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Season 5 Preview - Los Angeles Kings Written by habsfan93 - November 30th, -0001

For the third straight season, the Los Angeles Kings occupied the last place in the Western Conference. It has been a rough 3 years for this team, as GM Kings-Anthony has tried to rebuild the squad. However, the time may have come for a new team to finish last in the West, as league consensus seems to show that the Kings will move up in the standings with the best roster they have fielded in 3 years. Whether or not they have enough firepower to make the playoffs remains to be seen, but hope is high in Los Angeles these days.

Offence

GM Kings-Anthony made quite a few changes to the club this summer to try and shake things up, the most prominent of which would be the acquisition of Daniel Briere to be the team's #1 center. Briere has since shown why he was acquired as he tore up the league in the Invitational Classic, and so far has a point-per-game in the early going of this season. His career high is 72 points (achieved last season), but given appropriate ice time in LA, he should be able to easily surpass that. One of the biggest changes is likely to be a promotion from within. Mike Richards has been deemed to be ready for the challenge of playing in the big show after a year back in the minors for seasoning. He's got oodles of skill and it remains to be seen if he can translate that into big league success. This team is without a doubt deepest at Center, as Mike Cammalleri patrols the 3rd line. A 2nd liner on most teams, Cammalleri is unlikely to reproduce his 60+ point standard output unless he's given more ice time.

This is a very deep team on the wings as well. This team essentially has 3 2nd lines - that is 3 lines that would be fantastic 2nd lines on high caliber teams. If GM Anthony can appropriately manage their ice team, that could translate into lots and lots of goals. Martin Erat is back for a second year with the Kings after scoring a career-best 58 points last year. He and fellow returnee Chris Clark are being given the most opportunity to succeed by getting the most ice time thus far this year. Clark was a revelation last year, coming out of nowhere to put up 30 goals and 60 points. Scott Hartnell and Radim Vrbata were both acquired from Philadelphia in the offseason, and both are also capable of 50-60 points. Scott Walker was picked up from New Jersey and is a very capable passer, who should play well with a very capable scorer in Michael Ryder. All in all, this offense has what it takes to score a lot of goals. The challenge, much like in Anaheim, will be making sure everyone gets enough ice time to score those goals.

Defence

If there was a weakness in LA, it would have to be the defence, which can be summed up in one word - slow. Bryan Allen is off to a blistering start though, and is the undisputed leader of the defence corps. He's coming off two consecutive 47 point seasons, and is fully expected to repeat that performance in LA. He also represents the only real offensive threat from the back-end in LA. Randy Jones and Lasse Kukkonen give the blueline some speed and are both underrated. Alex Picard could emerge as an offensive threat given the opportunity. Rounding out the corps are three guys on their last legs who struggle to keep up with the CMHL stars - Craig Rivet, Greg deVries and Anders Eriksson. If improvements are to be made to the LA blueline, these are the first three that should be replaced.

Goaltending

One might think that LA had a goaltending battle in its midst, but GM Anthony has fully handed the starting job over to Dan Ellis, who has all of 1 previous game of CMHL experience, over former Vezina winner Jose Theodore. But this author agrees that giving the reins over tO Ellis is the right move, as Theodore has not been the same goalie since moving from Columbus to LA. If Dan Ellis were younger, he would be a serious Calder candidate, and he's proved his mettle at the lower level, winning the ICHF Vezina Award last season. Its time to show the hockey world what he's made of.

Prospects

Los Angeles has some solid depth at the lower levels. While they might not be top 5 in the league, this is mostly because they have been using all their high picks to improve their team now rather than wait more years for rebuilding to come true. Former Kings draft picks that have been moved to improve the team include guys like Ryan Whitney, Jordan Staal and Kyle Okposo. But that doesn't mean the shelves are bare. No, the Kings still have top fleet prospects James Van Riemsdyk, Marc Staal, Claude Giroux, Steve Downie, and Shawn Matthias in the mix. The only think lacking here is a top goaltending prospect in case Ellis is a bust.

Playoffs

The big question here is whether or not the quick rebuilding process that has occurred over the last 3 years can finally translate into a playoff trip for the Kings. Things are looking good so far. The Kings are playing .500 hockey in one of the toughest divisions in the league. They'll need to do better than .500 though if they want to do any serious damage this year. Regardless of whether or not that happens, the Kings are going to be a threat for many years to come.

Quick Hits

Best Bargain: Martin Erat - Contract year for Erat, look for him to have a big year and pull in a huge raise on the $750,000 he'll get this year.
Most Overpaid: Jose Theodore - Theodore is on the final year of the big dollar multi-year contract the Blue Jackets gave him after winning the Vezina Trophy. He he when he was winning 35-40 games a season. Now he's just one big overpaid backup.
Breakout Player: Dan Ellis - If the Kings can find their groove and make a playoff run, Ellis could be in for a big year as the starting goalie.
Overrated: Craig Rivet - Rivet is on his last legs in the CMHL. The solid defender doesn't offer much else and is too slow to keep up with today's forwards.

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