Los Angeles Kings since their Stanley Cup drive in 1993 (Damn you Montreal Canadiens, damn you!) and frankly it feels pretty swell to finally have these feelings again. LA has been on a steep decline for many years and only within the last couple have started to work their way towards something special again. It's highly doubtful that what's about to happen in LA will ever top the Gretzky years, but there's definitely something interesting brewing down there and this season the Kings push to the playoffs cannot come quick enough...
Yes, I did say playoffs and yes I do know that LA has not been involved since 2002, but like I said, things are happening in sunny LA. Take this offseason for example; for the first time in many years the Kings have been in the position to go out and shop around for some players. Better yet, they are in a position where elite players are wanting to go there to play, namly Ryan Smyth. 'Captain Canada' was traded from Colorado Avalanche over this summer (in exchange for Tom Preissing and Kyle Quincey), but the story here is that he waived his no trade clause to make this exchange happen. That impresses me. It's a similar thing for Rob Scuderi who also joined the Kings in the off-season and this after he just won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins last year. To me, that is two key signs that something wonderful is going on in Los Angeles.
This resurfacing (or better yet, dynamic spike) of my LA fever actually began last year when rookie Drew Doughty (2nd overall in the 08 draft) stole the spotlight from most everyone by ending the season having, on average, more ice time than anyone else on the team (or any other rookie that season for that matter). Seeing such a young guy come in a command attention like that really gets my excitement-o-meter rising and I'm not the only one to notice. Drew was also invited to the Canada Olympic camp last month and as the youngest player invited may make the team. This kid has skills and it's really no wonder that meter of mine is rising.
What's pushing the mercury to the top even quicker is the thought of what's coming behind Drew. As the Los Angeles Tmes and TSN point out today, the youth on the way up the Kings system is nothing to ignore. There's a massively strong core building there, especially on the defensive side of things and some of them will be fighting hard for a roster spot come Friday when training camp opens. In fact, kids like Thomas Hickey (captain and first line blueliner of the 09 tournament winning Canada world junior team) and bruiser Colten Teubert (the other first line blueliner of that same team) come to mind first and foremost. They'll both have to work hard to break the Kings already strong D core though. With the likes of Doughty going into his second year and Jack Johnson re-signed plus the acquisition of 'Scuds' to name only 3 defensemen, cracking the lineup will be difficult...but they'll push. They're pushing right now in fact as rookie camps are open. 2nd year coach (and partial life saver of the Kings) Terry Murry is getting his first real look at the guys... and he's impressed. So far, so am I.
Even with all that news to share, there is still something even more wonderful about the Los Angeles Kings right now for me. The special thing is Newfoundland born Teddy Purcell making his way to the big league and moreover, the fact that the big leagues to him is Los Angeles. Teddy cracked the lineup last season playing 40 games even and this Kings fan was (and still is) very excited to finally have a fellow Newfoundland and Labradorian playing in Los Angeles to cheer for. It the first time in Kings history (that I know of) that this has happened so you can understand my excitement. Teddy could find it even harder this year to crack the solid depth in the Kings world right now. It does however help that he's not a defense man, not to say that is his only asset. Purcell is a skilled player maker and when he finds his stride, he'll become a major threat. Lombardi knows this which is why he was awarded a one year one way contract this past summer. This is Teddy's time to shine and to prove he belongs in LA.
In closing of this what is coming to be my longest post ever I think, I really like what Dean Lombardi has done so far in his 3 short years as GM and I truly do believe the team will make the playoffs this year. I can't tell if they'll make the cup run this season or not, but I do know their time is close. TSN may only have them ranked as 23rd in the power rankings (albiet this is before preseason even starts) but like everyone else surrounding hockey, they too are severly underestimating the talent and possibilities in Los Angeles. After this coming season, they will not. Mark my words.
P.S. Image above found on LetsGoKings.com; the premiere place for fans to discuss the Kings.
LA Kings, Hockey, NHL