By Eric Cooney, Staff Writer | Follow him on Twitter
While we wait for the CBA madness to come to an end, I thought I’d give some thoughts on the coming season. This time last summer, Kings fans were thinking about the addition of Mike Richards, Dustin Penner’s beer gut, Doughty’s holdout, and whether the Kings were better poised to survive the first round of the playoffs. This summer, Kings fans have been thinking, “Woooooohooooooooo!” all offseason long. I know I haven’t lost any sleep over hockey recently, in part because the Kings won a Stanley Cup, and in part because they are poised to have another good season.
Here are some thoughts I have on the coming season, based on nothing but intuition:
1. Dustin Penner will be better, but not back to his dominant days. Penner will no doubt be in a better place concerning his divorce, he’s playing with talented forwards in a scoring role, he’ll be healthy, and he’s playing under a coach that better utilizes his strengths. The pressure of being team goat is gone and he has actually become a fan favorite due to his play in the playoffs. However, expecting him to his 30 goals, 60 points is unreasonable. He’s not the No. 1 guy the way he was in Edmonton. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 20 goals, 45 points, but I’m not expecting the world from Penner.
2. Mike Richards will be much better. Richards will likely be much more comfortable after having a full season under his belt in LA. He’s reunited with his best friend and the two have proven that they can play together and win a Cup without being on “Dry Island.” I wouldn’t expect Richards to be back int he 80 point neighborhood, but 60 is totally reasonable. Especially if Jeff Carter turns back into an elite goal-scorer.
3. Bernier will be traded, but not for the bounty Kings fans have been expecting. The Kings’ horse is firmly hitched to Quick’s post, so the sun is setting on the Bernier-as-Kings-future-starter prognostication. The thing is, some Kings fans think he’ll bring back a great return. However, A) The Kings resigning Jonathan Quick forever ostensibly lowered Bernier’s value. It says, “Hey, we’re not planning on using Bernier, so we’re going to try to unload him.” Regardless of his potential, teams know the Kings don’t want him. B) Bernier is a potential starter, not an actual one. Just because Kings fans have been expecting him to be a starter doesn’t mean he has the resume of one. His return will reflect that.
4. The Kings record in the regular season will be better, but the playoffs are anyone’s game. Having the entire band back together, not just Paul and John, but George and Ringo as well, means the Kings will be division favorites at the start of the season. heck, we may even see them win the division and not give their fans ulcers with 5 games left this season. However, once the playoffs start, it all goes out the window. The Kings proved that last year as the first #8 seed to win a Cup.
5. Dustin Brown will see a spike in PIMs. Dustin Brown took his game to a whole new level in the playoffs. He went from “man, that guy is tough to play against,” to “I want to knock that guy senseless.” Some of that is understandable. Some of it is exaggerated reality. If some guy stands in the way of your dream, you’re going to hate him. However, that doesn’t mean Brown is suddenly a dirtier player. Even the Coyotes came out and said they overreacted to how things shook out in the playoffs. Yet, Brown now has a reputation. It may not be a fair one, but he’ll be called “dirty”, a “diver”, or worse. To Kings fans, the only important word is “winner.”
Revel in the shiny glory of Lord Stanley’s Cup, Kings fans. It’s almost September.