LA Kings Are Showing Signs Of Shaken Confidence, Frustration, Tension

LA Kings Defenseman Drew Doughty
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography

LOS ANGELES — After an embarrassing 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in front of a sell-out crowd of 19,230 fans at Staples Center on Thursday night, one has to wonder if the team unity and strength of character that the Los Angeles Kings have become so well known for since they won the Stanley Cup in 2012 has begun to fray.

Indeed, the frustration and tension seemed palpable as soon as the game ended.

As soon as the final horn sounded, Kings players skated to goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, as they usually do with whomever is in goal. But Zatkoff, who had been victimized by blatant turnovers and blown coverages by Kings skaters on all four Detroit goals, appeared to want to have nothing to do with that. In fact, he skated straight to the bench—quicker than usual—and into the dressing room, appearing to completely ignore his teammates.

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LA Kings Are Gambling On Reunification and Chemistry Against Divisional Rivals

LA Kings center Anze Kopitar, shown here during a recent practice at the
Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California.
{click above to view larger image)
Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography

EL SEGUNDO, CA — On their recent seven-game road trip, the Los Angeles Kings earned a 3-2-2 record even though they had to shuffle their forward lines after both Dustin Brown and Tyler Toffoli suffered injuries, forcing them out of the lineup.

Brown returned for the final two games of the trip, but Toffoli remains out of the lineup and did not join the team on their Tuesday afternoon flight to Vancouver, where they will play on Wednesday night, followed by a game at Edmonton on Thursday.

Head coach Darryl Sutter said that Toffoli would not even be examined by doctors again “…for at least a week.” As a result, he has reunited center Anze Kopitar with Brown and Marian Gaborik on a forward line.

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LA Kings Are Looking To Exorcise Their Demons From The 2015-16 Season

LA Kings center Anze Kopitar, shown here during an October 2016 practice at the
Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California.
Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography

EL SEGUNDO, CA — With opening night for their 2016-17 National Hockey League season upon them, the Los Angeles Kings would like to exorcise their demons from last season by forgetting all about the way they played down the stretch.

Indeed, the Kings flew through much of the season, leading the Pacific Division for a long, long time. But not only did they blow a 14-point lead in the standings, once they clinched a playoff berth after a win over the Boston Bruins at Staples Center in Los Angeles on March 19, 2016, they went into the tank the rest of the way. In fact, they struggled to a poor 4-6-1 record in the final eleven games of the regular season. To make matters worse, three of those wins came against Pacific Division bottom-dwellers, the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, with the fourth win coming against a disinterested Anaheim Ducks team that had already clinched the Pacific Division title.

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Dustin Brown Deserved Much Better From LA Kings

LA Kings forward Dustin Brown, shown here during a November 2015 practice at the
Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California.
Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography

LOS ANGELES — Although the decline in his level of play has been rather glaring, even before he helped lead the Los Angeles Kings to their first Stanley Cup Championship in 2012, right wing and now former captain Dustin Brown deserved better treatment than he has received this summer since news leaked that he was no longer captain.

On May 27, TSN’s Frank Seravalli first reported on Twitter that Brown would no longer be captain. But there was no confirmation from the Kings, not even a comment, until June 17, when they named center Anze Kopitar as their new captain.

Brown broke his silence on June 30, and during a very candid, often blunt, media conference call, among the things that became clear was that the Kings bungled the whole situation.

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Changing Of The Guard: LA Kings Name Anze Kopitar As New Captain

LA Kings center Anze Kopitar
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography

LOS ANGELES — On June 17, the Los Angeles Kings made official what had been mostly a foregone conclusion for a few weeks…that right wing Dustin Brown was captain no more.

Indeed, the Kings announced a changing of the guard, with center Anze Kopitar being named their new captain.

Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi told the media during a conference call that the reasons for the change were two-fold. But he stressed that the primary reason was that it’s time to expand the horizons of other players and allow them further growth.

“There’s a number of things that go into this,” said Lombardi. “Number one, being a captain, there’s no doubt that you’re not only responsible for your own game, but 23 other players. That is an enormous responsibility. That’s an enormous amount of work to be responsible for twenty people. The second part of this—you know how I feel about culture and chemistry and the things that don’t necessarily show up on a chart, or anything of that nature. My feeling on this is that, at some point, there has to be an evolution in the growth of some of your other players, the players who have come through the system. It’s essentially their turn.”

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