by Dan Adkisson
Once upon a time, the Los Angeles Kings were one of the most dominant teams in the NHL. For three consecutive seasons, they reached at least the Western Conference in each campaign and converting two of those appearances into Stanley Cup triumphs. Fans were ecstatic, players were on top of the world, and the city was filled with pride. But alas, all good things must come to an end.
Once the Kings of the Ice, the Crypto Arena crew were soon thereafter reduced to mere mortals. It was only a few years ago that the Los Angeles Kings ruled the NHL, sipping champagne and enjoying the glory days in SoCal. They had a dynasty in the making that looked set to dominate for years to come. However, they are now without a postseason victory in ten years.
During the last decade, they only reached the playoffs four times, including a three-year barren spell between 2018 and 2021. In fact, in the first of those three years, they finished the regular season rock bottom in the Pacific Division for the first time in franchise history. Admittedly, they have improved in the years since, and last season was their second consecutive campaign in which they qualified for the playoffs.
Yet it’s been a long climb back for the Kings and they are still a work-in-progress, hoping to once again be the force they once were. They have been eliminated in the first round of the postseason in each of their last four attempts and a popular website for online betting currently makes them +2000 outsiders for the Stanley Cup this season. So, what has happened over the course of the last decade?
Rise to Prominence
In the 2012 playoffs, the Kings were the eighth seed in the Western Conference, yet they managed to steamroll their way to the Stanley Cup Final. There, they went on to beat the New Jersey Devils in six games, who themselves were also a wildcard heading into the postseason.
In the following campaign, LA once again saved their best for when the chips were down. They entered the postseason as the fifth seed, then went on to secure a second consecutive Western Conference Final appearance, ultimately downed by the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks.
One year later, in the 2014-15 season, the Kings again made the playoffs; once more as a wildcard. They won their first-round series against the San Jose Sharks in nail-biting fashion, eventually triumphing in a seven-game thriller. The same would happen in the Conference Semi-final against the Anaheim Ducks, but the victory set up a rematch of the previous year’s Western Conference showdown against the Blackhawks.
That time, the Kings came out on the winning side, taking things four games to three, their third consecutive seven-game series. They would next meet the New York Rangers in the Stanley Cup Final, and it turned out to be their easiest series of the entire postseason, winning by four games to one and securing the famous trophy for the second time in three seasons.
The Decline From Above
Following Chicago winning the Cup again in 2015, both the Kings and their rival Blackhawks began a sharp decline. Neither LA nor Chicago has won a postseason series since that time.
But while the SoCal side has improved in recent campaigns, the Illinois outfit has been without a postseason appearance since 2020 and last season traded away veteran forward and local icon Patrick Kane.
The Kings decline can be traced back to the salary cap constraints following their Cup victories and questionable personnel decisions. The team made several high-profile trades that didn’t pan out. They didn’t live up to expectations in the moment and in many cases had a negative impact on the team’s future, as they traded away young prospects and draft picks.
Making matters worse, the core of their roster was well into their 30s, including captain Anze Kopitar and star defenseman Drew Doughty. It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as they have a promising crop of young talent rising to the fore such as Quinton Byfield, Brandt Clarke, and Arthur Kaliyev.
Finding The Power Punch
Another factor ailing in the Kings was their lack of scoring. Simply put, they weren’t putting the puck in the net enough to win games. In the past, they had relied on their stout defense and elite goaltending to win games, but those tactics weren’t as successful in their post-Cup campaigns.
Several years ago, Kings management recognized their offensive struggles need to be corrected and set out on a path to solve that issue. To find future success, they’ll need to rely on players like Adrian Kempe, Phil Danault, and Kevin Fiala if they plan on taking significant strides into becoming the contender they once were. The time is now for the team to adapt to the changing landscape of the NHL, which places a premium on speed and skill.