While the summer has gone by fairly quickly, the start of the hockey season really can’t arrive fast enough. After the Los Angeles Kings bowed out to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Final, I was deflated. While there really is no shame in losing to a team as great as the Blackhawks, being denied a chance to repeat as Stanley Cup champions still stung – even though the feat hasn’t been accomplished since 1998. But as the old adage goes, The past is the past and now the 2013-14 season awaits us with a renewed hope that this year will be the Kings’ year once again.
While I did enjoy the Stanley Cup Finals between the Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins, I knew how much better it would have been had the Kings made it. Granted, had the Kings made it that far, I would have been a partisan spectator but nevertheless, it was a great final – much better than I thought – and I enjoyed it as a result. But it’s onward and upward as despite a few subtractions, I am still confident that the Los Angeles Kings can go far.
Of the players they parted ways with this past off-season, the Los Angeles Kings will arguably miss the services of Rob Scuderi the most. While he was never known for lighting the lamp, Scuderi’s defensive game significantly aided the Los Angeles Kings in becoming a championship contender before ultimately winning the Stanley Cup in 2012. Of course, that’s not taking anything away from the Browns and Kopitars who also contributed to their team’s success but like the sports cliché says, Defense wins championships and while that may not be as true in hockey as it is in, say, football, Rob Scuderi has certainly proved otherwise. Thankfully, Scuderi’s absence won’t seem as devastating once Willie Mitchell returns. With that said, the question remains when – and possibly if – Mitchell will return to the Kings lineup.
Another player who left the Kings this summer was Dustin Penner and while he barely made an offensive impact during his time wearing the silver and black, I’ve always been reluctant to see how he’d fare with his new club – which is, of all teams, the Anaheim Ducks – as despite his futility in recent years, Penner does have the potential to average around 30 goals per season as he has shown during his days in Edmonton with the Oilers.
Jonathan Bernier was the other notable name the Kings saw leave town over the summer. Los Angeles traded the netminder to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for goaltender Ben Scrivens and forward Matt Frattin.
While it was inevitable that Bernier would be traded, a number of Kings fans were less than eager to see the backstop get moved. While Jonathan Quick has proven ad nauseum that he is the number one netminder in Los Angeles – especially now that he has a 10-year contract – there have been questions surrounding the team’s depth chart in goal. Few feel Martin Jones and Jean-Francois Berube are ready to make the leap to the NHL, which is why I was at least content to see Scrivens heading the other way in the trade.
Being that he played in the Eastern Conference, most in Los Angeles know very little about Scrivens which is why the jury is still out on the metminder. While his stats last season weren’t anything to write home about (7-9-0, 2.69 GAA, .915 save percentage), Ben Scrivens’ numbers were pretty good considering the lack of defensive depth on the Leafs roster. After all, if the last decade has been any indication, a reliable goaltender in Toronto is akin to finding a needle in the haystack. On the surface, as far as I’m concerned, if Scrivens can play well in the hockey hotbed of Toronto, he should fill in as an admirable backup to Jonathan Quick. All we can do is hope that belief turns to reality in this case.
While I can’t speak for everyone, I was able to occupy myself with other interests once the Kings season ended. I know most baseball fans in Los Angeles are enjoying their Dodgers having great success while Angels and Giants fans aren’t so lucky – which pleases Dodgers to no end in the all-important war for bragging rights. Even my Red Sox are having a great season.
Having said that, there really is only so long one can go without hockey – which is why I made the Staples Center’s goal horn my personal ringtone. Of course, I never answer my phone as I’d like to hear Rock n’ Roll Part II every time someone’s trying to get a hold of me.
When I raise my arms like I scored a goal whenever an ambulance rushes by or when I break up a fight only to escort one of them to a nearby bench or when I sacrifice a Wagon Wheel so I can drop it at center ice of the hockey rink behind my house (and I love Wagon Wheels), anyone, whether they know me or not, is aware of how much I long for the upcoming season. I also spend my evenings playing detective while I watch old episodes of Columbo and Murder, She Wrote – and that’s not healthy for anybody.
There is no lockout this time around so we are all looking at an 82-game schedule in addition to the changing of division formats to wondering how Tyler Toffoli, among others, will do being that 2013-14 will be, barring unforeseen circumstances, his first full season in Los Angeles.
It’s hard to believe we are still over a month away from the start of the 2013-14 season but it is still fast approaching. A little more hanging on and before we know it, we’ll all be wondering how we ever managed without our beloved Los Angeles Kings – and let’s hope that feeling lasts until next June. I’m confident. Are you?