven this year, it’s that they can always be counted to rise up for these guys.
Head Coach Terry Murray has a proven track record as an NHL coach. While some would argue he has everything less than that in his 3-plus years in Los Angeles, he’s not the type of individual to lay so low for so long. His impact can be measured. Just ask the Florida Panthers, they haven’t sniffed the playoffs once since Murray’s untimely departure 10 years ago.
Mike Richards will not be on IR for much longer, if all goes according to plan. His offensive contributions have certainly been missed in the previous two contests and will almost certainly be appreciated upon his return to the faceoff circle.
And finally, Dustin Penner will not resemble a missing person’s case for the rest of the season. The man once lauded for the offensive production contained in his 6’4’’, 245 lb frame cannot continue his goal-less ways. The player who was once rewarded with a five-year, $21.25 million dollar deal with the Edmonton Oilers surely has to come back, right?
It’s easy to see that the desire is there. The fire is lit under the bottoms of these 2011-2012 Kings. It is only a matter of time before they find themselves right where they should be—among the league’s best.