By Eric Cooney, Staff Writer
The lockout is over! After 4 months of tedious and sometimes childish negotiations, the owners and players have come to a deal they both can live with. Either that or they’re just too tired to keep negotiating. Regardless, the fans are over the moon that they’ll get to see some NHL hockey this season, abbreviated nonetheless.
Four months of lockout time is a lot. Many players have moved on to playing in Europe or in various minor league teams throughout North America. How will this affect the defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings?
The amount of off-time is a plus when it comes to injuries. They played deeper into the playoffs than any team aside from the Devils, so the extended period of rest will likely benefit any players who were banged up or worse. A lot of players have their injuries concealed from the public during the playoffs to prevent getting targeted and further injured. It’s hard to say who was injured and how severely, but the added time is a bonus.
Yet, how will the extended period of time affect the Kings mentally? When the season starts as it usually does in October, the banner is raised during the first home game and the players put the celebrations to rest. For the Kings, they were able to take their 2012 Stanley Cup victory celebration into 2013. While I’m sure the team hasn’t been painting the town red for the last 6 or 7 months, are they still mentally in celebration mode? Or has their mental state come back down to the point of, “let’s go out and win a championship” level again?
All told, the extended rest cannot be anything except for good when it comes to the physical side, unless they’ve reinjured anything over the break (see: Ruutu, Tuomo). However, the most important part is the mental. Teams have traditionally followed up their winning seasons with a down year, struggling to get their Irish-up for another grueling season. Does the abbreviated season also provide a mental concession to the Kings in that the road to the playoffs doesn’t look as long?
The question placed on some players is whether or not they have that winning desire or drive. That question has been posed of a lot of Los Angeles Kings players, from Carter, to Penner, etc. That question was answered when they showed up during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs and delivered Los Angeles their first ever Stanley Cup Championship. The question now becomes, are these players the kind who are satisfied with a Stanley Cup on their resume or are they driven to have their names engraved on more than just the Cup, and among the best hockey players in the annals of time?
Thankfully, we’ll get to find out soon. Welcome back, NHL hockey!