A Q&A with Kings insider Jon Rosen
MAR 16, 2014 6:52p ET
However, those two losses haven't cooled some analysts' view that the Kings can make another Stanley Cup run two years after hoisting their first one.
We caught up with L.A. Kings Insider (and one-time FOX Sports West) reporter Jon Rosen to get his take on the current state of the team. You can catch his insightful analysis and superlative writing at lakingsinsider.com or follow him on Twitter at @lakingsinsider.
FSAZ: It's a wide-ranging question and they've now lost two straight, but what is behind the Kings' recent surge after an extended slump?
Rosen: "Though the Kings struggled to string wins together between the Christmas and Olympic breaks, they weren't really playing consistently poor hockey. Their scoring dipped during the most compacted portion of the schedule against a disproportionate number of first place and playoff-bound teams. But let's face it: Los Angeles doesn't score a ton of goals. Whenever there's any type of slip in the team's offense, it puts a heavier burden on Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones to win games in which they allow either no goals or one goal. That's not an effective model to win consistently. Since the Olympic Break, the offense has shown signs of life, and the Kings won eight in a row because they averaged 3.13 goals per game during that stretch. L.A. has struggled to receive secondary scoring for much of the season, and recent offensive contributions from players such as Trevor Lewis and Alec Martinez have helped ease the scoring load on the team's top players."
FSAZ: What should we make, or not make about the recent limiting of Dustin Brown's special teams roles?
Rosen: "I understand how difficult this must be for Coyotes fans to hear, but Dustin Brown is not having a good season. He's owned up to his sub-par campaign, which began with a hamstring injury on the first day of training camp, an adjustment to wearing (and now, not wearing) a knee brace, and trying to form chemistry with different sets of linemates. His 12 goals in 66 games are a byproduct of a 7.4 shooting percentage, his lowest mark since his 19-year-old rookie season. To borrow a word that (recently traded goalie) Ben Scrivens used that nearly crashed Kings Twitter, it is "meritocracy" that determines one's placement on special teams time. Brown understands that his game is not where he wants it to be, nor where his coaches want it to be. If he wants to get back to killing penalties and earning consistent power play time, his entire game has to improve. He's a bit dinged up right now, though, and it's unlikely that he'll play against Phoenix on Monday.
FSAZ: What impact will the Kings' trade deadline moves and non-moves have?
Rosen: "The Marian Gaborik trade is very important in the sense that it provides balance across the Kings' top two lines while potentially enhancing the team's depth scoring. It allows Anze Kopitar to skate alongside Gaborik's speed and Justin Williams' puck possession tendencies, while dropping Jeff Carter back onto Mike Richards line, where Tyler Toffoli has flipped over and served as a left wing. Dwight King, Jarret Stoll and Dustin Brown should combine to form a quality banging line that certainly has the capability to score. Even if Gaborik isn't scoring himself, the move should more adequately spread the team's scoring through three, perhaps four lines. Los Angeles also traded for AHL All-Star defenseman Brayden McNabb in a move that addresses the dearth of NHL-ready prospects coming through the pipeline. He has the potential to develop into a top-four defenseman and already has NHL experience, though he's not currently with the club."
FSAZ: Anze Kopitar gets a lot of attention for his skill, but what about his defensive ability. He's garnering plenty of consideration as a Selke Trophy candidate this season. Why?
Rosen: The Kings are the league's top defensive team, and Kopitar faces the toughest assignments and starts a higher percentage of faceoffs in the defensive zone than any other player that has been with the team all season. He has taken only nine minor penalties, ranks second among L.A. forwards in blocked shots and by virtue of being an excellent stick checker, he leads the team in takeaways by a large margin. Despite how difficult his assignments have been, and despite the frequent defensive zone starts, he's a plus-25 this season. As one of the league's top possession forwards, he's also a perfect example of using puck possession as a way to limit the opposition's chances (i.e. they can't score if they don't possess the puck). Though he may be among the most deserving players of the Selke Trophy, it will likely be a losing battle: since the award was first presented in 1978, the only player from the Pacific or Mountain time zones to win the award was Ryan Kesler in 2011."
FSAZ: Is this team ready for another Cup run? If so, why and what could hold it back?
Rosen: "With Jonathan Quick in net, there's always the chance. This is a well-built playoff team with a character core that has won seven playoff series over the last two seasons, and appears to be trending upwards heading into the spring. Still, they're going to have to run a gauntlet of Western Conference powers -- likely beginning with Anaheim or San Jose in the first round -- and as seen in last year's run, back-to-back series against St. Louis and San Jose took a significant mental and physical toll on the team once the Chicago series rolled around. They're going to need to improve their offensive output by a significant margin if they're going to advance deep; in 2012, they averaged .56 more goals per game in the playoffs than they did in the regular season. The Kings will win a few of their patented 2-1 games in the playoffs, but emerging from the Pacific Division would require Jonathan Quick to equal or better his numbers from the 2012 and 2013 postseasons. Quick is outstanding, and a case could be made that he's the best goaltender in the sport. But it's a lot to ask of someone to post a third consecutive postseason save percentage of at least .934, especially considering the tenured veteran presence of Rob Scuderi is no longer a part of the Kings' blue line."