Winning the Stanley Cup once is difficult business. Some NHL franchises are still without their name etched into the legendary trophy. It is even said that the Stanley Cup playoffs — the tournament that must be won in order to claim championship status — is the hardest tourney to win in all of sports. Sure, winning the Cup is not easy, but the L. A. Kings have made a habit of it.
California’s most tenured NHL club has won two of the last three Stanley Cup titles despite playing in a salary cap system that was designed to make the league more competitive. And although the league is somewhat competitive, let’s not for a second kid ourselves. Only a handful of clubs have the top end talent, overall depth and mental make up to actually win four rounds of playoffs. The Kings top that list.
But can they do it again? It has been sixteen-years since an NHL franchise won back-to-back Cups. The Red Wings did it in 1997 and again in 1998. Many great teams have won the title since, some more than once, and yet none have managed to obtain Stanley Cup glory in consecutive years. Recent history is against the Kings, you could say.
The good news for the L. A. Kings is that they will begin this season with virtually the exact same cast that starred on last year’s championship team. They even re-signed trade deadline acquisition, Marian Gaborik. The Slovakian sniper scored 14 goals in 26 postseason games a few months ago. In Gaborik and big Jeff Carter the Kings’ roster contains two of the league’s top shooters.
Unlike most recent dynasties, the L. A. Kings aren’t exactly a regular season juggernaut. Yes, they’re always a playoff team, and they excel where it counts, producing top advanced stats and goals against numbers. But they haven’t been known to win their division or even start the playoffs with home ice advantage like previous multiple Cup winners the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils. The Kings are simply built specifically for postseason success. That makes them unique compared to other noteworthy NHL clubs from recent eras. Therefore, maybe it isn’t far fetched to expect that L. A. will be the first NHL club to repeat as Cup champs since the late ’90s.
It helps that the Kings have all the right junk in all the right places. Anze Kopitar is a top two-way centre, a distinction he shares with players like Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron. This is important, because the previously mentioned trio represent the key middle men on the last three Cup championship teams. Selke winners have a tendency to win Cups these days.
Drew Doughty is arguably the best defenceman in the NHL. Few others can dominate in all three zones with Doughty’s prowess. Although he doesn’t play the game exactly like Chris Pronger or Nicklas Lidstrom, it’s fair to say he possesses their same ability to control a game. This rare ability of Doughty provides the Kings with a competitive advantage; one that is often most advantageous in the playoffs. Look at it like this: Between the years 2002 and 2010, six out of eight Cup finals featured at least one of, Nicklas Lidstrom or Chris Pronger. It’s not a coincidence. Doughty can now say he’s played in two of three finals, winning both. Also not a coincidence.
To repeat as Cup champion is unheard of this day and age, but the Kings might be the team to do it. And as spectators, we won’t know what to expect from L. A. until the playoffs, because that’s their time of year.