The Go-To Guy: I’m not crazy about the L.A. Kings

It’s springtime: The sun is shining, the seasonal depression is beginning to leave our bodies, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs are just over a month away.

That sure is one way to completely rid my own seasonal depression.

The NHL is in an… interesting spot. It seems that the top teams in each conference have separated themselves from the pack, a fact that’s especially true in the west. The only problem for those elite teams in the west is that there’s a bounty of them; seven to be exact.

And yes, the Vancouver Canucks are right near the top of that list. Settle down.

Talking about all seven in one article seems like a bad idea. I mean, does Kanye put all of his material into one album? No, he splits it up and I think that formula worked out quite well for him.

Maybe he should try being a good person, next!

So, naturally, I’ll be doing in-depth breakdowns for each of the seven elite playoff teams in the west. I would first like to apologize to the Nashville Predators who are not a part of this esteemed club, as they don’t have enough high-end talent to justify calling them “elite”. Juuse Saros is cool, at least!

The team I’d like to start off with is what is, in my opinion, the worst of the bunch: The Los Angeles Kings.

Am I a biased individual who despises 1-3-1 trap hockey? Maybe: But don’t worry, I am still fairly high on the Kings despite them being at the bottom of the elite western food chain.

Let’s take a look to see if the Kings actually have what it takes to be considered a true contender in the NHL’s western gauntlet.

On Paper

This team is a perplexing one in the sense that they look rather unremarkable on the surface.

They have name value in guys like Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar, both have won cups and various other hardware in their time spent in The City of Angels. Those two are still the centerpieces along with a plethora of former high-draft pedigree forwards in Pierre-Luc Dubois, Kevin Fiala and Quinton Byfield.

What you get after that is a squad filled with names that any casual hockey fan would recognize as “good” not “great” players: Philip Danault, Trevor Moore, Adrian Kempe and Matt Roy are a few which fit that mold. But what’s great about the Kings is that these guys are all great players and in some cases have provided more value than the bigger names on the squad (Dubois, Fiala).

The Kings have depth in spades. When the big dogs are slumping, they have an army of uber-effective players to pick up the slack. That’s great ’til you realize that one of their supposed ‘big name’ players has been anything but since his arrival in Los Angeles.

I don’t know what Pierre-Luc Dubois has been trying to do this year but it sure ain’t working.

And here’s why I don’t like the LA Kings all that much: They’re high-end talent is the weakest of the bunch, especially on offence.

I have all the time in the world for the likes of Kevin Fiala, Quinton Byfield and Anze Kopitar, but are any of these guys really going to be the best player on a cup winner in 2024?


Defensively, it’s pretty much the same thing. Matt Roy, Mikey Anderson, and Drew Doughty are all great players, but I don’t think I’d call any of them legitimate #1’s. Hopefully Brandt Clarke can make that leap in short order.

So, you might be thinking: “This fraudulent team has fraudulent players and you’re trying to tell me they’re one of the seven elite teams in the west?” and that’s fair, I haven’t done a great job selling them being a great team.

Let’s continue both praising and critiquing them simultaneously!

The winning formula: Defend, create, don’t score on your chances.

Yeah, the Los Angeles Kings are elite at both creating and preventing chances, and that’s why they’re touted by many as one of the best in the west. They rank third in the entire league in expected goals share according to (xGF%) and trail only the Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes (shocker) in that category.

Being able to both create and prevent scoring chances is a key recipe in today’s NHL as many of the league’s best teams are exceptional at one (at the very least), so with them being good at both (and exceptional defensively), that’s a terrifying prospect for the other six top dogs, maybe besides Edmonton.

The more you have the puck, the better; so L.A. being elite in those areas is good news for them.

What isn’t is their lackluster finishing ability.

The Kings rank just 23rd in goals for across all NHL teams this season, and that’s an alarming stat when you factor in how much they generate. Look at the Canucks: They rank 21st in xGF, yet are the highest scoring team in hockey. A lot of that has to do with an incredible PDO bender that basically lasted from October to January, as well as swaths of efficient shooters from top to bottom.

While creating offence is important, you’ve got to capitalize, and I don’t know if the Kings have the juice to best a team with actual shooting talent.

They’re only hope to do so is if they’re elite defensive game can carry them.

Ranking 2nd in the league in expected goals against (xGA), L.A. have had the reputation as a rock solid defensive unit, and a lot of it has to do with coaching. Even with Todd MacLellan getting the axe, Jim Hiller has deployed a very similar 1-3-1 defensive structure (one forward at the opposing blueline, three players in the neutral zone, one at the back) that has resulted in winning hockey and groans everywhere.

Yeah, watching an L.A. Kings game is how it must’ve felt to watch Oppenheimer, just to get nothing out of it. You spend roughly three hours watching something that you probably should be enjoying, yet instead it’s just a boring, multi-hour slog fest that’s only dialogue.

Oops, that’s what some actually said about Oppenheimer.

The Kings just don’t play an appealing style of hockey to me, at all. All I’m left with afterwards is the feeling that I simply watched a game of hockey that will now forever be forgotten because of how unbelievably, excruciatingly BORING it was.

Even though they are the 2nd best team at preventing chances, they rank 7th in goals against. That’s a totally fine split at first glance, but Cam Talbot is this team’s starting goaltender. Talbot has been a good goalie for many years now, but not one that’s ever really moved the needle as a 1A starter.

I’m a believer that you don’t need an elite goalie to win a cup, but having an elite goalie in your toolkit can certainly help out against elite shooting teams like Vancouver and Dallas, especially when the finishing talent on the Kings is pretty barren.

So, I don’t like the Kings a whole lot, which is funny considering how much stock I put into analytics. I also like a good chunk of their players: Quinton Byfield, Kevin Fiala, Adrian Kempe, and Matt Roy are all players that I rate very highly.

They have a real good team over there in California (we won’t talk about the other two) and they could win the cup and I don’t think anyone would be too shocked, but I still don’t think they have enough.

Call me a hater, call me negative, I just don’t like the L.A. Kings all that much, and that’s why they’re at number seven on this ranking.

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